Monday, February 15, 2021

Sisterhood Revisited

My sister Amy and I are both writers. She’s a real writer. She got her MFA in Creative Writing. She writes amazing stories and has skills I only fantasize about. I write a blog that started as a promotion for my business but turned into something more personal and revelatory. We both write all the time.

Until recently, we never talked about the fact that we both write. We were raised in a family of three girls, twins, and a younger one less than two years later. In our house there was never enough attention for any of us so we hoarded our individuality, keeping our secret skills and passions away from each other for fear that they would be taken over by one of the other sisters.

It is only in hindsight that I can see how gripping so tightly to our individual, very separate identities kept us from really knowing each other on a deeper level. It’s been a gift to get to know my sisters for who they are in adulthood. Now that we are no longer doing backflips for attention, we can simply become ourselves.

I am one of the twins, the eldest by thirteen minutes. Recently my younger writer sister Amy and I collaborated on a video project for our mother who was turning eighty. As the younger sister, Amy has the curse of not being taken as seriously. I have no idea what it feels like to be in Amy’s role, but I do know that as the slightly eldest, I was often in the position of ignoring Amy’s ideas simply because she was the youngest and I was the oldest.

It was Amy’s idea to get birthday messages from people spanning my mother’s long life history. When she shared her plan with me I immediately loved it. I asked her how I could help and she was totally open to doing it together. That was the first step.

We started early, in October, for her January birthday. Amy was in charge of sleuthing out long-lost friends and contacting them. It was my job to piece together the clips and make them into a video for Mom.

During those three months working together Amy and I, who live in different cities and different time zones, talked several times a day. We FaceTimed and screen shared. We sent files back and forth multiple times. At one point my computer crashed and we had to start from scratch. Amy had to contact several people to resend their video clips and I had to borrow a computer to complete the project. In the end, there were over eighty-five individual birthday messages in a nearly hour-long extended birthday message for our mother. Our collaboration was a major success.

In the process of doing this video project, Amy and I learned that we work really well together. We had so much fun bantering in the way only sisters can. And we fell naturally into our roles using our specific strengths together toward a common goal.

In the process of creating this video project, Amy and I began to talk about our writing. We both write on Medium and a few other platforms and, though we’d each been doing it for years, we had never discussed it. We had never even read each other’s writing. 

We write very different things. Amy is wildly funny and creative. I am more contemplative and proccess-y. And, we are both write like the other sometimes. We started reading each other’s writing, then praising each other’s writing, then talking about how to support and promote each other’s writing. 

Had we been teenagers, we might have been talking about forming a girl band or a funny t-shirt business. We were so psyched, so pumped to be doing this thing writing thing together. We’ve continued to talk every day, sometimes multiple times. We’ve crossed over from the way we used to be. We no longer guard our specialness like when we were kids.

We didn’t see each other when we were younger. We couldn’t see each other’s strengths as assets. We saw them as threats to our own success in being recognized in our attention-deprived universe. As our individual universes have expanded, we’ve all found a place to call home. We’ve each found ways to be who we are and not feel threatened by the others.

What we missed when we were young was the opportunity to unite our strengths and create something bigger, better, and more beautiful. We never did form the girl band (even though we created wicked harmonies in our kitchen with wooden spoons). We never created a cottage industry during summer breaks from college. We could have. I was business-minded, Amy is amazingly creative, and Katherine can network like nobody’s business. We would have been a raging success at anything we poured our collective strengths into.

We missed out then, but my experience with Amy recently gave me a taste of what’s possible. Sisters are a unique species. There is deep love but often intense competition leaning into disdain. When sister energy is channeled in harmony, something beautiful emerges. When it moves in opposition to another sister’s energy, it becomes discordant, unpleasant, even unbearable.

After all of these years going against each other, fighting to be known for our individual specialness, we found an experience where we channeled our strengths into the same jet stream and created sister magic. 

We talked about it recently, how the video project opened up this opportunity to share something and not see it as competing for attention. It feels good, to have this kind of sisterhood where we support one another, egg each other on, and celebrate each other. It’s true what they say, “sisterhood is powerful.” The road to get there might be long, or rocky, or circuitous, but once you’re there you can feel the shift. It feels powerful.

My sister Amy and talk about doing another project together, some kind of writing. We don’t know what it will look like yet. It doesn’t really matter. It just feels good to working together, in harmony.

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