Born underweight, and with a hole in her heart, my oldest sister seemed doomed from the start. By the time I was born, her condition had deteriorated, and she spent most of her time in hospital. My parents were told to expect the worst. Open-heart surgery was the great new procedure that saved her life at thirteen. She got better.
Two years behind her peers at school, she was hell-bent on catching up. Years of being pampered had not helped her emotional development, and she was not afraid of acting out. She loved being the center of attention, and didn’t care if it was for being good or bad.
Eleven years her junior, I found my sister’s volatility scary. It was almost a relief when she would lock me out of the house, or ignore me for long periods of time. Our relationship didn’t really develop until she gave birth to her own daughter, then she needed me. I was a built-in babysitter.
I watched my sister jump from one bad relationship to another. I witnessed my parents rescuing her time after time, and I was dumbfounded at her disrespect and lack of gratitude in return.
She could be sweet as anything when she wanted something, but if she wasn’t interested, or changed her mind, look out.
When she got sick again, I decided to explore ways to help her. The more I learned about the body-mind connection, the more I was sure I could save her. She laughed in my face. You are so naive, she would say. Or, You are playing with the Devil. Personally, I’d always thought she was the devil.
One day, I decided that I would just let her be, and stop trying to change her. I told her as much. She tried to fight with me. I stood my ground. She cried. Then finally, we talked.
“Everything I’ve been studying and doing is to help you,” I explained. “But it’s not working, so, I’m not going to push anymore. You are sick, it is your life, and you have to do what is right for you.”
“You don’t understand,” she said. She was right, I didn’t. “I don’t know how to be any different.”
“What do you mean?”
“If I did what you say, and got better, then what? Being sick gives me power. It lets me get away with whatever I want. How could I do that if I got better.”
She had a point. Being sick gave her enormous power. How could I argue with that.
In all the years that I had judged, and fought with my sister about her life, I had not appreciated that it was working just fine for her purposes. We all have the right to our own paths.