Do you remember three way calling? Where you pushed a button after connecting with one person to allow you to dial out to a third?
Three way calling dominated my middle school years. I spent countless hours curled in the corner of my waterbed atop my zebra-striped comforter (hey now, it was the early 90s!) with my ear pressed to my corded phone (I didn’t have a cordless model for a few more years). Much of time, one of two of my two closest friends were on the other line. We could spend hours talking about everything and nothing. But mostly, the talk centered around boys. Hmmm…would they be classified as everything or nothing?
And then the topic of a three way call would come up. Who should we call? Is there anything we need to discuss before they are on the phone? Any bit on intel to which they are not privy? It was so deliberate, that addition of a third to the conversation. The new voice could entirely change the tone or course of an exchange. New topics may be broached or old ones discarded due to their proclivities and knowledge.
It was always a balancing act, those three way conversations. Especially with middle school girls involved. We usually had alliances; the affections were not spread equally between the three. It was always a dance between inclusion and exclusion, always wondering your place in the mix.
Three way conversations have again appeared in my life. Not via phone (do iPhones even have that capability or has it gone the way of the floppy disk?) but in my relationship.
I am acutely aware that every conversation between Brock and I also includes our pasts, the ghosts from before dialing in to voice their feelings and opinions.
Now obviously every conversation between two people pulls from their respective pasts. It’s impossible for two adults of any age to speak without their pasts whispering their ears. Our experiences shape or beliefs and our perceptions. We filter the world through this netting woven from days gone by.
With my ex, I was not as aware of the past. We were together from such a young age, perhaps I assumed my past was his past.
But that’s not accurate. Even though we lived parallel lives for many years, we had different perspectives born from our childhoods. I neglected to listen to the specters whispering of the trauma caused by his alcoholic family and I didn’t pay attention to my fear of abandonment on the other line. I acted as though we were in on a private conversation when, in reality, it was a three way conversation with our pasts.
I’ve returned to the state of my youth. I am more deliberate about those three way conversations. I listen to the voice that is speaking – past or present – and try to respond appropriately. It’s easier now to tease out the utterances of former lives, as we each bring years of unshared experiences to the table. I am more aware of their effect on our views and responses, the latter of which are often anchored more in yesterday than today. We cannot hang up on our pasts; we must learn how to engage them in the conversation.
The zebra-topped water bed has long since been retired and I no longer have a corded phone. However, the three way conversations continue. Only now we don’t spend hours giggling about boys.
To those impacted by Boston: Marathoners train to endure pain. But there is no training that can prepare you for this kind of torment. My heart goes out to the runners, their supporters and the thousands of people who are taking care of the affected.