Don’t Leave a Voicemail Unless You’re My Mother

Even with this clear instruction recorded on my phone’s greeting, invariably, friends and family will still leave me little messages that sound something like this–not ranked in order of annoyance.

“Hi, it’s Karen. I know I’m not your mother, but please call me.”

“Oh, hi. Ha ha. Funny. Call me. Oh, it’s Sean.”

“Hi. Call me.”

“This is Dr. Polowy’s office reminding you of your appointment next week. If this is the correct number, please call us back.”

“This IS your mother. Call me.”

C’mon. It’s 2016. Even my 84-year old mother has a smartphone and can see who her missed calls are from. Isn’t it time voicemail was eliminated? Even email is too slow for me. FaceTime me. Skype me. But, puhleeeease, don’t make me listen to your long, rambling voicemails that all end in the same place as a missed call. I get it. You want me to call you.

But that’s not really what I mean when I say don’t leave a voicemail.

What I am really saying is that I do not care to talk on the phone. I do not like to FaceTime or Skype, either. If you invite me to a party, or any gathering of large people, there is a high probability I will come up with some plausible excuse not to be there. Do not even think of knocking on my door unexpectedly. I prefer to communicate on my own terms. Sure, let me know you are trying to reach me. And when I can, I will answer back.

What I don’t have is phone aversion or rudeness. What I do have, and always have had, is a compelling need for a high amount of alone time.

Time to myself. A time when I have not committed to an appointment, a favor, a date, work, anything that requires a large degree of time away from my safe place of home. The space that I have filled with comfortable furniture, books, a place to watch movies, a bedroom sanctuary made for sleep, my project areas–my stuff.

As a child, when I misbehaved, my mother (the only person with voicemail privilege) would send me to my room for an afternoon. That is, until she discovered I was lying on my closet floor reading books from the floor to ceiling bookshelves my father had built. That soon ended as punishment. I was so happy just being alone and reading.

Some people might describe my behavior as social anxiety. But I love people. I’m a successful public speaker. I worked as a trainer. I have mastered the art of small talk with anyone on any topic. I was a media spokesperson. I can use my words, and I can use my energy. But it is finite.

To be me requires a great amount of refueling.

I am able to expend large lengths of time when I must. Deadlined projects. Overtime. I recently took on a 12 hour a day caregiving job for two weeks straight. Yes, I am capable of fast tracking, but the result is recovery isolation. I simply give until I have no more to give. To my safe place, I return to refuel and recharge.

If you want to get ahold of me–don’t leave a voicemail. Unless you’re my mother.

  1. Ah, Barbara, you’re living my life! And I’m finding the older I get–the more alone time I want. It really is not that I don’t lik people….I just prefer the company of me. I get so many No Caller ID calls on my cell phone–as if! I, too, like spending time with my family but it’s always planned out. We are not spur of the moment people! Thanks for reading this and taking the time to comment. It does sound like we’re kindred spirits!

  2. I am the same way. I hate the phone. I leave my cell off and only turn it on when I need to make a call. Nobody outside of family and close friends have the number. I screen all calls on the landline before answering. I rarely go out unless it’s for a photo walk, a meeting, to shop, or or a doctor appointment. I think it’s because I have so much I want to do that requires time free from interruptions. I do like spending time with family and close friends. I just like to be able to plan it. I hate my answering machine, but sometimes people do need to leave messages when I’m away.

  3. Yep, me too, Randy. Many things I would tell my younger self. I’ve always had jobs that required a high degree of people interaction. I’d get home and just hit the wall. I had no more because I’d used up not only all my words, but all my energy. I believe that’s what triggered my social anxiety as well. Love that there’s a name for it! Because I’m not shy, I just prefer the company of myself. Most of the time. Unnecessary conversation (party talk) exhausts me. I can do it–but would rather not. My favorite behavior is thinking up excuses to leave while driving to an invited occasion (wink). Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  4. Thank you for putting into words what I have long practised. Even before voice mail or answering machines existed, I practised alone time. Over the long years of my life I have become practised at handling social and work situations that used to leave me dazed, confused and withdrawn. I have social anxiety that was paralyzing when I was younger when it was just blamed on awkwardness or aloofness, before these problems were named and shared beyond the confines of the doctors office.
    Too bad time travel isn’t worked out so that I could message that young man during his terrifying school years.

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