Recently, I started returning my phone calls. Not that I'd ever subscribed to the local shitiquette of blowing people off by not returning their phone calls; I'm far too Midwestern for that.

But for several months, oh, hell...a couple of years, really, I got into the highly antisocial habit of turning my calls around via email. All of them. (Or damned close to it, my now-deceased father did not have email.)

Initially, my eminently forgivable excuse was a life-threatening lack of energy. I was spending the few calories I could afford making high-fat tubs of yogurt and low-carb hunks of protein in an almost Sisyphean attempt to stay out of the hospital. I neither talked to nor saw much of anyone for a good four months, except when they were trotting by to drop off supplies or help with chores.

But even as my health improved, my aversion to phone contact continued. And I realized that for whatever reason, the phone meant too much contact for me, or too little control, or both. And, since I had bigger fish to fry, I let it go at that (a miracle of sorts right there, not worrying something to death) and figured the answer would come to me or it wouldn't and either way, I'd learn to live with it.

Which I did. L.A. Jan and I even made jokes about it, the bizarre incongruity of someone who kept an Excel spreadsheet to track her online dating activity yet was often loathe to answer calls from her best friend.

Somewhere in those two years, though, things shifted. I think the shift had something to do with my readiness to connect in general, because it was right around the time I got into my first real relationship since DumpFest 2002 that I found myself occasionally brightening when a particular clutch of numbers popped up on the Caller ID screen. And today, about a year later, I'm not only pouncing on the phone when The Boyfriend's name pops up, but marveling upon hanging up with him, with L.A. Jan, with my sister, that 20...30...45 minutes have ticked by while we've been yakking away. Again. Sometimes after I've just seen them. I'm even occasionally (gasp) picking up the phone when clients call. Okay, not every time. But it's a start.

The thing of it is, letting my borders shrink for a bit and letting myself not sweat it was probably instrumental in those same borders expanding again, to maybe beyond their original circumference, later on. And as I continue to wrassle with my mighty, mighty infernal motherfucking lesson of P - A - T - I - E - N - C - E, it might behoove me to remember that sometimes, the quickest way towards two steps forward is one step back, from the phone, or whatever consarned annoyance is bedeviling one at the moment. Like a name one can't remember. Or a riddle that's driving one crazy.

Or a blog one hasn't posted to in four days.

What can I say? It comes. It doesn't come. It comes back.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a few calls to turn around...

xxx c