As I shared yesterday, my sister has always been a wonderful role model about love and acceptance. She was always willing to meet me wherever I was, whether that was in self-denial or self-exploration. Sadly, it has only been since going through the healing process that I have reciprocated the acceptance piece.
My father (the “good” parent) raised me to believe that success = money, and my mother and conservation community raised me to believe that success = being a virgin, marrying well, and being a stay-at-home mom. I split myself inside so I could believe I was still a virgin, went to law school so I could have money (even though I hated law school), married a lawyer, and quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom when my child came along. I wanted to follow the rules so I would be safe.
My sister did not “follow the rules.” She dropped out of high school after ninth grade because our mother had started abusing her again during the night. (I had left for college.) She could not stay awake all night armed with a knife and also be successful in school during the day.
I couldn’t “see” the abuse because that would have shattered my walls of self-denial. All I saw was my intelligent sister throwing away her education. With the strong encouragement of my grandparents (father’s parents), I tried to get my sister into college to no avail. Her path was very different from mine. I eventually accepted that she was going to live her life in the way she chose and that I was powerless to change any of it.
Fast-forward to her mid-thirties – My sister made her own decision (I had given up years before) to go to college. She graduated with honors with a double degree and will graduate this year with a double master’s degree. Her college experience was much richer than mine because mine was about escaping my mother whereas hers has been an adult enriching herself.
I couldn’t see my sister for who she was until I faced down my own demons. Possibly because my sister knew this about me (whether consciously or subconsciously), she loved and accepted me through it. As I removed my walls of self-denial, I was able to see not only myself more clearly but also my sister. Her journey makes sense to me today whereas it baffled me before.
I think it is my sister’s attitude of acceptance toward me that was the glue that held us together. I think she knew it was worth putting up with ignorant comments from me as she waited for me to find my way back to myself. I am so grateful that she did because I wouldn’t trade what we have today for anything!
Photo credit: Hekatekris