I honestly don’t know what to say for this one, or where to start, but I just don’t see how I can continue telling my story without talking about her. I don’t want to. I know I have to, I know this is MY truth and I shouldn’t let anyone get in the way of that, but I also know that she already hates me and all I can do is piss her off more than I already do just by nature of being myself.
But she IS part of my truth, and I can’t ignore that. Maybe the biggest part. And as much as it might hurt to unpack my baggage, it hurts more to keep holding on to it.
She’s my big sister; my first peer role model, my first friend, my first hero. She was everything to me, and I would have done anything for her. For as far back as I can remember, all I wanted was for her to love me, to see me as someone worthy of her. I TRIED to earn her love, I swear I did. We were arrested when I was 12 for shoplifting. She said it was all my fault, but I did it because she asked me to and I just wanted her to think I was cool. It took me so long to realize that was never going to happen, and by then it was too late: the damage was already done.
So….. context…. she is the oldest of the four of us, 3 years my elder. And I’ve already discussed our home life: financially strapped and the only supervision most of the time came from a man too emotionally unstable to be effective. And being the oldest, she got the worst of it. She was the whipping girl; she internalized the guilt and the fear for all of us so that each of us only got a small percentage of it. And I admired her for that.
I’ve never forgiven myself for having joined choir in the 7th grade. It meant that I was at school already on the morning he knocked out her teeth. If I had been there, I could have helped to stop him. She was always standing up for us, and when she needed me, I wasn’t there. Maybe she’s never forgiven me for that, either. I don’t know what I could have done to change the situation, maybe nothing, but if I hadn’t been stupid enough to pursue my own passions, maybe I could have….
I know how ridiculous that sounds, but it’s how I’ve felt my whole life, and she’s the reason why. All of that negative emotion she had been internalizing all of our lives, even before the physical abuse got bad, it had to go some where.
And I couldn’t have been a more ideal target.
Chubby, afro, glasses, and cries easily? I was a bully’s dream! Throw in a child’s familial loyalty and I may as well have handcuffed myself to the pyre.
She broke me. In case my dad never understood why he couldn’t break me, it’s because he already had via her. She would knock me down, and I would build my little sandcastle of hopes and dreams back up again, only to have her come rushing in like the tide to wash it all away again. Time after time after time. To this day, my inner voice of doubt is HER voice, always telling me I’m not good enough, no one will ever like a fat, stupid loser like me.
(You sing like a cow.)
Then I learned to build my castle further from the water, and what I saw from my new perspective shocked me.
What I had thought to be an ocean of malice surrounding me and keeping me isolated, was just a small lake. And not even a very nice one, at that. I spent my childhood building up my hopes by the shores of a shallow lake that smelled faintly of sewage, and once I saw it for what it was, I turned away and never looked back. (I wish I could say that was the last smelly lake I metaphorically camped on, but – say it with me now – that would’ve been too easy.)
I began to see my sister for what she is and not just what she wanted me to see. For so many years I thought she was the embodiment of strength and courage until I realized it was all a facade, something she puts on to alter the perceptions of the people around her. She had to appear strong over the years, but she never seemed to find a true font of strength to draw from. Instead she wants to be perceived as strong, so she’s loud, abrasive, and often aggressive. It doesn’t matter how many people are in the room, all conversation stops because no one else can be heard over her. And she absolutely NEVER misses an opportunity to point out how ‘sexy’ she is. She NEEDS to have all of the attention in the room BECAUSE she’s not sure that she is truly strong. She needs that validation from the people around her so badly, and will demonize anyone who denies her. And for daring to say that, she will probably want to kick my ass, because she never progressed past the same mental hurdle that our dad got stuck behind. No matter how badly I might want her to jump that hurdle, I can’t force her to and I can’t help her because she doesn’t want my help. She sees me as toxic for even trying to point out that the hurdle exists.
She goes long periods pretending I don’t exist. She wasn’t in my wedding party because she wasn’t speaking to me while I was planning my wedding. Why? Because her boyfriend was a drunk idiot and he made the mistake of hitting her in my presence. Imagine my surprise when we were handcuffed in the back of a cop car together and she went off on me for coming to her defense. I think it was almost a year before she spoke to me again. She calls it “kerfuffling”. I call it childish bullshit because I won’t uphold her image of faux perfection.
Honestly, I could go on forever about the questionable decisions she’s made and the conflicts she’s overreacted to, but at a certain point it stops being informative and just becomes petty, and (despite the bitter taste she leaves in my mouth) that is not my purpose.
She is my sister. She is struggling emotionally (whether she wants to admit it or not), and I want to help her because I DO love her.
But instead of seeing me as a rock to lean on, she sees me only as a pebble in her shoe.