I am much more addicted to my iPhone than I’d like to be, but it’s not for the reasons you think.
I don’t have social media on there, no Instagram icons or Facebook alerts to woo me. I don’t have gmail, and I’ve disabled Safari so that if I do need to randomly look something up while I’m out in the world I have to go through an annoying series of steps which includes entering a passcode I sometimes forget.
No. The reason I always have my phone with me, the reason I’m afraid to put it on airplane mode, the reason I check in with it multiple times an hour is because twelve years ago my mom died from lung cancer.
Let me explain:
Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ five stages of grief are missing one key emotion, and this sucker really lingers: Anxiety.
- Anxiety makes me check my phone first thing in the morning to make sure no one died while I was asleep
- Anxiety keeps me from relaxing when my husband is out skating because I’m just a teensy bit worried he’s going to get hit by a car
- Anxiety builds and builds before we go on vacation because I’m afraid the plane will crash
- Anxiety makes me worry about how my dad will handle the news when he hears our plane has crashed on this hypothetical vacation
- Anxiety makes me worry about our dog, home alone while I’m at work. Is someone going to break in and steal her? Did I leave her chewy out and is she going to choke to death on it?!?
I wasn’t always this way.
Or, more accurately, I was only a little this way.
As a kid I worried about my parents dying. Both of them were slightly older than my friend’s parents. My mom was 39 when I was born and my dad 38. Nowadays that doesn’t seem old at all, but at the time I always had a little hum of fear in the back of my mind, convinced and concerned that I would lose them both.
When my mom was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer that fear suddenly became a reality. I was twenty three when she died. Not the child orphan I’d imagined growing up, but too young to navigate such a loss. Today it still shadows me in many forms, but anxiety has been the companion I’ve grown to know most intimately.
The knowledge that the-very-worst-thing can happen clings to you. Even after you’ve accepted your loss and made many steps through the pain. Even when time has put a tremendous distance between you and the moment life changed forever, you still know that it’s possible, even probable you will experience this again.
I say probable because I still have a dad. I have a stepmom, close friends, and in-laws whom I adore. And I know from experience that unless I go first (maybe in that plane crash I mentioned earlier??) I will have to walk through the devastation of losing at least a few of them in this life.
That knowledge suffuses ordinary moments with fear- are those sirens for someone I know? Is this family dinner the last time we’ll all be together?
So, what to do with this anxiety besides maintain an unhealthy attachment to my iphone?
I’m trying to see the buzz in my heart as a friend that keeps things in perspective. I’m trying to learn that I can fantasize about the best possible outcomes instead of the worst, and believe that they are just as likely. To say I love you. To check in.
I guess this is what having faith is; leaving the phone in the other room, believing that we’re all safe and taken care of for now.