Un-Triggering From a Non-Reply
By Deborah Blackwell
When did not replying to texts become a thing? Am I the only one who thinks it’s not okay? This goes for email too. When did life get too complicated to eke out a few words?
We all have our own values, but sometimes those questions get the best of me. I teeter from the answers feeling insignificant to downright soul-crushing, depending on who isn’t replying.
Once I heard something that stuck: “The only person you have to make happy is you.” Ultimately, that’s true. Not that your reply makes me happy (although of course it does), but in any communication, I put myself out there, as a friend, a human, and I trust all is well. Not replying leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation and lingers in my mind. I always give the benefit of the doubt until a reasonable amount of time passes, then inner conflict ensues.
Was it something I said? How was our last interaction? Our relationship overall? Sheesh, are they okay?
This became ridiculously clear last week when a good friend disappeared. One day we were texting, then suddenly, no reply. It wasn’t like her to leave me hanging. At all.
Did she have an emergency? Miss my message? Forget to reply? Did I go to spam? Was I accidentally blocked? Are her devices broken? Was she driving? Working? Out of the country and forget to mention it? Maybe she was extra busy. I knew I hadn’t been ghosted — which is such a mystery to me. Vanishing from someone’s orbit without explanation, unless there are very legitimate reasons, feels wrong. I could never just leave someone hanging. At least be polite. Make something up if you have to, don’t just vanish into thin air.
Okay, maybe she’s tired of texting. I get that. It’s one more thing on the to-do list. It demands our attention (if we let it). It has no boundaries, no limitations, no specific rules. Technology doesn’t always play nice or cooperate with our intention. It can be misleading. Distort tone. Warp inflection. Create conflict. And there’s Auto Correct, which has a mind of its own.
On the flip side, texting creates ease. It’s immediate, which is valuable in many situations. It offers freedom from voice calls or voicemail. Puts the world in the palm of your hand. Plus, emojis are so fun. And there’s Auto Correct, which sometimes saves the day.
After several days of wavering between trying to ignore my friend’s lack of reply to feeling hurt and sad, I realized it had fired some inner triggers I didn’t know I had:
I’m not a priority, or worse, irrelevant. (Yikes.) People are disappointing. (Yep, the world — and people — are different now.) I’m loaded with self- doubt. (Self-doubt is real.)
Even if you’re living a blissful existence on the heels of a perfect childhood, according to Scientific American, a healthy dose of self-doubt is important, and helps us figure out how to get along better with our fellow humans. So, Fellow Human, what’s up?
When she finally called to explain, it took me a minute to put her logical but somewhat complicated explanation together. Turns out, I wasn’t the only person concerned. Of course, complications are something I completely understand, so I had compassion and
forgiveness — for both of us. It wasn’t how it appeared — the story of my life.
The moral of this story was, I had to get out of my head, and drop into my heart. Although kindness is my middle name, dropping in took some effort. Triggers are real in all of us, and when they go off, we have to decide how to react. It’s easy to justify being upset, that’s the mind’s M.O. But it’s the heart that really matters.
Yes, the only person we have to make happy is ourselves. But happiness thrives on communication, honesty, and trust. Self-doubt aside, not receiving a reply, for me, is an exercise in patience and tolerance with both others and myself. Because fellow humans matter. After all, that’s who we’ve got.
“To free another is to free yourself.”