Tomorrow is my 40th birthday. I have been excited about it until tonight. Bob started making up a little song where he mentioned me turning 40 about a hundred times and it has left me in a funk. I find this annoying because up until now I felt fine about 40 - but it has left me feeling like the "dorky little sister"....thus the following:
My brother and sister are only 1 1/2 years apart in age. I am 4 years younger than my brother and, therefore, 5 1/2 years younger than my sister. Because of the closeness in their age I always felt like they had this connection that I was not a part of. I was the caboose child...never quite able to catch up with the rest of the train. Growing up I often had this feeling of wanting them to like me more. Now I realize this sounds rather pathetic...but I was a child, after all. I would often say things that I thought clever or funny and they would roll their eyes, or say "Michelle" in such a way that I felt foolish. I remember being at my Grandma's house for dinner and waiting for the opportunity to use a new phrase I had recently read. If you have read my profile you know that I get phrases stuck in my head just like you may get a tune stuck in yours. Eventually, you must hum or sing that song, willingly or not, it just needs to come out! So, when my Grandmother offered me more potatoes I cleverly replied, "Thanks, but no thanks." In a cool off handed way, emphasis on cool. Marc and Lisa both moaned in disgust. "Michelle - apologize!" Lisa scolded (taking on the mother role, even though the mother was present...isn't that what big sisters do?). I couldn't understand why it was wrong, but I felt like a fool.
Another stellar example is my first foray into swearing. My Mother had sent me out to the drive way as some sort of make-out deterrent for Lisa and her boyfriend who were chatting on the front lawn. They were bickering about one of his friends, so the deterrent was unnecessary, when Lisa asked what I thought about this particular friend. (Keep in mind I was 9 or 10.) "He's a bastard." I said. Lisa and boyfriend burst out laughing and continued laughing for several minutes. I was flustered and wanted to disappear. I didn't know what I had said. Marc and I had been watching James Bond movies and I heard the word on the show....I thought it meant a bad guy or a jerk. Lisa calmed down and went into Junior Mother Mode. "Michelle, is that a word you would ever say in front of Mom?" The ultimate test for pretty much anything. "Um, no." I answered. "Good," she replied, "Don't ever say that word again." I slunk back inside feeling like an idiot.
These are only two of many examples. I just so desperately didn't want to mess up around them. You see, they were both incredibly talented and incredibly beautiful and I felt like the goofy, dorky, annoying little sister. I remember sitting in the audience when either or both of them were in a play or singing in a concert and feeling so incredibly proud. "That's my brother! That's my sister!" I wanted to shout to every one around me. But somewhere with this pride was also a feeling that I could never live up to their level of success.
There were moments where my Mom added to this feeling. I remember in the 6th grade being tested for which math class we would attend in junior high. There was a remedial, basic and advanced option. I ended up scoring in the basic category, as did most of the kids, and feeling fine with that...until I went home. My Mom exclaimed that both Marc and Lisa had tested into the advanced class. She wanted to have me retested....I once again felt like I had unknowingly embarrassed myself. My Dad (step dad) told her that if I was happy with the result we should let it go.
There was a lot of unspoken pressure to succeed in my family and I just didn't think I could live up to the reputation that Marc and Lisa had set. People would say, "Are you a great singer like your sister and brother?" How the hell are you supposed to answer that? Yes I'm amazing - sit down, while I dazzle you with my greatness. "Um not really..." I would say - "but I want to be" - I would think. "Oh, that's too bad." was the reply.
In high school I focused on school leadership and science, since Marc and Lisa didn't have a history there. I thought that if I could pave my own path I would feel better - but the music pull was too strong. I still ended up auditioning and joining the jazz choir and having a great time. The director always wanted me to try out for a solo, but I never did. I felt like I would never rise to the quality of Marc or Lisa's vocal abilities.
Now I realize this post is rather scattered and seemingly shallow - but sadly a lot of these types of feelings plagued my thinking...and clearly still do....oops...hole in therapy showing. So, let me end on a positive note.
There was a young lady in my ward (church) growing up who sort of took me under her wing. I believe she was Marc's age - maybe a year younger. She was at our house one day, I'm not sure why, and the topic of my sister came up. "She's so beautiful." I gushed. "So are you!" she said. I looked at her, puzzled and slowly replied, "Um, no, I'm not." She grabbed my hand and led me into the bathroom. She stood me in front of the mirror and said, "I can't believe you can't see how beautiful you really are." She then proceeded to write on the mirror 'You ARE beautiful.' She said, "Every time you see that I want you to know that is meant for you! Not Lisa or Marc, but you! You are beautiful!" I had never felt so touched or grateful to anyone ever in my life. It was a time where I felt like she was looking at me for me and not because of who's sister I was or who's daughter I was. It changed how I thought about myself. Because of that I named my daughter Kristen after her.
I still have far too many moments of feeling clumsy, awkward and...well...dorky - but just thinking of that moment in the bathroom with has left me feeling a lot better than I did at the beginning of this post. Isn't amazing how a simple act can change a person's life?