As my parents’ health was deteriorating and they needed more and more in-home care, I was getting a lot of phone calls from the VNA and other agencies to coordinate it, and of course from Mom and Dad themselves. Any one of those calls could have meant a crisis, or at the very least, a worry or a hassle. It got so that whenever my phone rang, my stomach would clench with anxiety. It was too much.
To avoid associating that feeling with every phone call I ever got, I assigned the iPhone’s “bulletin” ring tone to all contacts related to my parents in any way. My “normal” ring tone (James Bond theme music, natch) became nonthreatening again.
Though the volume of parent-related calls is way down now, I’ve maintained the “bulletin” ring tone for my mother, her doctors, and her assisted living facility. One of the healthiest changes that’s happened for me since Mom moved there is that I don’t feel I have to answer all her calls. I know she is fine. When I don’t want to talk, or listen, I just don’t. If I’m walking, sleeping, shopping, hanging out with friends or family, I don’t have to. If I just don’t feel like it, I don’t have to.
Such a simple thing, to have regained that modicum of control over my own life. Such a huge relief.
This morning, on a walk in the woods, I heard the bulletin tone and declined the call. This evening, with dinner on the stove, I heard the bulletin tone and declined the call. I listened to the voicemails later. They were not urgent. I’m going to see her tomorrow. She can wait.
I’m allowed to walk in nature undisturbed. I’m entitled to make dinner for my family without jumping at an interruption from my mother.
I was on a short leash for a long time, and I’m not anymore.