First, Stop. THEN Turn Left.

Driving to a lunch meeting, a few minutes behind schedule, I reminded myself to relax, knowing that I had already notified my colleagues. My mind began reviewing an article I was completing on time management.

Approaching an intersection I have driven through hundreds of times, I noticed a guy getting out of his car in front of pizza place, carrying a pizza warmer. The next thing I remember noticing was flashing police lights in my rear view mirror.

I pulled over immediately. “Did I do something wrong, Officer?” It was a sincere question, but he was ready for me to be a difficult citizen.

He responded swiftly and flippantly. “Are you serious?” I assured him I was. He proceeded to explain that I had rolled through a stop sign. I was genuinely surprised to hear this. I couldn’t even remember turning left, although I knew from the location of my car that I had done so within the past minute. “What if there had been a pedestrian in the crosswalk?” he barked.

“WAS there a pedestrian in the crosswalk?” I inquired. Subtext of my question: how much did I miss?

“That’s not the point! Give me your license and registration.” I fumbled to comply, feeling a bit shaky now. (That I hadn’t eaten breakfast could have been a contributing factor).

While he walked back to his police car, I said a prayer of thanks aloud. I was grateful I’d been stopped by a police officer, rather than hitting anything with my car. How was I so deep in thought that I couldn’t remember turning left? The irony that I had been thinking about time management was not lost on me.

I felt only mild relief when the officer returned to my car with a written warning instead of an actual citation. I understood immediately that the police officer was a (rather gruff-sounding) whisper from the Universe. In the past two weeks I’d misplaced my credit card twice. I’d missed multiple meals, not wanting to pause from my work to find food. Earlier in the week I had bumped my tire into a curb while parallel parking. All whispers. Clearly my thoughts had been away from the present too many times recently. I vowed to do everything in my power not to give the Universe reason to shout.

Here’s the part where I’d love to tell you that from then on everything was perfect. But I tell you my truth, real and raw, as you know. That very afternoon I almost left my credit card somewhere again. Fortunately the merchant noticed and reminded me to take it with me. Then I accidentally left my laptop in her office. It wasn’t too long before I realized that, I called her, and she kindly returned my computer to me. But still. How could I need more whispers?

That weekend I spent time in quiet reflection (not while driving!) I also talked to a few close friends about my recent experiences and shared my thoughts with them. I knew it was time to take a big step out of my apparent fog.

It’s been over a week now since I have eaten any flour or sugar. In this week I have felt a tremendous surge of energy, joy and clarity. And I haven’t lost or almost lost my credit card even once. Please wish me luck as I enter Week Two.

Now it’s time for me to go pay attention to Hurricane Sandy.  Let’s stay safe out there, people.

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  1. Devra

    Just got a chance to read this important post! I had started wondering if maybe aging was contributing to my collection of similar experiences, but I like the idea of exploring what is in my control – namely, my self-care – rather than worrying that this is just how life is after 40…

  2. Cristin L.

    Did you see my recent FB post about missing one meeting and showing up for another a month early? For me, appointment chaos is my signal that it's time to get in my own body. The question is, what will it take to listen? I'll let you know.
    My recent post A gift from the messengers

    • Debra Woog

      So far, 12 days in a row without flour and sugar, I feel I can hear better.

  3. Nance

    You aren't the only one looking for clarity… hugs

    • Debra Woog

      Thankful to have found some. How did you fare during the storm? We lucked out.

  4. Liri K.

    Hi Debra-
    I got worried for a second when I read your prompt. I'm glad you are ok and that you shared those experiences.
    I can definitely relate, and have had quite a few of those where-has-my-mind-been-for-the-last-couple-of-minutes moments. I was wondering while reading if you are still running ever since you have accomplished your running mission? Because it seems to me like running is a great outlet for thinking time, and if you have had that and now stopped, maybe your mind and body miss that outlet.

    I'll share my tricks with you and maybe those will help:
    1) Yoga classes twice a week are the best trick to clearing my mind
    2) The following nutrition tips really do help concentration:
    *studies found that eating high-fiber whole grain breakfast regularly improves short term memory and alertness (so yes, the fact you skipped breakfast that morning certainly could have had to do with it)
    *Eat fish- it is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids that are essential to brain function and improved memory

    As for the suggestion above to take vitamin D supplements, research really does vary greatly on this one. I just finished the book "The End of Illness" by Dr. David Agus and in chapter 6 he speaks against the hype around taking Vitamin D supplements. Most of the research shows that we can actually get all the vitamin D we need from a varied and balanced nutrition, even if we don't get enough sun (definitely an issue for New Englanders).

    I eat wild salmon (double benefit with vitamin D and Omega 3) and Shiitake mushrooms for a good natural source of Vitamin D. Many people also ignore the fact that it isn't enough to consume vitamin D, but we need to get calcium through natural sources in order to allow for vitamin D absorption. For natural sources of calcium, I try to pair fish with any of the following natural sources of calcium: sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, dark leafy greens (like kale or spinach), broccoli, and Quinoa (I remember you like Quinoa Debra, so this one should be easy).

    Stay safe + dry 🙂

    • Debra

      Thanks, Liri. I’m actually feeling great now!

  5. karen

    Debra…a blessing that you are able to find your center or that you were listening for the whisper:~) We have all been there and some are better than others about hearing the warning signal. xo

    • Debra Woog

      Thanks, Karen! Stay safe during the room.

  6. Shelly Aschkenase

    Glad you are back to energy, joy, and clarity!
    I can relate to your experience, though I'm not sure removing sugar and flour is the complete answer. Actually, for me Vitamin D does the trick. And regular exercise. But, hey, whatever works!

    I wonder if your post is really more about remembering to be in the present at times when you really should be there. I'm often on some other planet when I drive (was pulled over for forgetting to turn on my headlights!) because it seems like a good space for internal focus. Turns out, it's not!

    I think we have to consciously remind ourselves to be present and to focus on the things that should have our complete attention. It's challenging, but necessary.

    Go, Debra!

    • Debra Woog

      For me vitamins and exercise were already a given.You're right on that we have to figure out how to be more present when driving. If I come up with another approach, I will let you know.If you do, please do the same. In the meantime, I know that for me, flour and sugar mess with my system in a way that interferes with my internal hunger cues and they also cause me to get lost in my own head. I call these effects brain fog. I'm not suggesting this is true for anyone else, but I know it is for me. I wish it didn't because so many foods with flour and/or sugar taste delicious!