When I worked in banking, there used to be an area called Special Loans that dealt with companies that had breached the terms of their loan agreements. The men (and they were all men in those days) who worked there were a cross between your meanest high school math teacher and Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino.
One of our large corporate clients ran into financial trouble, and I was asked to work with Special Loans to help turn the business around. Our key contact was the company’s founder who, after decades spent building his business successfully, was in danger of losing the company. To add insult to injury, we discovered his good friend and CFO had been stealing from him for years.
Needless to say, the founder was less than thrilled. He took out a lot of his anger on us, with delightfully personal attacks. I complained about his behaviour to a colleague, who responded: “Some people hate to be woken up.”
Waking up is hard, but necessary. I think we are meant to be fully conscious and embrace what life has to teach us, instead of anesthetizing ourselves from life’s harsh realities with food, shopping, and the Kardashians. “Snap out of it,” as Moonstruck’s Cher would urge.
When we are first awakened, however, it can be very tempting to go back to bed.
When I received a wakeup call after my marriage failed, I simply hit the snooze button. I threw myself into a quest for a new career and perfected my tennis game. Divorce was not going to shake me.
Head, meet sand.
I’ve learned that when you hit the snooze button, the next alarm tends to be a lot louder.
For me, it took dating an abusive narcissist to serve as my wakeup call. It wasn’t pretty: think about being shaken from a forty-year slumber by the entire cast of Stomp.
Suddenly, I understood my angry bank client. Now that I was no longer in the denial stage of embracing my loss, I moved quickly into anger. Some days, I’m still there.
My client’s story has a happy ending. He was able to stop the losses and turn his business around. He sold his company for a tidy sum and is now a prominent philanthropist, which was his passion all along. Waking up was painful, but it served him well in the end.
Waking up has served me well, too. I now listen more, have deeper conversations, have stronger friendships, and know what matters to me. I know what love looks like and am not afraid to give and receive it more freely.
Life can be oh-so-cozy under the duvet, particularly if it has a high thread count. Still, I don’t think we are meant to live our lives asleep. The clarity that comes with the awakened life is a gift, even if it’s not entirely welcomed in the initial light of day.