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Pavlovian Ding

When my phone dings, I look at it. Well, not only do I look but I pick it up and enable the message so I can see who’s “calling.” I think probably I have been trained all my life to do this – answer the ding. Alexander Graham Bell was no dummy, after all.

The problem is, my NEED to answer it. Even when I am out to lunch with a friend (but I’ve left my phone on in case my …family is trying to reach me…remember the days when it didn’t bother you if someone could reach you? but I digress). There the phone sits on the table. I’ve turned down the ringer, perhaps disabled the vibrate function, but it just emits that little “ding.” Immediately, my eyes shoot to the small screen. What is it? a text? a Facebook message? an email? which account?

Oh, I could ignore this, easily enough, or could I? And this is what’s bothering me. I feel like Pavlov’s dog. The minute that phone dings, it has my complete attention. Even if I am listening to my friend, my mind has lept to the ding.

So, I could put my phone away. I could turn it off and put it in my bag. I could, for crying out loud, leave it at home. But I don’t. Because it’s an extension of me. It’s like my extension cord to the world. As long as I have my phone, I’m plugged in.

People expect this. If someone is trying to call and I don’t pick up, they send me an angry text message. “Mom, answer your phone!” Guess who THAT message is from.

So have these people trained me? Are they Pavlov and I the dog? Did I give them my permission to do this?

Ha. The clothes just finished in my washing machine. Guess how I know. It dinged. Guess what I DIDN’T do. Jump up and answer the ding. Hmm. So, why can I ignore the ding of the washer and not the ding of my phone? Now THAT may be the question. This “automatic” response that seems reflexive and unavoidable, can in fact, be overridden.

What is the difference between the washer ding and the phone ding? Honestly, it’s what will happen if I make it wait. And THAT is what I better be giving some serious thought to.

In the  meantime, I really wish they would make it against the law to answer your cell phone while driving. Then, I would have a good excuse not to answer those impatient texters, angry I haven’t picked up my phone. Funny that I need a law to set boundaries for me, rather than setting them for myself. The weight of expectation is heavy. A huge magnetic pull for something I can’t even see.

If God had a ding, what would it sound like? How would I receive it? How would I know who sent it? Would I change course in an instant like I do for my phone? “Excuse me, I have to take this God-ding.” Or would I make Him wait, like I do my washer, because He’ll be there when I get around to responding?

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