Oh No. Trouble?

My cell phone rings, and my first thought is…

Oh No. Am I in trouble? Did I do something wrong?

This is, of course, a semi-preposterous thing to think, especially since my most frequent caller is just the American Red Cross soliciting my blood. But the absurdity of the thought does not prevent it from occurring. And it does. Especially if I receive a call at a time I don’t expect. Or during the daytime. Even more so if I don’t recognize who is calling.

It happens, the phone call triggers in my a tiny. sense. of. dread. I don’t get panic-stricken. I don’t get worried that it’s bad news about someone I love. No. my mind just jumps to something I might have done wrong. What mistake I made that someone just found out about. Something minor, yet serious enough that it requires a phone call to me. Did I miss a phone meeting? Did I miss an appointment? Do I have unpaid parking tickets or home insurance or did I bounce a check? Is that friend calling because they are upset with something I said in that e-mail? The tiny sense grows to a wave of dread in my stomach. Not just that something is wrong, but that I have done something wrong.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I see a theme here. And suddenly this feels like a much easier and lighter suitcase to unpack. (Thank you to the power of writing for your ability to sort, wash, dry, iron and hang thoughts in an organized fashion. I think I just completed a load of emotional laundry while typing). I think I get it now, maybe I can change it.

I usually pick up the phone. I just hold my breath for a split-second until I know everything is OK. And it usually is OK. And if something is wrong, people generally tend to be pretty nice about it.

Why don’t I just treat these phone calls as incoming news from the outside world? And why do I project on them my own deepest worries and disappointments about my own self. The things I feel guilty about, my deepest disappointments in myself, all the things I feel the outside world would judge me on if they found out. The places I disappoint myself. I dunno, that’s kinda a big question.

Why do I so frequently combat feelings of doing something wrong in the big world in general? That’s an even bigger question. This feeling graces me often, not just when the phone rings. Maybe I have this deep well of unresolved guilt and disappointment and worry within myself, about myself. All the things I haven’t said; the things I didn’t want to do, but did anyway, all the things I worry people will find out about me.

Ring. Ring. Remember that parking ticket you earned last week because you sorta lost track of time and sorta thought it would be OK? Here’s a reminder call that you’re not so good at time management. (Since when do parking tickets call you on the phone anyway?)

Ring. Ring. Remember that friend you disappointed 10 years ago, last week, yesterday? Did you ever resolve that?

So, maybe I have some work to do. I’m not going to change my number. I’m not going to avoid my phone. Maybe I just need to do some internal noticing when I hear the literal or metaphorical ring of self-disappointment. And recite a tiny mantra. Something like, “It’s OK to not be perfect.” Because I am not perfect, I am so far from it. And then I’ll just say to that person on the other end of the line, who may or may not be me, “It’s OK to not be perfect.”

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On that note, here’s a little article from Elizabeth Gilbert about Failure. I’d say it’s more about self-disappointment…

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Oh, and this was yesterday’s One Week post. I fell asleep while writing in bed, and woke up in the morning next to my open laptop. I can do it!



  1. When the phone rings, I like to announce gleefully, “This could be the phone call that changes our lives!!!” My husband probably thinks I am a drama queen but is nice enough not to say so to my face. 🙂



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