I’ve been living my life with a story of heartbreak.
A long time ago – when I was little – I had a sister. I wanted to be like her. I wanted her hair, her clothes, her style, her friends. I wanted it all so much. I was six years younger than her, and as I grew, I projected more and more onto her so that at some point she didn’t really exist as a person. With all these longings and beliefs I couldn’t help but live in the shadow of this sister of my making. She was my muse.
Then I was fifteen. Dressed and ready to go to someone’s sweet sixteen party, she and I had some kind of argument. I don’t remember the details.
I do remember with distinct clarity the moment she said, ‘you know sisters don’t have to be best friends.’
At the time this is what I heard ‘why even bother trying to get along?’
Which also meant ‘I don’t care about you or your feelings.’
I was 15 - I was devastated. I had on a party dress and new Mary Janes and I felt like all the life had been sucked out of me. I sat in the kitchen looking out the window, heaving heart-wrenching sobs.
I sat there feeling like my life had ended. My 15 year old mind said – she doesn’t like me, she never liked me and she doesn’t even want to try.
The weight I gave this memory made me overlook some important parts of the story. I forgot that my sister bought me a huge bouquet of flowers the next day to say she was sorry. I skipped over our trip to Chile, our morning runs down to the beach. I failed to take into account many other moments of kindness and care, like when she was the assistant coach for my high school soccer team, or when she got my significant medical bills from Ecuador taken care of.
Somehow I chose to make that moment the moment to remember.
Through these lens I could find so many other moments of cruelty, of criticism, of being made fun of by her, of being ignored or judged. I decided somewhere and somehow that she would’ve preferred I hadn’t been born. All of this just a continuation of my projection. The story I had made about one singular moment.
You see what you want when you look for it.
This past year – I was given the chance to revisit this belief of heartbreak. I was led through a guided meditation in a large room with thousands of people, led through a detailed visualization of each chakra and then a journey through many memories of childhood. My mind was reliving moment after moment of different experiences, my family, the beach near our home, old boyfriends.
Then - all of a sudden - I was 5. I saw the face of my sister and was flooded with the feeling of pure adoration. I was so completely immersed and filled by this adoration, it was so complete, so beautiful, so absolute and raw! I was not just witnessing, I was fully experiencing the emotion of myself at that age.
My heart was bursting with gratitude, my eyes were pouring tears and I wanted to pound on the floor and wail for the beauty.
The adoration of a younger sister for her older sister. The adoration I see my younger daughter having for my older daughter. Here, me, adoring my sister.
And in this moment I saw too the choice I had made, that I had decided it was not safe to adore in the way that I had. I saw that I had made a conclusion based on my chosen interpretation of one moment that tinged all moments thereafter.
It was an easy and convenient conclusion to make. It completely dissolved any responsibility I had towards the relationship, or even more, to God and to my existence. My choice in effect began the small insidious doubt that perhaps somehow she was right – that it might have been better if I had not been born.
And this became one of the drivers to make meaning of my life, to create significance and perhaps in some way to prove that moment, that conclusion wrong. It made me hungry, independent, self motivated and at times, very very lonely.
How many more conclusions have I made based on bad information and convenient interpretations? What have I chosen to remember and what have I chosen to forget?
How many other ways I have taken away my own freedom?
I dare not even fathom. I can only say that even just this one revelation has changed everything. The parts of myself - my habits, behaviors, ways of speaking - that are like my sister I no longer cringe or criticize in myself.
Can you feel how meaningful this is? I have found the space to embrace – no even adore - these ways of being that are a part of me. I had no idea how profound this would be. She has always been a part of me and will always be.
Now I can love that part of me too.
What have you decided about your life that has kept you small, in pain or even suffering? What moment have you made as the moment? What would you give to change the conclusion you made about life based on that moment?