I have a cellphone. It’s a nice one, and two years ago was as close to state-of-the-art as you could get when you paid a hundred clams and signed a 2-year contract. Those two years are up, and it’s still a nice phone, despite the child slobber embedded in the click wheel and the tooth marks, and the fact that the left arrow button is broken. It has been through a lot (a small child’s indefatigable interest in anything shiny with buttons, a few cups of tea/water, many falls to the pavement, the dusty interior of my purse), and I should adore it. It’s the most expensive phone I’ve ever owned, and as someone who works from home, it’s my lifeline to the outside world.
Unfortunately, I’ve never really liked talking on the phone. I do it when I can’t reach someone any other way, but truth be told, I’m not very good at it. I get so much of my info from non-verbal cues, that once they’re gone I don’t know what to do with myself. Not to mention, it’s harder to hear what people are saying, and forget about nuances of tonality.
Of course, this is assuming I’m a passable conversationalist. We all have illusions about our capabilities in the area of engaging conversation, and I’m really not very good at it. I’m too busy paying attention to all sorts of other unimportant details, like whether or not my hair is falling the right way, and if it isn’t, can I get to the bathroom to fix it, and if I do will they think I have bowel issues because I’ve already run to the bathroom to make sure I’m not getting another blemish on my chin (ugh, really? I’m too old for this!) and freshen up my lip gloss (which is the super-long-lasting variety and is designed to not need freshening up, except that the cosmetics companies’ pants are SO on fire and thus the frequent re-freshening), and now the other person is looking at me like I should be saying something; were they talking? What did they say? Should I nod and smile or is it my turn to talk? Are their eyes narrowing in confusion or irritation? Are they counting my chins? OH GOD THINK OF SOMETHING, ANYTHING. And then I mumble something about finding my wayward child and disengage clumsily, leaving them wondering what I found offensive about their question about the weather/traffic/Buckeyes/host. (In this town, small talk always involves the Buckeyes. Always.)
One would think that these distractions would be considerably lessened with plenty of distance. For one, I don’t have to worry about my appearance or the possibility of the Podling making crayon murals on someone else’s walls. And yet, the Dance Of The Brainmeats continues as rapidly and incessantly (and inanely) as it does in person. (What was that noise in the background? Are they in the bathroom? Should I make a comment? Would they find it funny or offensive? Did they say “row full of beavers” or “woefully eager”? Should I tell them I didn’t understand? Heh. “Beavers.” CRAP, THE SILENCE. Quick, laugh vaguely!) Have I mentioned it’s exhausting to listen to myself? It has been exhausting just trying to get this down in semi-comprehensible words. I can’t imagine how people manage to talk to me on the phone at all. It must be a series of non sequiturs to them. I’ll be that’s FUN.
Of course, there’s another very good reason I don’t like the phone, and that is because for many of my adult years, I didn’t know how to handle my finances. I knew how it worked in theory, but lacked the ability and discipline to apply any of that theory to reality. I believe the phrase “ooh, that’s cute!” took precedence of many a past-due notice, and as a result I received a lot of calls from collection agencies just after college. How embarrassed I was! How guilty! Only deadbeats and low-lifes can’t pay their bills, right? On some level, I figured that if I didn’t answer the phone or open my mail, then no one would know I was in financial trouble and I wouldn’t have to deal with it. (I know. I KNOW. Good grades do not always equal smart.)
Things haven’t stayed that way, thank goodness, but I still haven’t gotten over that dread of the ringing phone. I give my friends and family special ringtones, so I know before I pick it up that I want to pick up. I check the display to see if it’s someone I know, and if it’s blocked (telemarketer/phisher!) or prefaced by 800 or 888, I don’t pick it up. Because of this, I’ve missed opportunities. Chances to see people I want to see, to donate my time and bodily fluids, to participate in research studies and be paid for it. I’ve missed chances to step out of my daily routine and shake things up a bit.
For the coming year, there are many things I want to change. I want to be luckier. I want to be happier. I want to be more aware and conscious of my actions, not self-conscious and living always in the unattainable future. I want to stop living in fear. And answering my phone is one step toward addressing things that control me, things I don’t want to influence me anymore.
I guess this means I need to turn the damned thing on.
Tell me: what simple little thing are you going to change for the new year?