When I turned forty my Dad called, wished me a happy fortieth birthday, and asked if turning forty was bothering me. After hearing my mumbling non-answer, he said, ”It didn’t bother me either.”
Now to be entirely fair to him, there are very few people with whom I would immediately share my true feelings. I could have the roof of the house leaking and the basement full of water and if, after answering the phone I was promptly asked by someone how things were going, I’d be most likely say, “Well…OK, I guess.” Over the years I’ve developed a slightly hesitancy to share on the phone what is honestly going on in my life. It is a learned behavior that, combined with my upbringing, has resulted in a measure of doubt that the caller really cares merging with a cautious Midwest reluctance to admit that things are going pretty darn bad right now, I’m maybe even worse off than you, and I might have to run if the water gets higher. After we’ve talked for awhile and you have aired all your grievances, then I might admit that my feet are wet, I’m having some problems, and may have to go.
What this means is that I’m a great friend to call and unload all your problems on because chances are I might never get around to telling you about my problems. As you can imagine, this has made for some interesting exchanges. On the one hand, I am a great listener; on the other hand, after telling me all their woes sometimes people don’t always want to listen to my problems or feelings, should I decide to share them.
I learned this extreme hesitancy several years ago. Before this I was relatively normal on the phone, although always a bit reluctant to share everything forthwith. I’ll always remember what happened when someone who I would have said was a friend called me up to bitterly complain about someone else’s opinion on some issue. She had, apparently, completely forgotten that I was the one who had originally taken the offending position when talking to her. It was a lesson learned.
So, on this, the day of my 50th birthday, I do believe I’m not answering my phone. Let’s all just skip the long phone calls talking about how you are feeling and what you are doing. Please try to understand and allow me this one day to preempt those calls about you with this simple message:
YES, IT BOTHERS ME VERY MUCH.
Thank you for listening.