At the time, the idea seemed flawless.
It couldn’t fail. Putting my phone number on the internet, I decided, was going to be the best decision of my life.
This sounds crazy when I type it all out and I feel like I should preface all of this by saying: at the time of this brilliant decision of publishing my seven digits for the world to see and call, I was reading a book by Bob Goff. The book is called “Love Does.” It’s a good one. Bob put a phone number at the back of his New York Times Bestselling book and asked people to call him. Like, he really wanted people to call him. And though I have never gotten the courage myself to give Bob a ring, I’ve heard from countless amounts of people that he actually picks up the phone. He talks. He listens. All that jazz.
I became enamored with the idea of being that accessible to people. This image was floating around in my head of me getting all wrapped up curly telephone cord and talking for hours with strangers. I could picture myself sitting on the granite countertop, bare feet dangling over the sink, as I got to hear the stories of someone else on the other side of the phone. I’d understand the cracks in their stories. I would get to be there for people. Whenever they needed me. Whenever they called. No questions asked.
That didn’t happen. First off, a human being who is already evidently awful at picking up the phone (or even keeping her cellphone charged) is not going to magically “get better” at it by publishing her phone number on the internet. Also, the only people who called me were men. I felt like I was on one of those hotlines where lonely men call in just to “talk.” And I’m like too nice to hang up the phone.
My “deep, life-shifting conversations” consisted of one man who called just to have some company while he was walking to the convenience store to get Tylenol at 11:30 at night. I didn’t pick up for the four other men who called. They all left voice mails. And while I don’t have too much advice for men, I am confident enough to make this public service announcement: Men out there– men of this wide world– do not (I repeat, do not) leave a voicemail for a girl you don’t know including any of the following lines:
I need to hear your voice.
I just want to hold you like you hold your letters. I just want to hold you like paper.
I want to be the words on your page.
That is not the way to a girl’s heart. It is the way to a prison cell.
All this to say: my phone number sat on my blog for a mere 24 hours before I was forced to take it down. And I got pushed back to the drawing board.
Here’s the thing: I like to help people.
I like to serve people. I’ve never really known how to just take up a hobby. I am ultimately the worst person (ever) to engage with in a challenge because I will be absolutely relentless to murder the competition once you get me going. I don’t like losing. And I don’t like not being the best at things.
Yes, these are the fatal flaws. I am admitting them just because I know, daily, that I am wrestling each one down to the ground and making them lose their power. That’s what you do with your fatal flaws— you make them lose their power. You refuse to stay just as you are.
So back to that phone number on the blog: I thought that was the next step. It couldn’t just be a simple thing like sending a birthday card in the mail. It had to be global. It had be to be earth-shattering. I wanted to be there for strangers. No, I just wanted to be there for everyone.
And while some might think that is noble, I have to come see it for the truth that it is to me in my own life: It’s easier to stay at a distance. It’s easier to be there for everyone if it keeps you too preoccupied to take on the hard work of being there for just a few “someone”s who will fail you and let you down and you’ll have to forgive them anyway.
It’s easier to touch a lot of lives instead of laying your hands upon a few and refusing to let go. That’s been my life for the last year and a half: you get on a plane. You stay in a hotel. You wonder what to do when they finally you drop you off with your suitcase and you have a random few hours to kill in a city you don’t know very well. You’re an introvert. And you just want to find a diner with two eggs, stale coffee, and good people watching.
You get on a stage. You talk to college students, mostly. You sit with them in tinier circles after the talk is over. You hear their stories. Their breakups. Their big dreams. You take selfies. You go back to your hotel. You leave in the morning.
You love every second of it. Really, you do. But you never get to “do life” with those people. And that’s a hardship I still have not found my way around.
There’s a grey I can’t quite understand for moments with people that don’t last longer than our fingernails. It’s like traveling is just two steps on repeat: fall in love. And get on a plane. Fall in love. And get on a plane.
And when the plane is ready to take off again, get you up to about 10,000 feet, your mind always wanders back to the place it hates to stand inside of: what would it take for you to stay?
That’s the scary stuff that no one ever talks about: staying.
And what staying looks like. And why the heck “staying” is like the monster that hides in the closet once you hit adulthood. You lose the fangs. You lose the strange things beneath your bed. The idea of just letting someone stay, of just staying where you are and loving the one you’re with, becomes a whole new monster to taunt you at night.
We don’t talk about that for some reason. Maybe it hurts. Maybe it’s vulnerable. But it’s like no one ever undresses how absolutely terrifying it can be to let others get close to you. Close enough to see the junk. Close enough to let in the ones who won’t judge you when you come to them, weary and wrecked by the day, and just say, “You know, this day didn’t feel worth it. I could have stayed in bed. That’s just what I want some days: to stay in bed so that the rest of the world can’t touch me.”
And that would be okay. That would be okay to say out loud.
I guess you can give your phone number to the world.
You could. And you’d probably get a lot of good stories out of it. You’d learn a lot of different types of laughter and there’d be nothing wrong with that. But I guess the bigger question for me was this: Is this what you need? Do you need to go wider— touch more and more lives— or do you need to go deeper with just few?
You can go wide, and wide, and wide but it will never feel the way it feels to go deep. To force yourself into people’s lives like a hurricane. To let them actually walk into your life and get the chance to say to you, “Hey, you don’t have it all together. You’re not the best at everything. And you get to fail too. You get to lay down your armor too. Please don’t be afraid of the ones who want to get close and closer and closest to you.”
You can go wide, and wide, and wide but it might never feel the way it feels to lay beside your best friend in bed. It’s a queen-sized so you both fit. Only the skin of your arms touch. And that’s just always been your thing— laying in bed for hours, laughing over boys who became ghosts and a God who feels a little too big and mighty on most days that end with “y.” But today, she’s not moving. You’re not moving. And it makes you want to crawl out of your skin because you don’t have the words to fix her. You always thought words could fix things, until they couldn’t.
But you stay. And you let the silence go on humming like a dial tone. You let the silence get louder and louder. You do nothing to fill the silence up to the brim with words. And that makes you feel helpless and free, all at the same time.
You just stay. And you don’t try to fix a damn thing. And it’s harder than a phone call with a stranger who can’t touch your burdens in return. And maybe you just stay in bed that whole day. You pretend like the rest of the world can’t touch you. At one point you whisper the only thing you can say without trying to fix the unfixable sadness that sits between the two of you.
Maybe that’s all she needs to hear. Maybe that’s all you need to tell yourself.