I lost my husband’s phone. It’s somewhere in the bowels of our little two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment.
I was convinced we’d find it, but now it’s been two days.
Here’s what happened: last week was chaotic. In addition to the normal December frenzy including birthday parties and events, stressing about Christmas/Hanukkah gifts, and upending and re-booking all our holiday travel plans three weeks before the holidays, I flew to Los Angeles for work. After a few days of work functions with my company’s senior leaders, I flew back to New York on a Friday night redeye after drinking enough wine to sleep through the flight (read: a lot).
I walked through my front door on Saturday at 6am and crawled under the covers. My respite was cut painfully short, though, by my kids, who woke up at 7 and whose excited welcome included shouting and jumping on me repeatedly. My husband, Zack, who’d been holding it all together while I was away, was suddenly so sick he couldn’t swallow. Or get out of bed. For the entire day.
I zombied my way through serving the kids breakfast, then introduced them to the old school Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer movie and crawled back into bed while it played.
I was mostly asleep when my six-year-old son grabbed Zack’s phone off the bedside table and started playing with it. I try not to let them play with phones, and, annoyed at having been woken again, I grabbed the phone from him. He said I took it into the kitchen and he didn’t see where I put it. Unfortunately, I have only a vague memory of these events, and zero memory of which high place I must have put the thing to keep it out of tiny hands.
The phone — whose battery must have died soon after that moment — was never seen or heard from again.
In the time since, I’ve climbed on top of every counter, chair and toilet to look on top of cabinets, shelves and dressers. We’ve flipped every (very full) laundry basket upside-down. Looked through toy chests, under beds and mattresses, in closets, behind the refrigerator and through the trash (Zack did that one). I even looked in the freezer. (Honestly, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d distractedly put something random in there.)
Once I had accepted that the phone was, in fact, lost, I made a joke about using the two plastic cups tied together with a string that we found under the couch as a replacement. (Zack didn’t laugh.) We also found a collection of older phones that Verizon said are too outdated to be activated on their network, but that we don’t know how to dispose of properly. But as for this phone: it’s gone. As my friend put it, “When you’re looking for something, suddenly even an apartment can become massive. The nooks and crannies just become exponential.”
Just a phone
Throughout this process, my inner voice was not relaxed or forthcoming with positive self-talk, but instead full of vitriol. Like, Why do you always do this stuff? and God, you’re such a fuckup — All. The. Time. It’s a voice I know too well.
After the weekend, I sent Zack an email apologizing (again) and suggesting maybe we should give up, and he should stop on the way home to get a new phone.
And he emailed me back and said, “It’s OK. It’s just a phone.”
Of course, he’s right. We still haven’t found the thing and I still don’t feel good about it. It’s not a nothing expense, especially when the old one was perfectly fine. But I obviously didn’t mean to do it. And my guilt and shame won’t help him get it back.
All I can really do — or try to do — is say, “Yeah, I lost it. Sorry about that. Let me know how I can help.” And move on.
Self-compassion through a tiny mantra
As I stressed about the phone and about this article that I am writing the day before it’s due and a million other things, I asked a friend for tips to manage that asshole voice in my head.
She laughed. There are no tips, she said. No tricks. No instant fixes. Silencing or managing your inner critic costs thousands in therapy bills.
But she gave me one mantra she learned from her therapist that I plan to practice as a gift to myself this December, as the phone becomes just one of many stressors: “I am doing the best I can to manage everything that is happening.”
Try it with me: “I am doing the best I can to manage everything that is happening.”
Feel anything yet? No matter what your special set of stressors and mishaps are this holiday season, I hope we can both give ourselves the gift of a little bit of self compassion.
And PLEASE leave your favorite holiday coping mechanisms, escape strategies and more in the comments.
Bonus! Recommended reading: I’m planning to check out a book the same friend has been recommending to me for the seven years she’s been reading it and working through the exercises in it — “Soul without shame” by Byron Brown. She finally finished it this year, and said it is life changing (but you’ll have to get past the cringeworthy cover, or maybe read this one on a Kindle).