I guess this is when we grow up — when we let our parents go.
It takes our making that release, even if they have already released us. Even if they, over and over, have opened their bodies, opened their hands and let us tumble out onto the wet earth: still, we have to unknot ourselves from their longings and fears, we have to pull the cords from around our necks, we have to fish the hooks (yes, thank you for that one) out of our shoulders, we have to move forward without them.
What I’m talking about isn’t something I want to deal with metaphorically right now, but I’m not ready not to tell it slant, so I’ll stop.
Today is my sister’s birthday, and when I tell you that she holds my heart, what I mean is that without her I wouldn’t be breathing. When I say that I hold her heart, it’s hopeful, maybe, or what else — wishful thinking — but a longing to be that big sister.
On her birthday I always wish I lived closer, that we could easily get together for breakfast or lunch, pancakes with a candle burning in the middle of the butter and syrup that we could sing around. She was the deciding reason for me to move to California — so that we could be within driving distance. No more having to travel cross country just to lay my eyes on her face.
Today I’m sad and sick with loss about parents, and at the same time I’m wishing I could go out dancing with my sister: that we could take back some physical space in this world for the safety and joy of our bodies. That we could clear the area around us on the dance floor because we were laughing so hard, moving fast and serious, enjoying the music and safe with each other. Given where we come from, that’s not a sure thing, that last there — but she keeps on working with me in it: the possibility of safety with each other, the possibility that we could hold each other’s hearts and not offer them over like a sacrifice to someone else in order to save our own skin — or, maybe worse, in order to save our sister. Because that was the terrible choice we had to live within for years: if you don’t take her apart, she won’t get better.
Now we’re living the opposite of that: now we’re living the truth of our unique sister-beauty. Now we’re living in the aftermath of battleground and deep scarring, and we are (maybe you can’t see us, but we are ) we are dancing every time we’re in the same room together. Every time we talk on the phone. We are dancing. We are getting free.
For her birthday, I wish my sister time to celebrate her devastatingly beautiful strength, time to honor her brilliant open heart, time to be as held and cared for as she holds and cares for others. I wish for her long stretches of moments when she feels safe in her own skin — when she is safe in her own skin.
What I want to tell you about my sister is that her grace is like fire and her voice is like triumph and loss and morning and we had to walk across each other’s bodies to get ourselves free of hell and now she’s still willing to know me. Now we have stayed in this fight long enough, struggling to love each other and be safe in that love, listening to things to terrible to hear once we got to the other side but still listening, still trusting each other. There are many reasons why we wouldn’t, and yet we do.
This isn’t what I want to talk about on her birthday. On her birthday I want her to have kitten time and red licorice time and just one moment when, all the way down deep in the thick of her bones, she knows that her body is good and clean and safe and strong and deserves all and only good things: professional massage, organic tastiness, favorite music, everything that feels ok just and right in that moment.
I wish that for you, too, on this day.