I Heard Them Laughing
I was 13. What an awful age, but one for learning human dynamics.
A bunch of clueless moms had arranged something, a sleepover of about 8 girls. Who knows why they thought this group belonged together? We were mismatched in maturity, in intelligence, in interests, and most importantly in that sacred cow of 13-year-oldness … popularity. I dreaded going.
Additional humiliation. We all had to wear granny gowns.
Everything went in the awkward and tensely exciting way things do when you’re 13. I was mostly listening. Mostly everyone was mostly nice to mostly everyone. We ate. We talked. We listened to music.
I was the first in the group to use the facilities up the stairs. The group didn’t realize that a heating vent connected the party room to the bath room. That vent also served as a back channel intercom.
I heard them talk and laugh. They were talking “cool talk” about how cool they were and how cool I was not. Peer pressure and insecurity drives that sort of stuff. When you’re 13, finding who’s the coolest is the coolest thing of all.
Back downstairs, I didn’t let on. Other girls left the room. Other girls heard things. I saw it on their faces.
Before I went to sleep I vowed a 13-year-old’s vow that I’d never be a smiler who talked mean on a “back channel intercom.”
Air and Empty Shoes
Now, I send you a tweet. I write a comment on your blog. You answer.
I can’t see you. You can’t see me. That can be a scary feeling.
I have to use what you give me to decipher whether you mean what you say. Who knows? You could be laughing behind the screen. You could be back channeling messages. You could contradict what you tell me when you’re with cooler kids than I am.
But then offline life is like that too. . . .
Trust doesn’t happen spontaneously. We can’t engineer a community by inviting 8 pseudo friends to the same party or dressing in the same clothes. And as a species, it’s our nature to have all too many back channel intercoms.
I can’t see you. You can’t see me.
If we’re invisible, so are the things we stand for.
Can’t build much that lasts on air and empty shoes.
But we can let ourselves and our values shine through.
Integrity, consistency, and trustworthiness show up equally as whole and as frequently as we do.
Community grows from what we see, what we are, what we imagine together.
And the more we show up, the more we find in each other.
How do you trust people you can’t see?
People ask me that all the time. Now I’m asking you.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz!!