Day Four: Slaying the Phone Dragon
Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are. – Don Miguel Ruiz
The phone rings. The phone rings again. The phone rings yet again. If it rings once more, obviously I’m not home. Or I’m staring at the phone aghast, afraid of what could be on the other end. There was a time when I didn’t have caller id and that was truly terrifying. Each phone call is a situation where I am walking in blind. I have no idea what is going to be expected of me. This aspect of my fears has led me to be a receptionist at an insurance company and a help desk telephone support person. Yes, every day at work is filled with anxiety, but I face this fear consistently. What I don’t do is the other side of the equation… I don’t make phone calls.
Seriously, ask my family, I just don’t call. I do have some non-fear based reasoning behind this. I do think telephones are very rude devices. They are devices used to force someone to talk to you right now, no matter what you are actually doing. I’m not fooling myself. I know I’m rationalizing my fear. So many of my daily, weekly, monthly problems could be solved by making a phone call. So many of my relationships would be closer and more satisfying if I would use the phone. I’m definitely the sort of person who has been able to function in the modern world because of electronic communication. I can’t imagine living an adult life without being able to reach out to others through instant messaging, text messages, and email.
Today I did something that I’ve been meaning to do for nearly four months. I called Comcast to downgrade my service. My gut really wants to go off on an anti-Comcast rant here, but I don’t want to diminish the focus on a very real fear for me. And despite this one ‘victory’… wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
As soon as I got to work today I got my Comcast account number and the Comcast phone number and put them with my stuff so I’d have no excuse not to call at lunch. An hour before lunch, I started coming up with all sorts of reasons why I should maybe do this tomorrow. Or Friday. I work half days on Friday in the summers so I could call then and wouldn’t have the time limit of only an hour. No. I had to do it today. Shutting down my mind, my imagination, is key. I needed to just do it, don’t think about it, just dial and do it.
I did it. I called and spoke to a rep who in a few minutes reduced my bill by $40 for six months. Truly a moment to celebrate. Yet, I know this is a somewhat hollow victory because as I looked at other phone calls that I should make I got knots in my stomach. Some things are just insurmountable to me right now. I have to think of these things in terms of ‘ramping up’ to face them. In the world of videogames you don’t fight the boss of the level right off the bat, you fight other smaller things first.
Yesterday I mentioned building a catalog of fear, a listing of all the things that I’m afraid of and then a detailing of why I cannot be afraid of them. Today I’m adding to this a Fear List (am I overusing the word fear?) which I will write down all the things I’m not doing because of anxiety (ohh, anxiety, not fear, how different), rate it on a scale of ‘I can do this’ to ‘Even with a gun to my head I won’t do this’ just so I can size things up better. So, that phone call I really should make to the lawyers in charge of the lawsuit against me… yeah that is going to wait. We’ll continue to communicate through mail, even though that is painfully slow and really isn’t bringing anything to a conclusion. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking that I just won’t ever be in this situation ever again, but the reality is at any point in time, as an adult, I will be expected to act like an adult and have very non-fun adult conversations with very serious people.
I declared today a success because I did point out an obstacle in my life that my fear was preventing me from removing and I overcame it. I am not going wild in celebration because I know that this is one of my ‘big fears’ and it will take a lot more than a few successful phone calls to make me feel like I have successfully countered it.