Wakeup Calls


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.”

4 thoughts on “Wakeup Calls

  1. My wakeup call continues as the Dr.s try to figure out all the pieces of the great astounding puzzle my body presents me and them! Six autoimmune diseases, age, wear and tear from years of heavy physical work combined with a family history checkered with all kinds of heart issues, cancers, and other health issues has presented quite the challenge. The bone deep fatigue that I push through daily now for a year and a half and glimpses of the pieces that “may” play a part in it tantalize as they all may play a part or not. Suddenly I have blood pressure that is swooping into the stratosphere and diving to the low. Medication isn’t getting a grip on it yet. Then there is the galloping heart rate while sleeping which should be near 60 (my “normal” resting heart) but spends time blowing up to the 90’s and then dropping rapidly to the 60’s over and over all night long. I eat pretty darn healthy. I do pretty much anything I need to do and then some. The Dr. and the specialists have all had ideas and tried to eliminate one thing after another. Pretty soon every system will have had it’s check engine light examined. And I wonder…and try not to speculate but wait. I trust that we will track down a cause and then we can make a plan to try to fix it. In the meantime, I have ditched all caffeine something I have used all my life, I have cut out almost all sweets, and I eat enough vegetables to sprout roots if I stop moving. So I get your wake up call…and I am thankful that no one in the cadre of medical wisdom has suggested any radical changes yet but are trying one tweak at a time unless some test suddenly shows something glaring that needs fixing now. Health wake up calls are the ones that have the deepest affect on us because it is so personal and so in our face compared to other wakeup calls that we can intellectually examine, make a plan to execute and just do it. So sometimes baby steps towards the grand goal of health are the best method. Good luck Wendy…it is all fixable!

    1. Judy, thanks for your reply and for the sense of humor you are approaching all of this with. Makes your bike ride milestone this past year even more impressive. I hope you get some answers soon. We can all support each other on this journey.

  2. I identify with your story Wendy. High cholesterol is also hereditary in my family. I have been on medication though tried for 2 years to avoid it but then gave in since did not want heart issues to develop. I recently had it increased to 5 days a week from 3 days.I have had several wake up calls with the first being my divorce. t was then that I decided to focus on me and my health and I began exercising and changing my diet. I agree with Judy that our health is the biggest one.and have tried to make it a priority.It is so easy to fal back on old habits so have to remind self often,to focus on it. Ecercise has become a habit for me and am aware of missing it so I can incorporate it without too much time going by.Setting goals, writing them down and taalkin about them helps me keep them. Hope that helps you as well. My 2 cats also wake me up daily for their wet food at the same time as yours.

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