I have recently come to Phoenix to spend some time with my sister and her family as I try to sort some things out in my life… as temporary respite of sorts until the next phase of my life is to begin again and I return to Houston.  While I am incredibly grateful to have this


interim home away from home, I feel like a fish out of water being suffocated the oxygen.

My sister is a seemingly very lovely person by all accounts; she has a happy home life with her husband, an engineer/salesman with two incredibly well-mannered teenaged boys.  She has no natural children, but is a loving, if not sometimes distant, step-mother to her husband’s two children, something to be blamed entirely on the children’s biological mother who, at a very young age did everything she could to step between my sister and the boys.

We get along pleasantly enough, we do not get too personal about each other’s lives, we do not share secrets about our private lives, past relationships or childhood experiences with our parents or other siblings.  Occasionally, we chatter about the family gossip about my children, our nieces and nephews, or our brother and sister, but it is all relatively superficial, no pun intended.

Throughout the years, we have gone back and forth with our relationship, wavering between entirely distant with no contact at all, to slightly closer with an occasional phone call, up until now where I am with her daily.  At one point, I moved in with my parents when she was in her 20’s and still living at home; we spent a lot of time together then, drinking going out, mostly just partying.  That brings us to today, 2012, sisters by blood, but virtual strangers when it comes to knowing each other, to feeling a bond, to belonging in each other’s lives.

We spend three hours at the gym every day and I have taken to observing her behavior and noticing how different she is than I am when it comes to her conduct and ease around people.  She has only lived in this city for a few months, yet she has already made a home at the gym with people that she feels comfortable enough to hug and converse with regularly.

From the time we walk in, she talks to various people; I can hear her behind me as I sit on the bike pedaling away.  She chatters away endlessly with other women, men, cleaning personnel, and other employees.  They talk about just about everything imaginable; if I didn’t know better, I would think she was campaigning to be “Miss Fitness USA” or something equally absurd.  I have never known her to behave in this manner.  The sister I remember mostly kept to herself and preferred to remain anonymous; I was the one who was the life of the party, always laughing, smiling, flirting, the center of attention no matter where I went.  What happened to change the shift of the tide?

I have watched her from the platform of the cardio machines as I work out; she seems happy, comfortable, at ease with herself and her place in life, like something is completely different with her.  However, the same thing has happened with me, something is different with me as well… something completely different has happened.  But not the same thing…

As I am walking on the treadmill pushing the buttons increasing the incline and the speed, the song “Numb” by Linkin Park comes on and I am instantly moved by the lyrics:

I’m tired of being what you want me to be

Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface

Don’t know what you’re expecting of me

Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes

(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)

Every step that I take is another mistake to you

 I am almost hysterical thinking of everything I have lost in the past 8 years since my father’s death, everything about myself, how different my personality was back then, how much stronger and more confident I was then.

 I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there

Become so tired, so much more aware

I’m becoming this, all I want to do

Is be more like me and be less like you

 It strikes me then that I feel she is different since my father’s death as well; that we are all different, her, my brother, my older sister, and me.  It is hard for me to determine who has fared better than the others, if any; but I know that I am barely getting by most days now.

Looking back to the days after he was killed, the four of us kids vowed to stay close, to never lose contact with each other, to quit cutting each other out of our lives; we sat in the back of my brother’s pickup underneath a starry sky on July 4, 2004 and promised to stick together through thick and thin, to stand beside each other no matter what… it was less than three months later that the other three were not speaking to me and I was the black sheep once again.

I am so numb from the see-saw version of my relationship with my siblings, from not even knowing them; I am starting to see a more clear view of where my flat affect developed.  Watching my sister hug virtual strangers at the gym when I cannot even accept a hug from a family member when I am moving away, uncertain when I will ever see them again, I cannot help but think, “Either something is very wrong with me, or something happened to break us… maybe both.”

The song continues… and I am paralyzed with pain.

 Can’t you see that you’re smothering me,

Holding too tightly, afraid to lose control?

‘Cause everything that you thought I would be

Has fallen apart right in front of you.

Every step that I take is another mistake to you.

And every second I waste is more than I can take.

 I will never be good enough anymore.  I will never fit in.

Linkin Park Lyrics