I was in 5th grade when we moved into the house on the lake in Miami. It was a small lake, part of a series of lakes that were built off the canal system in Miami to control water flow.
It was a new house with new, modern features like an intercom system. My brother and sister and I all had bedrooms at one end of the house. Between us and my parents wing of the house was the family room, kitchen, living/dining room and a den.
My father loved exercise and he loved the intercom. Every morning he would whistle revelry over the intercom to wake us up. We then met him in the backyard for some stretching and jumping jacks before swimming a few laps in the lake! I went along with this until I started Middle School. Then I was more concerned with how my hair looked after a swim then I was with getting the exercise.
Revelry in the morning over the intercom was my first wakeup call.
Many alarm clock rings, and baby cries later, my cat is my morning wakeup call now. Most of the night, she is snuggled in around my legs, making it difficult to change positions without disturbing her. Around 5:30 she moves up to my face and gently pets me… literally. She tenderly and softly rubs her paw on my cheek, gives me the head rub that cats do, and then pets my cheek again. Morning is when she gets wet cat food rather than the dry food that is available to her all day and she looks forward to that. Sometimes I ignore her, head under the covers or tell her no. But most mornings I get up so I can have some reading time or writing time before my day really starts.
But what I really want to talk about are the metaphorical wakeup calls. The ones that wake us up from what we always did and make us realize we need to make some changes. Or the ones that suddenly upend our lives with events that are out of our control, and we realize it is time to let go of something or someone.
Like when my dad entered hospice care. My Dad, larger than life, an athlete all his life, center of a room and certainly center of the family. First it was an aortic aneurysm which fortunately they found and corrected before it ruptured. Then it was prostate cancer, then lung cancer, then kidney failure and COPD. It was a slow decline and throughout he still seemed invincible … until he wasn’t. I was staying with my parents when my dad passed. We had home hospice care. Around 3:00 in the morning, my mother came into wake me up. The home health nurse said he did not have much time. I crawled onto the bed with him on one side. My Mom was on the other side. He took a couple more breaths and then no more. That was a wakeup call I did not want to get.
Last week I went to the doctor for my annual physical. At 68, I was having normal aches and pains and complaints, but mostly I feel pretty good. The doctor told me that overall I was in pretty good health … but, my cholesterol was getting close to being seriously high and my Vitamin D levels were seriously low. The Vitamin D levels are easy to fix, add a supplement and get outside a little bit more, even during these colder months. The cholesterol is partly a hereditary thing, my mother has always had higher cholesterol. But I always thought I ate mostly healthy and was not worried about it. When I met with the doctor last week, he told me to exercise 5 days a week, drink eight glasses of water and eat five servings of vegetables. Then we will retest in four months.
All of that sounds reasonable and I am glad my doctor suggests things I can do, rather than immediately going the medicine route. But making those kinds of changes all at once is not easy. I am trying to go to the gym three days a week and if I don’t go, I do some yoga. I think I eat pretty well, and I recognize there is always room for improvement. It is not difficult to add a Vitamin D supplement.
Changing behaviors and habits is not easy. I always tell my clients to take baby steps. You can’t change everything at once. For me, having water at my desk all day and trying to take an afternoon walk are the two habits I will be working on to hopefully bring down my cholesterol levels.
My visit with the doctor is a minor wakeup call, compared to health news that many people receive. It is a wakeup call that gives me some control over my health. I am grateful for that.
My gentle cat wakeup call this morning, inspired this post. As I laid in bed deciding if I was ready to get up, the thought of wakeup calls popped into my head. I hope your wakeup calls are mostly gentle nudges to pay attention to behaviors or thoughts you can control. And when they are not so gentle, I hope you find the “serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”