Sunday, February 22, 2009


Sometimes I get very emotional for no reason.

I don't know if it is because I am an artist, but sometimes I feel very hyper-aware of deeper issues flowing between two people. Tonight, I felt that with my sister.

Her name is Stephanie. She is beautiful. She is 19 years old, and she always has everything together. She finished college, works full time at an interesting and stable job where she is constantly given more responsibilities and promotion, and she always strives for more. She is a perfectionist. I am too, but in a different way. I am a perfectionist of the soul and mind. She is a perfectionist at keeping it together.

We were both born with different hair. I came out blonde, and she, brunette. Sometime soon though, my sister's hair lightened, and we both grew up blonde together. Blonde babies running around up north at our family's chalet, she would try and catch minnows with a net, calling for me to come join her, but I would be busy reading old comic books on the shore. I was in her room a moment ago, and I started wondering around, looking at her pictures, and I saw a picture of her at the chalet, in the water, caught off guard, as she so rarely is, and being caught off guard, she can only begin the strain of a smile. 

Stephanie is the youngest of three children. Our parents are wonderful but their flaws are obvious to us, now that we understand how alike our own flaws are. My brother takes after my mother in social manner, my father in humour and outbursts of frusteration. I take after my mother's personality, my father's humour, and possess an amplified version of many of their flaws. Through constantly trying to not become them, I have become a person somewhere in  between their obvious opposite and twin. And Stephanie, born admist all of the chaos and larger-than-life personalities of the rest of her family, was a shy and reserved child, interesting and captivating, and always careful to keep everyone out of her head.

I feel sometimes like I have some sort of superiority complex because I am an artist. It is so fucking pretentious for me to even call myself that, but I do, because I am, and I am at the point in my life where I accept that, and all that comes along with it. The incredible mood swings, dramatisation, out-of-control highs and desperate lows. The free spirit, the tight budget, the all-or-nothing syndrome approach to life. The insolence. My dad just called my name, and I answered: "Can't talk right now! I'm writing!" and he didn't attempt to speak to me again. It is this selfish absorption that I need to nurture a craft. When the idea hits me, it doesn't matter where I am or who I am with, but I have to get going, so I can write, or sing, or play it. And this leaves a lot of people in the dust. I feel bad about it, but I know I can't be any other way.

And in this selfishness, I feel like I have unconsciously pushed my sister into my shadow. She grew up with me there, always pushed a little bit aside, because I always needed more. Attention, music lessons, the best school, everything and anything to cultivate my "art". I never realised I was taking so much because I didn't just get many things I wanted, to me, I needed it.

Stephanie, on the other hand, is completely self-sufficient. She has always been that way. She never wanted to need anything or anybody. I don't know why she is like this, but maybe part of it is because she was so afraid of turning into my parents, or my brother, or worst of all, me. I am a year and a half older, and my sister drives me around, while I don't even have my liscence. She takes care of me. I hope that I take care of her in some ways too. Maybe I don't always have the money or the time, and definately not the car, but I hope that I help her feel special and get her through sometimes. 

But I don't think she really knows how desperately I wish I could be there for her. I always want to help her the way that I know how instead, by talking and being there and helping free her spirit. The thing is, I cannot think of one time where she has really been caught in a crunch. Car troubles, that is the only thing that I remember her ever needing someone to come pick her up for. And I clearly couldn't be the one to do that.

Stephanie never tells anyone what is bothering her. She walks around in a constant state of tension and intent, always a plan to be followed through. She writes to-do lists every day, more than once, on anything at all. She has to find order. Without order, she might fall into chaos, which I feel like I am in most of the time, and I know she never wants to be there. 

The other day, I was with my friend, and in the midst of complaining about everything I wasn't satisfied with in life, my sister came up. "She is so perfect. She has got it all together. She has the job, the perfect body, a beautiful face, the boys chase her, she has a car, she has a life, she's always busy. She is going to go so far in life, and I can't even seem to get my feet off the ground."

My friend replied, "You shouldn't compare yourselves. She has all that stuff, but when do you ever see her happy? I never see your sister and think that she is really happy."

And this made me so sad. Because I have been so caught up in my own woes and dramas, I have not realised before, in my whole life, that my sister has never really been happy.

This makes me sadder than anything else I can imagine.

I have always felt like a tag team with Steph. She's the younger, hotter, shy but warm under the surface sister. She's one of those Alpha Females. She can appear extremely cold, bitchy, indifferent, if she wants to be. This always puts her in the seat of power, and she has the maturity and skills to know how to use that power. I am the kooky sister, the bubbly, loud, ungraceful but spirited one. It has always been a thrill for our friends and others, comparing our smiles, our faces, our bodies, and then our polar opposite personalities. Despite our differences, we get along fabulously, sharing interests in everyday activities. Our ideas of fun on the social scene vary sometimes, but we still go out together. 

As we began our teenaged years, I started to bring her into my circle of friends. Bringing her out, showing her the debauched world, I really felt like her older sister. She was still breaking through her shell. Now she is a confident woman, full of her own projects and plans, and we joke that she is like my older sister now.

But I don't really feel that way. As much as my sister is tending to the surface of her life, polishing off the glass until it is clear and perfect, she will not be satisfied. She has too much left to learn, about how to let go, what it feels like to not be on top of things, to dance without caring if she looks good, to cry herself to sleep every once and a while, and to really feel what is going on in her life. It seems like she doesn't take the time to feel what she is going through, she is always so obsessed with getting to the end of the road that she misses the whole ride. And I don't want this for her. 

Because it IS the little things that make us happy. I am almost jobless, projectless, manless, and desperate on many counts, but I still smile and laugh, I live, I do things that I enjoy because I enjoy them and not because it is what I should be doing. I want her to realise this, because I am her older sister, and I will always be worried about her happiness, and part of my identity is her protecter and her teacher. That is how I am her older sister. Maybe I don't have everything on the surface pulled together, but I follow my heart, and maybe that will inspire her to follow hers.

Underneath all that perfection is a little girl. She is shy, afraid to fail, afraid what people think of her. She wants love and attention, and to feel like she is the most important thing every so often. She never wants to be let down, and so she never depends on anyone else. The only person she can really trust is herself, and if she makes her own mistakes, she will not have to blame anyone. She loves all those she keeps close to her, and she knows that if she works hard enough and spends enough time being productive that she'll have time later on to give them and her own family everything they need. She is the provider.

This girl is going to go somewhere, and that I never doubt, and no one ever will. She is strong, resilient, brave, and not afraid to take on any task. I just hope that she will one day stop long enough to hear what her heartbeat sounds like, listen to a song that really makes her feel that someone understands her, and really fucking laugh with a guy. Someone who will make her happy. Someone who will love her not because she's perfect, but because she isn't. 

It's okay to fail. It's okay to fall behind. After a while, life is going to stop listening to all your plans and it is going to spin out of control. When that happens, don't worry because you will learn to catch yourself. Just don't be afraid of falling down and laying on the ground for a minute before you stand tall again.

And don't be afraid to lean on someone. You can always lean on me, okay?

My sister dyed her hair brown this year. It is like when we were born again, the blonde and the brunette. We are so different, but we are so the same. I just can't explain how.

And someday, that hair is going to turn grey. Our bodies go, and our jobs end, and we are left with ourselves to face. I hope Stephanie will find someone who is going to be there, and who isn't going to care what happens to her body when it ages. But much more than that, I just hope she finds herself one day imperfect and can laugh at that.



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