2nd April 2020
There is a saying that goes, “Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.” For anyone who has a sister or more, you will know this to be true.
Growing up, my sister and I didn’t share many things in common. Unfortunately, we were born into a rather dysfunctional family and we were exposed to unhealthy patterns of dealing with strife. In fact, strife was a constant in our home, and obviously, that filtered into all the relationships within our family. We were never really friends growing up. There was more rivalry than peace between us.
We both got married to men, who in varying ways, represented aspects of our father. My sister married a man who was absent from her and her children’s life. My father was absent due to the war in our country while we were growing up, but he wasn’t a ‘present’ father when he was at home either. My sister, very much like my Mom, managed her family on her own.
My situation was a little different. My father was quite the overt abuser. Yes, I know that abusers usually come from abused homes themselves, but this post is not about my father. I married a man who was more a covert manipulator. So, although there were resemblances between him and my father, I didn’t see them until many years into my marriage, and more so, after I left that marriage.
When two sisters are not in good marriages, and they themselves don’t have a great relationship, they can’t really be there for each other. Growing up, we learned to pretend! We had a public ‘face’ that was far different from the truth of what we were going through at home. In our own unique ways, my sister and I, perpetuated the same behaviour in our own marriages. I suspected it wasn’t good for my sister, but whenever I asked her about it, she’d say this is what works for them. I was so deep in denial about any issues in my own marriage, that I never felt safe to talk to anyone about my pain. My sister was the last person I’d ever share anything with. We had mastered the art of wearing our masks well. Each of us presented as flowers that hid their beauty, afraid to shine in the light. We became content with sheltering in the darkness.
I left my first marriage in 2010. My sister was initially shocked, but I do believe that moving on, was a brave step which gave her the strength to come clean about her own dissatisfaction. At this stage, her husband had been living away from home, mostly in other countries, for almost ten years, with no plans of returning to South Africa. Talk about being different flowers. In both our cases, we felt that we wouldn’t be able to handle the other’s husband. We could see clearly what the other was going through, even though there was no communication of any sort between us. It didn’t surprise either of us, when we left our first marriages. I often wondered how my sister could’ve stayed so long.
Fast forward to today. We have come a long way, but it has taken immense inner work on both our parts. We have desired for many years, to have a bond that was naturally there. It isn’t always easy. We don’t always agree. Our perspectives on life vary greatly, but we know that this garden of life, deserves for both of us to shine. We can see more clearly now, the gifts the other brings to this dynamic. Both of us chose to bring our own daughters up differently. Our daughters share deeper bonds than we shared at their ages. That’s because of all the work we ourselves have done.
Neither of us apportion blame to our parents. They did the best they could with what they had. We too, made many mistakes with our own children and they have wounds to heal because of our parenting styles and choices. We’re not oblivious to the fact that our wounds have hurt them. But we do have better relationships with our own children. We choose to talk openly and allow our children the freedom to speak their mind about the hurts in their childhoods.
My heart is filled with gratitude, with love and with the deepest sense of satisfaction that my sister and I have chosen to walk a path to healing. We don’t always get it right. The physical distance has also helped, rather than be a hindrance. We’re passionate about building new and precious memories that are far different from those of our childhood. We are aware that this is a gift. I see my sister as a deep, red rose, with such intensity and insight, and I hope she can see the lily I am, with the fragrance and strength I bring to life.
We are indeed different flowers that are growing in this beautiful garden called family.