Wake up calls come in many forms. For some of us, it can be as simple as magical words uttered by a friend at the right moment. For others, it’s a job offer that takes us across the globe. Sometimes, clarity hits us “like a Mac truck”. Mine was a Toyota pick-up truck going twenty-eight miles an hour.
I stepped out into a late July evening, yoga mat tucked under one arm, breathing in the full potential of my liberation. The front door slammed behind me, a tangible barrier between my life as mother of three and my much-anticipated weekly yoga class. I breathed in jasmine and breathed out taco dinner. I breathed in the neighbor’s laughter-laced barbecue party and breathed out the Erma Bombeck reality of my domicile.
Had I really been that frazzled by my six-year-old daughter’s outburst over wanting to play longer with Jackson, the friend with whom she’d spent her entire afternoon? Yes, yes I had. Had I seriously seen, in my mind’s eye, my baby son in six years still not potty-trained and cried over his last diaper change? Yes, yes I had. Had I truly had a little outburst when my older son asked for just one more snack three minutes before the tacos were to be ready? Yes indeed, that had been Yours Truly. This sister needs a break, a different path on which to cycle her hamster wheel of life.
Instead, I proceeded down the same street to my Wednesday night yoga class. I could walk this mile-long route in my sleep. Right on Huntington, left on Tremont, left on Park Way… My angst with the homestead scene diminished as I passed all these familiar houses. I really needed to do something different, I thought as I walked down the exact same streets to the exact same yoga class. I need to create something novel, I thought, as I considered my evening after class – pack lunches, put out breakfast things, check email, do my stretches. I need to do something radical!
Then, the universe did it for me, and there was nothingness.
“Habla espanol tambien?”
“Si. Hace seis meses que estudio en Espana,” (Yes, I studied in Spain for six months,) I answer. What a strange setting. The lights are bright. Why am I staring up at the ceiling?
“I think she needs two more,” the speaker says to someone other than me.
“Agreed,” another responds.
Oh, there are more than just the Spanish-speaking guy and myself here.
“What are we doing here?” I ask, noticing that my voice sounds oddly under water.
“We’re stitching you up, my dear,” the Spanish-speaking gent informs me.
“Stitches! What happened?”
“You were hit by a truck, sweetie,” the other guy answers. While his tone is gentle, the meaning of his words slap my being.
“The kids…where are they?” In my mind, I jump off the table, but in reality, I just manage to blink.
“They’re fine. Just relax, and we’ll get you all fixed up.”
Over the next few days in the ICU, my mysterious truck-meets-pedestrian history is revealed to me. It turns out that I never made it to yoga. Just yards shy of the rec center building in which my class was housed, the pick-up truck and me made our intimate acquaintance in the crosswalk. I flew through the air like Tinker Bell, but didn’t possess any magic dust for the landing.
I had many, many sedentary weeks to contemplate the direction and purpose of my life while my pelvis knit itself back together. It came to me, through all this thinking, that I had put my life on hold to raise these three lovely offspring of mine. Before their physical existence, I’d lived in Spain and Alaska, practiced karate and violin, sang in a women’s choir, written jaded poetry, and watched the X Files religiously. I’d served on community boards, worked full-time, studied massage therapy, and enjoyed a lot of ethnic food. Once the kiddos appeared, I only traveled to the neighborhood cooperative preschool, rec center, and occasionally drove three hours east with the whole gang to visit my parents. I practiced yoga, hummed in the shower, and picked up a violin to hand to my son so he could practice. I served on not a single board, ate too much spaghetti and pizza, wrote only to-do lists, and watched Clifford. I guess I was waiting for the kids to grow up.
As I sat erect at my dining room table one morning, dutifully performing 15 reps of knee curls to “wake up” my leg muscles, I realized that I would conceivably be waiting another seventeen years to pursue things that I love, as my youngest was not yet eighteen months old. “That’s just not okay,” I blurted out.
“What, does it hurt, Hon?” My concerned husband sat nearby, telecommuting from the desk in the corner.
“I’m not waiting anymore,” I declared, grabbing my walker and hopping down the hall on my better leg. I settled on my bed to make a list of my goals. As soon as possible, I would start running, eat ethnic food again (or at least generously sprinkle red pepper on my meals), travel farther than the neighborhood school, play my violin. I would find a writing group, go have coffee by myself once in a while, play my dusty violin. I felt giddy with the prospect of it all.
A year-and-a-half has passed since that revelation in my dining room. The wheelchair and walker have long since found useful homes, and I’m living my list of goals. My favorite is running. My husband and I took the kids to Disneyland last year and powered through three days, from dawn to dusk, without a nap break. Sometimes, one’s wake up call can just be a pick-up truck rather than a Mac truck.
Oh, and I even follow a different route to the rec center when the moon is full or I’m feeling rebellious.
I practice staying present, embracing the moment, and avoiding pick-ups in Portland, Oregon. I am a mom, massage therapist, and writer who writes as often as the muse visits. I am in the final stages of self-publishing my first children’s book, Young Town, and plan for it to be available within the month. I will happily respond to email at at firstname.lastname@example.org, as I continue to contemplate blog creation.
Jennifer, your story will open up the eyes of so many who may also be waiting for their kids to grow up before they follow their own goals. I’m so happy you shared your story about your wake-up call after your horrific accident. Thankfully you recovered, and I was interested in what you said, “I had many, many sedentary weeks to contemplate the direction and purpose of my life while my pelvis knit itself back together. Your story is the perfect example of what I truly believe, ” Life is too short to play it safe.” Thanks and I know you’re moving along with your goals as you’re getting ready to publish your first children’s book, Young Town. Congratulations Jennifer.
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