Tuesday, December 08, 2009


I have a confession to make. I'm afraid of making phone calls. It isn't really like I live with this fear at my side 24/7; it's much more like I have arranged my life in such a way, rather without realizing it, to simply avoid phone calls or to convince myself quite effectively that I don't need to make them. And, oh, this phobia really only applies to people that I know. I don't have any problem calling businesses or government agencies and the like, as long as I know exactly what I need to ask or what piece of information I need to give. There are also a few friends I manage to call without too much trepidation, but normally I only call with some cut and dried business matter. And often these are motivated by something I need for my children. I rarely even call my husband at work with anything but information relay. My approach reminds me of the Jonah character in the Veggie Tales movie when he is psyching himself up to go to Ninevah: "Go in, give the message, get out. Go in, give the message, get out."

This last weekend not once but twice I found myself faced with a phone call I didn't want to avoid. Five hours after the first round I still could not calm down. Saturday afternoon when I made the next call my heart went right back up to racing full speed again. Here it is Monday almost at midnight and I'm still trying to land with my feet on the ground.

I could come up with many reasons why this is so for me. Telephones have played sort of a traumatic role in my life in more than one relationship. But these have always been with me on the receiving end. So, why is it not traumatic for me to answer phones? For some strange reason, answering phones has never really been a problem for me. Perhaps I am deeply aware of how someone who makes phone calls can sort of take on the role of a terrorist, and while I have learned to handle "taking it," the horrific thought of filling that terrorist role is just too much for me to bear.

But why, I wondered to myself, when God has brought so much healing into my life, am I left with this particular difficulty? Fr. Pietro at the Advent retreat yesterday talked about how we need to keep open the wound that we are. I don't believe this means we need to wound ourselves or forsake or reject God's healing. But we will always be in need of some healing, and our task is to not forsake or reject our need. So if I still have this particular struggle it is because the need it shows me still needs embracing.

Hopefully my steps are starting on that path. After this episode this weekend I realized that first I need to act with some tenderness for my own need. Often I just force myself to do things that are hard for me. "Buck up" becomes my motto, and nothing is going to deter me from facing my difficulty. There's some value in this, because often the only way out is through. But I looked at my situation this weekend and realized that if I just asked this friend for his email, it would save me a lot of grief and it would be no big deal. (One down, one to go.) The thought had even occurred to me quite some time ago, but somehow having tenderness of my own need also entails treating it seriously enough to make it known to someone else. I have been Queen of not taking my need seriously. I think the step towards doing so shows me that what I wrote about freedom back in June has really taken root in my life.

Another thing I've realized is that in one way it is no exaggeration to say that I would take natural, drug-free childbirth any day over psychological pain: anxiety, depression, agitation of various sorts. I have long thought this (well, I didn't use the childbirth example before I experienced it, of course), but I have an insight now about why I feel this way. Physical pain is hard, and can be frightening in the sense of not knowing when it will end and if it will keep getting stronger or not. But psychological pain is far more frightening to me because it changes my ability to feel connected to people. Physical pain brings me inside myself, but I'm still aware of the love and concern and connection with people around me. Psychological pain is like experiencing a giant eraser over my relationships, and it requires a firm act of my intellect to recall that I once knew I experienced them. Like a tiny baby playing peekaboo (so they tell me, my daughter disproved this at 3 months) the emotional memory, the feeling, of friendship vanishes from me. Even my children can just seem like noisy little machines next to me, but not tiny souls who are deeply connected to me.

So, my need. Concretely, I know I absolutely must care for my health in the best way I know how, because while I cannot eliminate stresses from my life completely, I can do much better if my body is getting everything it needs. Also, I need to cut myself a little bit of slack, have consciousness of what I struggle with, ask for help as needed instead of forcing myself unnecessarily, and instead of avoiding life's interactions because of that stupid telephone, realize what other options might work just as well. Probably the biggest need is for me to accept that I really, really, really do need my friends. To all have working email accounts!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am finally addressing my problem with the telephone after so many years of anxiety and procrastination. It has been rather debilitating at times and I'm tired of it. I "forced" myself to make a necessary and overdue phone call today. I stumbled with some words and my voice got rough and tight, but I got through the call without too much embarrassment. The worst part of my phobia is the harsh judgment I put on myself after a phone call. I'm determined to achieve some success and have startd in earnest today.

Thank you for your honesty in sharing. It was very helpful to me.