There’s been a constant throughline in my life. My sister graces my earliest memories and remains central to my latest advances. I was surprised to discover over the holidays that Amy’s recollections of our childhood were anchored by the vivid emotional details of two traumatic events separated by a decade of shared experiences she didn’t remember sharing or experiencing. Amazing how we walked many of the same paths for years and came away with such a divergent view of what happened.
If you’ve read any of the early posts in Volume 1, you’d have a good idea of the trauma holding down one end of her childhood. The first time she witnessed our soon-to-be stepfather beat the shit out of me for banging on a tambourine with a flute until it cracked. It might have been a pipe. At any rate, she was 4 or 5 at the time. About the same age as my son. Powerless to stop this monster from ravaging her beloved “twin” brother for such a minor infraction. We’d been inseparable since she came into the world 11 months after I did. It doesn’t take much to imagine the deep scars laid down that day.
I’d always taken the exact opposite approach. I remembered that first beatdown, of course, but I stuck that shit in a box and threw it on a shelf immediately to focus on the positives. A trauma I could review and analyze at will, but one that didn’t hold a shred of power in my life, then or now. Compartmentalization was always my primary super power. It’s only been through recent revelations regarding my own deficient memories that I understood why the trait is anything but a super power. It was both a crutch and a comfort. A way to avoid dealing with reality in real time. Emotional procrastination.
The second traumatic touchstone for my sister was the ignominious and largely underserved conclusion to my life in Colorado circa 1985. Not to say I didn’t bring a lot of abuse and bullying from our crew of ruffians onto my own shoulders, but failing to stop those depredations in order to maintain her social standing led to guilt and shame. Notwithstanding the fact that I never looked to Amy for protection and had no expectation of her slaying my teenage dragons, she felt responsible and a failure to intervene in any meaningful way was her lasting memory from our time together as kids.
It left me with one more box on the shelf. They would stack up over the years as a series of lessons I would fail to learn. Amy would be around for many of them. I’ve begun the process of clearing those shelves and tearing them down. Allowing the good and the bad to commingle and coexist. I couldn’t continue shielding myself from negative experiences by not allowing myself to feel them in the moment. Turning hindsight into foresight requires a more direct relationship with reality and truth. I found a new way forward that isn’t always comfortable but infinitely better in numerous ways.
Just as I made it through the darkest year of my life, Amy started asking herself hard questions long unasked. Really digging into the divergence of narratives we both carry from nearly five decades of shared reality and why two people have such wildly different views of the same events. Having recently answered similar questions myself but in a very different context, I am hopeful I can help shed some light on that paradox. I’ve also never been more centered in my own space, so tough conversations that may have led to arguments and acrimony in the past are unlikely to find the same end today.
I appreciate the symmetry of our convergence happening at this late date. When most people our age are lucky to find an uneasy status quo with their lives, we’ve both chosen abject self-discovery as the only way forward. Personal transformation leading to emotional stabilization. I shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve both followed that contradictory path for as long as I can remember, our mother blazing the trail ahead. Not always for the best, of course, but always for the better. I’m excited to see where this particular journey takes us.