This is a blog post.(#) It has words. They are carefully and deliberately put together from thoughts, ideas, nuances, shards of memory, sideways glances, fluff on the carpet, cliche.
It has a point. I don’t want to get to it too early and give the game away; but rest assured there is one.
Unless there isn’t.
My sister celebrated 35 years of marriage a week or so ago, as did her husband. I remember that over-half-a-life-time-ago day. Deb arriving in a horse-drawn cart, carrying a parasol, looking petit and feminine. Grant in his white suit. Mum falling, or did she faint? Maybe she was pushed.
That memory sparks another. Grade 8: “You’re nothing like your sister, are you?” Mr Murphy, my geography teacher, providing an exemplary example of good teaching. Yes, in front of the whole class.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked that question, or a worse one: ‘Why can’t you be more like your sister?’. They’re not really questions I’ve ever felt capable of answering beyond a sullen ‘I dunno’. But they’re questions that never cast me in a good light. It’s like when my mother says, “you’re just like your father” in that tone she has. The one where I can tell she doesn’t mean the nice things about him.
My sister is good. If I wasn’t like her, then I must be bad.
That’s how I grew up – as a living comparison to my good sister.
Deb is fiercely competitive. She loves to be the first one to do things, and she likes to come first when there’s even a hint of a possibility that there might, perhaps, even slightly, be a chance of a second place.
That was my place. Second.
But this isn’t about Deb. This is about me. The above was just a bit of context; some background information to place what comes next. There’s a technical term for it, but my mind is drawing a blank at the moment (the blank my mind is drawing has a border around it – a pretty kind of green filigree – but the bit in the inside is still blank).
You see, something happened the other day: I had a thought. A revelation if you will. It surprised me.
I was walking to the train station not really thinking about anything, in that ‘I’m walking with a purpose and my mind isn’t really present’ kind of way I have, when a thought popped into my mind. Just like that.
‘Sharon’ the thought said in that spooky way thoughts speak to you (not that my thought spoke in a spooky voice. Rather it was spooky that my thought addressed me by name). ‘It doesn’t matter that you aren’t like your sister. And’ my thought paused for dramatic effect (now that I think about it, I probably added the pause in later) ‘being nothing like your sister doesn’t mean that you’re bad’.
“Well that’s a relief” I said. Out loud. In that way old ladies do when they’re having existential conversations with themselves on the way to the train station. I smiled at the young man walking past to show that I wasn’t really mad, but his look suggested that he thought I was on the verge.
‘And.’ Oh, my thought hadn’t finished. I’d better pay attention. ‘Being just like your father doesn’t only mean bad things either’.
“Humpf” I said in a surprised kind of way. Again I said it out loud. The young man looked around to see that I was still trotting at his heels. He sped up.
It was a relief, to be honest, to know that I could think of myself differently: not in comparison to my sister (who hadn’t been married first (that was me) but whose marriage had lasted almost three times as long as mine … Deb: good/me: not so much), but that I could think of myself as my own self.
And don’t bother asking why I hadn’t come to that conclusion many years ago. That’s as much use as a teacher asking why you aren’t more like your sister. A mumbled ‘I dunno’ is about as good as you’re going to get and I don’t suppose that’s the answer you want.
So there you have it.
I’m okay not being like my sister.
She’s cool and all that, but I’m okay too.
(#) this is in response to my husband’s recent blog post which wasn’t, in fact, a blog post.