Saturday, May 30, 2020

A Wake-Up Call

Despite its maximum-volume, most annoying “Classic” intermittent blaring, the alarm failed to fully penetrate the dream that was fully occupying my sleep-deprived mind. Normally, my alarm wakes up my wife first, who in turn wakes me up, shaking me until I respond. When she has gotten up earlier, or when I am travelling without her, I often remain in my dream-occupied half-sleep for a while longer.  It is as if my neurotransmitters, compromised as they are by my Parkinson’s disease, refuse to face the reality of each day any sooner than they have to.
On this particular occasion, I was travelling with my good friend, Carson (with whom I had travelled around the world in 2012). He was well aware of the impaired state of my hearing, as well as my morning dopamine deficiency routine. He had been awakened from a deep sleep in his room some 20 feet away by the aggressively grating sound of my 8 AM alarm. When I didn’t turn the alarm off, he ventured into my room, shook my shoulder to wake me, pointed in the direction of the alarm clock and returned to his room. It was then, amid the electronic shrieking of the alarm, that I noticed that, squinting at the bold red numbers showing on the alarm clock beside my hotel room bed, it was 8:04 AM.
I reached over to turn the alarm off, pressing the snooze button numerous times, with increasing frustration at its lack of response. But I could not seem to get the noise to stop. Anxiety mounting, I sat up, searching for the power supply to the alarm clock. Of course, this required that I turn the light on and pull out the bedside table to search for the plug-in, which was cleverly hidden behind the bed headboard. After much effort, I was finally able to find and extract the plug from the power bar. But the alarm squawking continued. By then it was 8:11 AM.

Carson returned to my room, this time pointing to my iPhone dutifully recharging overnight on the same bedside table as the hotel alarm clock. Enough neurons were firing by this time for me to realize that I had not set the hotel alarm clock at all. As I did normally each morning, I had relied on my iPhone for my wake-up call at 8 AM.

Lately, I have been spending a lot of time evaluating the stress-producing “noise” in my life. Increasingly, I have felt a sense of alarm. Life is not getting any shorter! My capacity for coping with complexity and passionate pursuit of numerous priorities at the same time has been waning. All the while, there is an alarm sounding, a wake-up call that I am anxious to silence. Hitting the snooze button doesn’t seem to work. Even attempts to strangle the sources of anxiety fail. What can be done? Maybe the alarm clock saga can act as a suitable metaphor.

Consider these questions:

Have I chosen the right alarm clock? What am I going to rely on to wake me up? Is it reliable? Will or should it begin with family, friends, or professionals?

What are the sources of “noise” in my life, as opposed to important “alarms”? Do I have a plan to deal with these?

Have I set the right time for a “wake-up call”? Will the time for which my “alarm” is set give me enough sleep so that I will be capable of meeting the demands of the day ahead of me? Do I have the right balance between self-discipline and self-care? Am I prone to hit the “snooze button” too quickly or not quickly enough?