My sister and I are nothing alike—on the outside.
She is a dimpled sprite, scattering sun glazed glitter on all the paths she travels. I, on the other hand, am a sarcastic Amazon who avoids telephones and highway driving.
From our toes to our eyelashes, we look like we came from different parents, until you get inside our heads.
Inside, we are twins.
I didn’t know my sister growing up. Twelve years older than I, she moved out when I was six. First she went to college, and then she went to Germany. I moved to England with my parents, then Boston, then Chicago, then New Jersey. I don’t even remember seeing my sister at the Thanksgiving or Christmas table. She must have been there, but we were in our own separate worlds.
While I was in seventh grade, struggling to fit in in an Illinois burg buried in cornfields, my sister was getting married in Connecticut to a kind eyed, bearded philosophy major. While I was in college studying literature and bar tending in Fly Girl bike shorts, my sister was working as a nurse, driving a big white Cadillac, and having two baby girls. When I ran off to New York and got involved with what should be a fictional character; “The Man With No Heart,” and started inhaling a bunch of coke, she moved to Raleigh, North Carolina with her lovely family where they all went to drum circles and art fairs and made crafts together.
While I decided drugs were more important than rent, and lived on the streets of the city for over a year, my sister was being normal, being a good mother and a good wife.
To say there was an ocean between us would be to vastly understate the situation.
We had absolutely nothing in common except two parents, and we didn’t even have that in a sense, because the parents that raised me were a lot different than the parents that raised her.
When my sister was young, my parents were young too, and they still believed in, if not love, then at least the purpose of their marriage. By the time I came poking around, my parents had let go of the hope of being happy and settled into a bitter silence.
My sister was more like an aunt to me, a person I knew only vaguely, a person I liked, but who made me feel self conscious for being the “bad” child. At the end of the day, the family fiction we all wrote together was that she was good (and she was) and that I was bad (and I was), and that fact along with everything else served to keep us remote.
Two things happened which began to change the trajectory of our lives in regard to each other. First, our grandmother died, and second we went with my mom to Africa.
These two events tossed my sister and I into a thicket of emotionally charged and unexplored territory. We had never lost a grandma before, and we lost her together, and we had never been to Africa before, and we went together. It helped that the “bad” phase of my life was also drawing to a close, and that I was searching for connection and safety and that my sister was happy to provide it without judgment.
Still, even as we began to build a sisterly relationship, it was just that—we were sisters. It took a long time for us to recognize that we are more.
A few years passed and one Christmas, we each sent each other the same thing inside boxes filled with lots of other things; chocolate covered blueberries. We laughed. How was that possible? I’d never bought, eaten or even seen chocolate covered blueberries before in my entire life. She said she hadn’t either.
Little things like that started happening all the time.
I’d pick up the phone to call her, and she’d already be on the line. We’d both go to say something, and the same exact words would come out of our mouths. Each time it happened, it became more clear. We weren’t just sisters; we were spirit sisters.
You’d think by the time we both signed up for yoga teacher training without telling each other we’d done it, and then called one another on the same day to announce it only, to find that the other had done the same thing, we’d be accustomed to these kinds of coincidences, but it always came as a delightful shock.
When visiting my mom, we’d wake up at the same precise moment, though we were in rooms on the opposite ends of the house and had no plans to waken at any particular time. We both went vegan without any discussion, simultaneously. We make the same comments to each other on Facebook and don’t realize until much later that we’ve done it. We show up to family functions wearing the exact same color. And on and on.
It is a strange feeling for me, a former lonely person, to have a string tied around my heart connecting me directly to my sister’s heart. It is like being born a twin and never knowing it, until you track each other down as adults.
When I was studying yoga, we discussed the theory of reincarnation.
As part of a project I worked on, I read the wonderful book “Many Lives, Many Masters” by Brian L. Weiss. (Of course, my sister told me that she too, had read and loved this book years prior, after I said I’d read it.)
Dr. Weiss believes in reincarnation, and also that souls travel in groups throughout their lives on earth. This means that in one life, your son may have been your father or your lover or a school teacher—or just about anybody in another life. You recognize these fellow travelers instinctively. They are the people you meet and automatically know, the people you feel close to for no particular reason, the person whose eyes you look into and feel as if you’ve come home.
There is not a doubt in my mind that my sister and I have traveled across the ages together, that in some lives perhaps, our spirits even shared a single body. We are synchronized. And also that we will continue to travel together until we travel no longer, and are simply sewn back into the fabric of the universe.
I marvel that my spirit can be inside me and also inside another person, and that that spirit is infinite, stretching without breaking like one endless spool of thread on the loom of time.
This is my song to my sister. I’ll bet you she just wrote a song to me, too.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman