It can be hard to come to the realization that life as we are living is worth a second look. Sometimes we need an external force to put us in motion. Oftentimes, it is when someone dear to us drops the rope or walks away to make the necessary steps to look at life a new way. Sometimes, we need to experience others to see that what we have is not the same. And then some of us need that very moment to wake us up to the very real possibility that we don’t have to be living in the shit we do. That it smells and that life doesn’t have to be dirty every single day.
This is an ode to my sister, who I miss and think about and see on social media but cannot touch, hug, love. The one I can’t cook for, boss around, tease. She was the original Cassandra in our foursome, the one who smelled the shit the minute she walked in. Institutional living makes you sense things in ways that others will never ever know. I went inward, she went outward. She was brave and bold and was the first to get away. I cannot stop thinking about her, her life, my life and how we got to this point.
Back then, there was no RAD (reactive attachment disorder) and Deborah Gray and her book on attachment was just making the rounds. I will not undignify her with the details of how she would fit a RAD diagnosis. Besides, it’s her story to tell, not mine. Now, decades later, I cannot unsee what I have experienced, learned, witnessed and seen through others’ stories. What I have come to know and believe is, there was nothing wrong with my sister. She was surviving, reacting to the ways in which other attachments were imposed on her. She survived and so did I, we just went about it in different ways. She took risks, she was like a cat, always landing on the ground erect, feet first. Her attachment was based on the very real knowledge that she was alone and had to fend for herself. For me, as her sister, I was desperate to understand why she was so very different from me, what made her tick and why I was having a tough time getting on board with the way she was.
It was my attachment to her that led me to wander into adoption work and I am grateful for her. Working in adoption was a way to figure out what happened to my sister, to make sense of how adoption may or may not contribute to her way of being.
In that wandering, I discovered that it was me that had to do the deep work in order to rise to a place of understanding and compassion for who she is, was and will be. All my projections of how our relationship was supposed to look like was my insecure attachment to the belief that being sisters had to look and sound a certain way. That being sisters would mean that I had to wait and look upon her from afar, has become my toughest lesson in patience and compassion. That I needed to accept that this is a strange and unbecoming definition of family, is also very necessary for me to claim her in my tribe. Not on her, but on me.
The long view is that actually, she is doing just fine. The long view shows her to be able to attach just fine in a relationship that has lasted over 10 years. She is doing what makes her happy, what fulfills her and wasn’t that the goal? I keep thinking if she had gone through all those RAD treatments, she would be diagnosed and medicated. And while I would not want to relive her 20s with her again, that is my assumption, maybe not hers.
And so I wait in my orb till she is ready to let me into hers. For now we see each other and keep tabs on each other’s lives in the way only social media can affirm. I’m still the oldest of four. She is still my sister. She is my family.