Editorial - Wake up calls

Dianne St. Jean

More than likely most if not all of us know what a wake up call is. Although the context might slightly change the significance of the term in each case, the basic meaning is the same.

For example, from the perspective of someone working or staying at a hotel, or who sets an alarm so that they get up on time, the wake up call is expected.

Still, if you’re exhausted and your body wants to remain in its deep cozy slumber, the alarm can seem pretty harsh.

More often than not the basic implication of a wake up call is that it is something unexpected that snaps us back into reality – the similar effect of being blasted awake from a comfortable sleep by an alarm.

For the most part, then, whether partially or totally unexpected, the hallmark characteristic of a wake up call is its ability to make us uncomfortable and to force – or should I say – strongly urge us toward some type of action that we are otherwise either neglecting or putting off because we have become comfortable where we’re at. And, of course, the level of discomfort or being snapped back to reality depends on what the wake up call is telling us.

A broad example is the strong earthquakes that have recently occurred on the Pacific Coast which some have described as wake up calls. The fact that there are so many (smaller) tremors on the coast can actually lull people into feeling almost invincible - or that the threat of danger really isn’t that bad since they’re so familiar with them. Yet, scientists are warning that ‘the big one’ is yet to come.

The “expected unexpected” always catches us by surprise.

In similar fashion, individuals who pursue an unhealthy and risky lifestyle seemingly without consequence are still somehow surprised when they experience a heart attack or some other serious health issue. The alarm of these types of incidents are the wake up calls that snap people back to reality.

Not so long ago a television commercial was used to illustrate the point of the true essence of a wake up call – in this case preparing financially for retirement. The commercial shows a businessman in a hotel room, obviously already awake and sitting at his computer. He muses out loud about how much money he will need in order to retire comfortably.

Right at the moment where the numbers show the shocking reality to him (because he appears to be a successful businessman), he gets a call from the front desk that says “This is your wake up call”. Perfect and classic illustration…

Persistent pain or other symptoms in parts of your body that you’ve been ignoring; collection calls or bills you can’t pay that are piling up and that you are ignoring; personal issues that anger or hurt you or make you want to run and hide; hanging out with people who make you uncomfortable just because you’re familiar with them, or pursuing an ambition that is constantly failing.

All of these things are signs of a wake up call. If we really look at the trends in our life, they will tell us where we are ultimately headed.

As said before, wake up calls are actually the “to-be-expected unexpected”.