Voice-Only, Vacant Talks

I like to tell people that I’m bad with the phone. I suppose it’s true. Today, I got ten or twelve calls at the office. I became highly aware of my unconscious, hateful reaction toward being compelled to talk on the phone. I answered each of the calls, and after about 15 or 20 seconds, that driving, deep revolt dissipates back to almost no presence from the unconscious and I begin to feel almost comfortable, relaxed.

Each time a call comes in, I really want my voice mail to handle it. How can voice mail handle the things someone might call me about? It can’t, but at least then I get time to prepare on how I might respond to the caller, and sometimes, I get to respond by email, which seems to be a way I allow myself to be clearer in my communication (despite what your opinion might be about my essay at this point).

I have found that I really need to see a face in order to feel as though I am in a comfortable conversation. With the phone, perhaps it is my problem with shattered self-esteem, I seemingly always have an initial feeling of the party on the other end of the line (what an odd phrase that is these days!) feeling that I am truly the most despicable human still breathing. Isn’t that odd to have this natural feeling that people I cannot see are detesting me? Very odd. Of course, after a few short minutes, this creepy fear of others’ opinions melts away in most situations. I get this feeling when I call my own father. I know that is crazy, but this is what I have discovered in that deep unconscious. I like to think I am the only one with these horrid problems of the human psyche, but in the last few years, I have found that others suffer from similar defects and it helps to talk about them. However, on this one, I am sure I won’t hear from anyone.

Sometimes, I say it is my diseases that cause me to isolate. I suppose that is true, but more true, it is fears that have been compounded so many times by the diseases that are the cause of these horrible human defects. Fear is the root. So I am left wondering how I can continue to reduce all of my fears, rational and irrational. One problem is the Catch 22 of all of this. My diseases require me to strictly avoid isolation in order to stay in recovery, but on the same hand, they cause me to drive myself toward isolation.

The nice thing is that when I finish a call, even with all of those at the office today, I have this light pride and warm-hearted feeling of victory. I want to be of service to another human being on every single phone call, and I am more and more successful at that. So, once I pick up the phone AND dial, or once I answer, I can ease into this kind manner of being of service and I can be a good person.

I’m reminded of how Eckhart Tolle describes a person who spiritually is fighting against all of the pieces of life. He describes this by saying “usually it’s with government workers, and they answer the phone like…” He proceeds to imitate a disgruntled person answering the phone and it reminds me of someone saying hello to you after you have misdialed their phone number as a wrong number for the 19th time in a row.

Today, I noticed with a conscious level of pride that I do not answer like a disgruntled human being who is acting like a government worker even though at the root, I am far more damaged and deadly than a disgruntled government worker. I try to answer with a rising tone as if asking a question. This brings to mind all of the phone manners Mother tried to teach me, and perhaps that is what has me so fucked up on phones, but that is clearly another essay, and I am tired of phones.

Tomorrow, my goal is to pick up the heavy damned thing and dial Dad, my brother, and perhaps a good friend. How is that for a new day’s resolution? I’ll let you know if I am victorious; otherwise, don’t be expecting me to ring you.


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  1. #1 by carldagostino on April 7, 2011 - 5:56 am

    Meetings, meetings, meetings

    • #2 by Carl on April 7, 2011 - 7:13 am

      I think I get that. I do!

  2. #3 by Find an Outlet on April 8, 2011 - 3:18 am

    Hi Carl,
    I too have this strange phobia about talking on the phone. I rarely answer it, I’d rather listen to a voice mail so I don’t get caught off guard. E-mail or notes or cards even better. A phone is a siren of stress—of being unprepared, of speaking to a stranger (or even not a stranger), of not catching every word, of miscommunication, of counterfeit enthusiasm, of awkward bye-byes. Fear and loathing sponsored by Sprint.

    I promise not to ring you.


    • #4 by Carl on April 8, 2011 - 11:02 pm

      That is exactly it, Debra! Thank you for your comment. It is nice when we are not alone with these things.

  3. #5 by Val Erde on April 12, 2011 - 4:20 am

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been phone phobic all my life, Carl, so you’re not alone. There are a lot of us out there, more than you’d imagine. I must prefer writing, email or – if I have to – writing letters. Unlike you, though, I don’t feel terribly comfortable when I’m face to face with people although it does look like I am as I’ve become very good at hiding my discomfort. If I have to make a phone call, I write down a sort of ‘script’ of what I want to say, even if it’s only a quick call. What freaks me out is that then I sometimes get so nervous about not being able to say the right thing or being thought badly of for maybe saying things wrongly, that I stammer and can’t read what I’ve written! I get an unpleasant adrenaline surge after each phone call like that, rather than a feeling of satisfaction.

    • #6 by Carl on April 12, 2011 - 7:03 am

      Yes, I know what you’re talking about. And for me, it is only more comfortable in person, not all of the way comfortable, especially if it is more than one person. Thank you for your comment.

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