I got a text message on Saturday morning from a number I didn’t recognize. It read, “U awake?”
I’ve received lots of misdialed phone calls, but never a misdialed text. I smiled for a moment and wrote back, “I think you have the wrong number.”
I thought that was the end of it, but the question lingered and I heard a voice whisper, “U awake?”
Of course I’m awake, I thought. My eyes are open. I’d just worked out in the hotel fitness room and taken a shower. I’m checking my email and going over my to-do list. I’m ready to finish the drive to Chicago, to follow my carefully laid out plans….
“U awake?” it asked again.
Yes, yes, I’m awake! Now leave me alone!
But it didn’t.
In my last blog entry, I wrote, “I’m the Queen of Planning…” and told you how I’d planned our trip down to the minute, miles, mayo and mustard. I must have sent so much intense energy into the universe with all my planning that the universe decided it was time we talked. First with “U awake” and then through the Audio Dharma daily reflection in my in-box that I received as I sat on the bed eating the free hard-boiled eggs (egg whites only, of course), courtesy of the hotel breakfast buffet. The title of the reflection? “Mindfulness of Planning.”
“Planning is an important practical skill. You don’t build a house without planning, or run a business or a myriad of things we do in life. But it can also be an unskillful habit arising from worry or anxiety, where we plan and re-plan anxiously.”
I sat with this for a few moments. I watched my husband working on his computer. I thought about lunch and how I’d like to eat outside and not in the car, like I’d planned. I remembered the sign for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore that I’d seen – and ignored – along I-80 on each of the dozens of trips between PA and MN I’d driven over the last 18 years. I always wondered what the Dunes were, but was always too busy to find out. “Maybe next trip,” I’d tell myself.
I went to Google and typed in Indiana Dunes. Went to Mapquest and got directions. 71 miles, with only 8 of those miles off my planned route to Chicago.
“What do you think of having a picnic at the Indiana Dunes?” I asked Larry. He turned away from his computer, smiled, and said, “Sure.”
That was easy. I guess I was the only one in the room with the planning issues.
When we arrived at the visitor’s center, the park ranger directed us to the recently completed Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Development. The land was used for years by steel mills as a dumping ground for hazardous waste. In the last four years, two acid ponds have been cleaned up, and wildlife and native foliage have been reintroduced.
We walked along the jetty and the beach. The sand was soft and warm. The Gary, Hammond and Chicago skylines were visible across the lake and large sporting boats dotted the water. It was there I felt awake for the first time in weeks.
The next day, on our way home from Chicago, my daughter called. Her husband had become sick and needed to go to the hospital (nothing too serious…he’ll be fine) and she asked if Claire could spend the night at our house. We were still seven hours from home – plenty of time to worry how I was going to handle all the unpacking and watch a 21-month-old baby.
But instead of worry – and with only minimal, useful planning – I stayed “awake.” With the help of my niece, other daughter and husband, we took care of Claire and had a fun, unplanned evening. She fell asleep in my arms after a bath and some ice cream and didn’t wake up until 6:30 this morning.
(My niece took this photo of me as I was writing this blog in the car. I didn't realize how intense I get. Not only did have no idea she'd taken the photo , I didn't notice her reading over my shoulder.)
I’m sure things would have worked out just fine if I hadn’t visited the Dunes, if I hadn’t “strayed” from my planned path on Saturday, but the voice asking, “U awake?” made the experience of watching Claire after a long trip (and an even longer week) enjoyable and not just something I “got through.” I plow through enough things in this life. Taking care of my granddaughter, no matter what the circumstances, should never be one of them.
(Claire helping me wash carrots for dinner.)
I’m applying this same “awake” philosophy to the next four days. I’ll have very little time for a formal workout, which in the past always made me feel guilty. But if I stay awake, stay mindful of this moment and the next and what I put in my mouth, this experience will be enjoyable and not guilt-ridden as my other “vacations” have in the past (since losing weight, that is).
Thanks for reading along as I work my way through these last few weeks. Just as I finally stopped the weight-loss/weight-gain roller coaster that was my MO for years, I’m working on stopping my typical reactions of guilt, worry, and self-inflicted angst when things don’t “turn out as planned.” It’s turning into a bit of a bumpier ride than changing the ways I viewed food and exercise, but as long as I stay aware of that voice that asks, “U awake?” I’ll be fine.