(circa mid-December 2016)
While December is overall a month of positivity, I find myself confronting a harder truth. I have an increasingly strained relationship with my sister. With her blazing talent in ballet, I feel lost in comparison. Lost, less-than-worthy, eaten away by self-doubt.
I find myself crying during my sister’s performance in the Nutcracker, not because of how fantastic she is, but because I’m so jealous of her. An important figure in my love life once told me that she will be so much more than me. She’s athletic, she’s a dancer, she’s beautiful. Sitting in a dark theatre with the light of her stage reflecting off of my face, I already feel swallowed up by her shadow. The hands of my psyche wring through melancholic memories of how I used to be thinner than her at the height of my eating disorder.
The audience is absolutely mesmerized with her. I can hear a collective intake of breath during her solo, and we are suddenly all humans spellbound in a dark red theatre as a wave of shared perception rolls over us in crests. When my sister’s arms collapse into her final exaltation of movement, lithe like the rays of the sun, the cheering erupts.
Afterwards, I hold her bouquets of flowers as she walks out, glowing from behind her stage makeup. People tell me that she stole the show as they congratulate me on her behalf. Stealing the show, how true. What threatens me the most is the look of steely determination in her eyes as she walks from backstage with her friends, bombarded with flowers and attention. I am suddenly aware of how my thighs touch nowadays, how my jeans have grown tighter, of how much shorter and heavier I must seem next to her. The ugly duckling.
Yet I hug her over and over, smiling, shouting praise. Though I feel downtrodden, the happiness I also feel for her shines clearly through my self-resentment. She deserves all of this, and so much more. I know that I will have to start bracing myself now for the long shadows that will be cast by her success as a dancer. My arms are full of her flowers as she leaves with her friends.
I try to forget all the comparisons people have made between me and her and I walk slowly to our car. My parents are still talking, no doubt in celebration of my sister’s incredible talent. Cradling the flowers carefully, I sit in our car, stinging on the inside. Every gift I have grows paler and more futile by the second compared to her and the vibrancy of the petals in my arms. Petals which aren’t yours, and never will be.
The loose end of my own insecurity scrapes the relationship between me and my sister. I do want to be supportive of her, outwardly and internally, but instead I feel myself bitter. I cry most of the way home, and then some, tears enough to sustain the flowers and their delicate, needy existences.
She may be the sun, but I am the water that those flowers drain.