When I entered high school, Little Sis spent a majority of her middle school years at a private school while I attended the local public high school. We still had a somewhat similar circle of friends and continued to get into trouble while my mom worked two jobs to keep our small, broken family afloat. There were fun times, but inside I was hurting.
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The divorce and divide of our family was to be blamed for anything and everything that didn’t go my way. I constantly sought out a way to find an end to the pain that refused to subside. After exploring various ways to escape my house, city, and state, I decided the military was the best way to go. Leaving Little Sis wasn’t something I was thrilled to do, but she seemed to be doing fine with her new circle of friends, and I was confident that nothing could shake our solid foundation. After all, I did share my delicious mud pies with her, right?
Over the years both of my sisters seemed to grow closer as Little Sis and I grew apart. It was no longer her and me, but rather them. Whenever I would come home for military leave, they would briefly visit me then scurry off to whatever social gathering awaited them. Rarely was I invited. They had their circle of friends, and that circle did not include me. I was viewed as the responsible one – the one that got her act together and grew up to take care of herself. Guess they figured I no longer had time for sisters or sisterly fun. But they weren’t solely to blame because I didn’t change their way of thinking.
The highs of my life were shared with my mom and grandmother while the lows were mainly kept to myself. I desperately wanted to share with Little Sis the hard road I was often experiencing, but she seemed to have their own concerns in life. Many nights were consumed with tears and alcohol so I could find some sort of peace to sleep. When I was hurt, which was often, I turned inward to heal which usually involved crawling into a bottle.
The times I visited home, I would sneak into the living room after everyone was sleeping and lie in a fetal position on the floor and cry myself to sleep. I desperately wanted to turn back the hands of time and never leave home. I wanted Little Sis to need me, and for us to be children again riding bikes, eating mud pies, and swimming in ditches. Since I couldn’t change what was, I prayed for the courage to tell her how much I regretted leaving her and how much I still needed her to need me. Instead my cowardice left me crying on that floor night after night.
This pattern continued for many years and even after I left the military. Big Sis and Little Sis were on a self-destructed path together and I was not going down that path. I had my own dreams and family to pursue, and living without them for so long had become a habit. Being on the outside of their circle became my permanent residence and if I was going to be there alone, I was determined to make the most of it. In fact, I met my husband while he was living outside of his family’s circle. We had an instant connection and recognized the distance between our families and ourselves. Starting our own circle is how we changed our separate, individual lives and we became one. I was no longer alone.
Now here I am driving to my mom’s house where my parents, grandmother, sisters, and my sisters’ friends await our arrival to celebrate the holiday weekend. As as we got closer to my mom’s house, dread grew in my belly. My anxiety was high and even though I was looking forward to seeing my family, I was nervous to see Little Sis. Nervous that I wouldn’t ‘fit in’ with her and her friends, that everyone would be judging me and thinking I was so different from them. I imagined they were thinking I didn’t know what a hard life meant and that I only experienced sunshine and rainbows. This is largely due to our physical appearances.
Little Sis and I have differences, but we have similarities, too; however, our physical differences immediately set us apart. While she looks rough and aged, my skin is smooth and youthful. Her voice is harsh and raspy from years of smoking cigarettes while my voice is often mistaken for my eleven year old son’s. She is tattered and marked with life experiences while my scars come from bearing children and surgeries. With all these physical differences, I can see how she would think I’m so set apart from her, and why she might think I’ve always had the sun on my face. I guess this is partly my fault because it’s a habit of mine to always be wearing a mask that is comprised of a flawless surface with a smile to match it and courage to wear it.
Well, today I don’t want to put on my brave, happy face. I grow so very tired of wearing this mask of normalcy, and pretending all is right with the world when I’m around my family. It’s suffocating and separating us even more. I miss my Little Sis and our togetherness. I want us to share our problems and help one another to face them head on.
I want to scream out and say, “I AM NOT PERFECT, DAMMIT! I AM BROKEN, HURTING, AND AFRAID. I WANT MY LITTLE SIS AND I WANT TO LOVE YOU IN YOUR OWN IMPERFECT, BROKEN WAYS. LET ME TELL YOU OF MY WORRIES AND TROUBLES AND IN TURN TELL ME YOURS. MY EARS ARE FOR YOU AND YOU ALONE. PLEASE, ACCEPT ME AND BRING MY CIRCLE BACK INTO YOURS.”
Like all those nights crying alone on the living room floor, my cowardice prevents me from speaking those words. I hide behind my mask and stuff my damaged past deep down out of the light and away from the eyes of others. I tell those that I choose to tell, and those that do know about me, know only a little.
Little sis isn’t the same. She is so broken and torn, yet she is beautiful because of the courage she has learned to carry those scars. She wears her brokenness every day for the world to see. Anyone that knows her, knows of her troubles and issues. She cannot hide from her damaged past and pushes through each day the best she knows how. Little Sis is pissed off and angry because of her decisions leading up to today, but she does not hide behind a mask of perfection.
I am the coward, and I hope to learn from Little Sis to wear my pain for the world to see, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn to be brave enough to reach out, grab her circle, and wrap it around my circle.