Welcome to A Life Examined

What is the examined life? A life worth living! As I look at the road ahead, I take all the baggage from the past and use it as experience - the pain and the passion, the sorrow and the joy - allowing it to carve wisdom into my mind and hope into my spirit.
There is no experience that can't be useful to me at some point in my life. There is no lesson learned that cannot make a contribution to the future.
A tiny drop of water is a part of the ocean. A tiny speck in the night sky is a ginormous star in the distance. It all depends on perspective.
So, this examined life is to offer reflections in the hope of discussing things which are of value to myself and to others.
Love, Sarah

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

My "Perfect" Life - Part 4

Sibling rivalry is bound up in disappointment. I was never disappointed by my sibling, so I never felt to rival her.

She was brainy and I admired her for it. I remember her reading one high school course for fun whilst studying another for credit. She read fiction voraciously. And sometimes she would recount to me lots of history I would otherwise never have learned. I learned more about Hitler and Russian and British history from her than from text books. I loved listening to her and I learned a lot. I wish some of those golden moments could have been kept in a bottle, because decades later, I have only memories. Our dysfunctional family has produced a gulf between these two sisters that only a miracle can close. I hope, one day, a miracle will come to pass.

My sister and I used to fight a lot. My mother, herself an only child, didn't seem to have any equipment in her mothering 'toolkit' to help us get along or to 'like' each other. Actually, I adored my sister.  Playing Sound of Music together was a favourite pastime for me - she sang the Maria parts and I played the sixteen year old girl to her Rolf. But I wonder if these play times meant as much to her? While most siblings grow up and get to share their memories and compare their perspectives, we have not.

I was four years her junior and labelled a pest. I liked to hang around when her friends were over, which she didn't like. I couldn't take a hint and was irritating I suppose. But I liked her friends, and admired her. I could have listened to her endlessly. Once I found her journal - she must have been in university by then. I only looked inside briefly but what I found was truly awesome! She wrote prose as though it were poetry; her reflections were intimate and beautifully composed. I only peeked as I knew it was wrong, but if I could have read her work I'd have soaked up every word.

I wouldn't say I lived in her shadow, though I admired her for her brilliance. Instead, by comparison, I was a more outgoing teenager to her quiet, introverted personality -- I dated a fair bit, was a bit sporty, acted in plays. By the time I grew up, I had mostly outgrown my interest in spending time with her. We had little in common except a last name. I would have liked to have been closer, but we were so different, I didn't really know how to befriend her. We were disconnected, but in spite of that, my respect for her never waned. Now, this sad comfort is all I have to offer a sister who wants nothing to do with me.

What do you do when someone you love but don't really know says she wants to live her life without you in it? What can you do? You can pray for change. You can try to reach out. But inevitably, I believe you must respect her wishes. Whatever the reason she may have, it is what she's said she wants. And a relationship without respect is no relationship at all.

Two decades since my sister said she wants me to have no part of her life, every indication suggests she has not budged in her attitude.

When I read stories of twins, who were separated at birth but in middle age are suddenly reunited, I think of my sister and I and wish we could have a happy ending. When I think of foster children forced to be raised in different households, longing for their siblings but remaining alone, I think how ungrateful we have been to have grown so far apart. And I think of my mother who had wanted a sister but had grown up an only child, and how she must have been devastated by the rift between her two daughters. Yet, out of respect, I continue to do nothing, because I want to honour my sister and don't know what else to do but to obey her wishes to stay out of her life.

I am sorry for the rift. I am sorry for my part in it. But I am unable to provoke change.

I'd like to end this excerpt on a cheery note. I can say I've seen my sister at a distance a few times quite unexpectedly, and I'm glad. I'm thankful for the opportunity to have seen her, to see that she is content. I wonder if a birth parent of an adopted child might feel a little as I have - watching without the other person even knowing she's there. I haven't approached my sister because I don't want to upset her; perhaps I give myself too much importance. Or perhaps I failed to recognize when we were young that I was important to her at all.

I wonder too, if she has had similar encounters with me - from a distance, without my awareness. And if so, I hope she is comforted.

Have you experienced a separation from someone you love but from whom you are now estranged? If so, how have you coped?

I'll write again next Thursday, sharing another glimpse into my past, hoping to spark something in you that invites your reflection too.

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