Sudden unexpected events jolt people out of their mundane lives. These events shake them awake when they didn’t even know they were sleeping. Much of life is lived in one form of a trance or another.
Have you ever driven along down the highway and become aware that you didn’t know where you were? You’ve traveled for miles without consciously registering the landmarks. Routines engender this state of being on autopilot until something snaps us to attention.
A sudden loud snap when traveling can cause drivers to scan the windshield looking to see if it’s chipped. Locating the pockmark is distressing, but watching the crack creep across the field of view brings home the reality that a trip to the repair shop will be required.
The rest of the drive looks different seen through the crack. The routine of the week is disrupted with a vehicle out of commission that is being fixed.
While we’ve been told to expect the unexpected, our routines breed complacency until something out of the ordinary happens. Parents are shocked when they receive a call from the teacher saying that their child who has always been well behaved has gotten into trouble at school.
Disbelief can be strong, but action is required so that a course correction can be charted. Children who are acting out are generally seeking attention. Helping them find appropriate avenues to receive this attention requires new parental and teacher responses.
The need to change an old habit can bring up a case of the “I don’t wannas.” Like the ground hog who pops up, sees his shadow and scurries back into his hole, folks often feel lethargic. When it comes to changing, like a hibernating bear they like the notion of the start of spring, but part of them still wants to slumber.
Bad news about your health is another call to mindfulness. When the doctor says that the cancer which has been in remission has spread, the patient doesn’t want to accept that the cells of the body are being attacked again. Friends and family share the sense of shock.
Plans must be made. New treatments must be sought. The unexpected news must be faced and dealt with. While there can be a momentary souring of life and the proverbial “why me?” eventually as the preciousness of time is realized, everything seems a little bit sweeter.
The gift in this rude awakening is that we are granted the opportunity to see life with fresh eyes. Precious time with family is valued more and healing solutions are actively sought.
The difficult part is that unexpected events often involve pain. Trying to change an old habit brings us face-to-face with our shortcomings. Finding a new way to address an issue requires paying attention to things that use to be unconscious, not falling into the old rut.
We can no longer take for granted that life will always be the way that it has been and thus choose to live more consciously. Breaking the day-to-day routine, we become aware of new choices.
When we lose someone, it’s a shock. Death is one of those unexpected events that rips open our hearts. Mourners often wonder how others can just go on about their daily lives when they want to stop the planet and get off. The future seems dark for a while.
Grief is an introspective process and yet we reach out for comfort. We replay our last conversations with them and share memories of how they’ve graced our lives, which eases the grief some. Eventually we garner the strength to continue on without them. Being jolted awake by this kind of unexpected event leaves us feeling not only out of sorts, but very vulnerable.
This vulnerability, while disruptive to the routine, can help us connect more deeply and live more fully. To be radically awake in each moment doesn’t mean you won’t have unexpected events, but your ability to respond to them is enhanced. May your next unexpected event be viewed as a wake-up call to life.
Kristi McCracken, author of two children’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.