Family: can't live with them, can't live without them. But aside from those occasional family members that are divisive, or that drive us batty, most of us have relatively (pun) positive relationships. Regardless, family members have the unique position of having influenced us from the day we were born--and siblings in the most unique way.
I like to imagine myself as a sort of bulbous, blobular puzzle piece, born in kind of this round, lumpy shape, slowly growing more edges and defined ridges as I age and adopt parts of my identity. Some parts of my identity were shaped by genetics (biological sex, the color of my skin, health, the shape of my nose, the tendencies I have towards certain skills), but most of my identity was influenced by those around me--my parents, brothers, friends, family, and teachers.
Siblings are especially unique because they too are bloblular puzzle pieces, still growing and forming at the same time as you--and you both affect each other in unpredictable and long-lasting ways.
Meet Emerald. Mystery and Fantasy author (check out her newest release!), daughter and granddaughter, niece, cousin, friend, life-long student, graduate, wife, beagle mom, cook, baker, hostess with the mostest, nurturer, listener, searcher of peace and truth, teacher, lover of nature, constantly hopeful, eternally curious--and a sister.
Emerald first became a sister on her 3rd birthday. She remembers her mom telling her she had to leave for the hospital, and then going to her aunt and uncle's house where they had a little party for her while her sister was being born. She first saw Shyla shortly after that, and was thrilled to have (and be!) a sister.
The thing about sisters is that they have a unique bond--they grow together, live together, go through many of the same things together, fight together, play together, and hopefully, grow old together. In their case, Emerald and Shyla lived together for a good portion of their lives, shared friends, and learned how to both push each other's buttons and to calm each other down.
One of Emerald's first memories of her sister was when Shyla was still sleeping in her crib. Emerald reached her arm into the crib, and Shayla latched onto one of Emerald's fingers with a death grip. They held on until one of them fell asleep.
I asked Emerald what makes this relationship so important to her. How did it shape who she has become as an adult? She answered,
My relationship with her is so important to me because we've always been there for each other, and with someone who you share such a close bond with, there's a comfort and familiarity there, and a deep level of trust. We know we're there for each other, regardless of what happens, and to have a person like that in my life, I'm incredibly grateful.
She's shaped who I've become in countless ways. I'm a more protective person because I'm an older sister (I think it came with the territory, if you will). My nurturing side was born from looking out for her, worrying about her, and wanting the best for her. I'm more confident in myself because of her, gathering reassurance along my path in life that I'm loved and even looked up to. For the best part of my childhood, I consciously tried to be a good role model for her, and subsequently at times, I was a bad influence (I could be a little sassy, and let's just say the attitude rubbed off at times).
The fact that she is always there for me has meant a lot and influenced many of my actions and reactions in life. Those who are lucky enough to have just one person like Shyla in their lives, their soft place to fall, know the benefits are immeasurable.
And that's just it. Growing up together as changing, flexible puzzle pieces, they influenced each other, their actions and reactions, their personalities, and who they have chosen to be. It seems simple to me, but I know it's not, because it involves a lifetime of being together, of intertwining experiences, and just time.
Emerald's relationship with her sister has also impacted who she is as a writer. She's experimented with characters who have different types of sibling relationships--more tumultuous ones, ones impacted by tragedy, or where one sibling passes. But more tangibly, Shyla also acts as a beta reader for Emerald and her input on Emerald's work is critical.
I also asked why Emerald wished people knew about her relationship with her sister. She replied,
I wish people knew the Shyla that I know... We've gone through good times (first loves, accomplishing goals, big family moments, trips, simple moments, and victories big and small) and bad times (heartache, the separation of our parents, death of loved ones, arguments, and generally tough times) and it's always been better because we've done them together, or with each other's support. Sometimes even the bad times don't feel bad when we're together.
In some ways, there are parts to her that would surprise people, and in others, she's even more so "that way" than they know. Shyla's funnier, and also more sensitive. She's kinder, yet when she stings, she stings fiercely. She's more creative and more practical at the same time. She's an eternal hopeful (like me), and also a worrier (like me). She's more opinionated than people know. She's not as shy as she might seem at first. And she's someone who I could never have enough time with.
Normally, I would write some kind of conclusion to this, but I think I'm going to end with another quote from Emerald. I asked her what advice she could give for anyone who doesn't get along with their sibling, and her response is perfect--and not only applicable to sibling relationship, but to almost any relationship that you want to improve:
I'd tell them that sibling relationships can often be complicated enough on their own, without outside interference. If there's an external reason for the struggle, I'd tell them to set it aside for a time together and focus on each other, on trying to compromise and meet each other's needs. I'd tell them to forgive. To let go of anger. To put the past aside, because we all grow and change, and even when you think you know someone, something happens to change your perception of them. Sometimes it's just what you need to move on.
If they could do that, it's a great start.
If they could do that, then they are that much closer to a healthy relationship with their sibling, a relationship I consider to be one of the most fulfilling relationships one could have. Mine certainly has been.