Spent the day with my 15-year old niece today. We went to the Spy Museum and lunch, her choice. At the end of the fascinating, educational and all around excellent exhibit we watched a movie, Ground Truth. It tells the story of how espionage is now playing a major role in a very different 21st century war - no longer targeting one major "dragon" (the Soviet Union), but now tracking intel from countless smaller and more dangerous "serpents" (terrorists). Knowing, from an insider's perspective, what's happening "on the ground" is the name of the game. An arm's-length relationship to the action interpreted through satellite photos is not enough.
On the metro ride home, we got to talking about this blog - having just "friended" me on Facebook, we were discussing the trickiness of boundaries and our online selves in general. When she asked why "designing a life" I told her the truth about its genesis and what I'm trying to do here. Which led to more questions: what did happen back then? Having skirted her questions in younger years, I decided it was time for some gentle honesty, not an arm's-length brush off.
The result was a sweet, connected conversation in which we both opened up and shared. Not inappropriately, but enough that it felt real and like I wasn't hiding something from her, ashamed of my past or treating her like a child. Talking about my whole life - not just its rebuilding - is my ground truth. Denying what was or skirting the issue doesn't make me the kind of role model I want to be for her.
However, compassionately embracing what's true on the ground does.