As a youngster I was shorter and chubbier than my sister who was 14 months my senior. She was “pretty and smart” and I was, well, I was Judy. I was a tomboy and loved to play in the uneven bars in the school playground. I thoroughly enjoyed swinging my legs up over the bar and hanging upside down. I was not afraid of even the highest of the three bars either. I loved showing off, as much as I loved the actual feeling of looking at the world upside down, but the thing I loved MOST was that I was not afraid to do something that terrified my sister.
Normal sibling rivalry being what it is compelled me to use this “skill” of mine as evidence of my “superiority” whenever I was feeling particularly un-superior.
One day during recess, my sister was hurt. She had, apparently, decided to hang upside down from one of those bars, and had passed out. As I recall, when she fell she bit through her lip, requiring stitches.
I don’t recall feeling glad she fell, or glad she got hurt. I don’t recall feeling superior in any way. I recall feeling like it might have been my fault that she tried to do something that was just not part of her area of expertise. I recall feeling guilty that I had forced her into proving she was “as good as me.”
In truth, I have no idea why she tried that stunt. I’m sure it could have been the other kids in her class she was competing with. It could have been her own natural drive to take on new challenges, particularly those that scared her. But what I do know is that she showed me something way back then, whether she intended it or not. She showed me that each of us does have a unique set of strengths and that we are equal in our overall collection of strengths and weaknesses, not in the strength to strength, weakness to weakness comparison.
And she taught me just a little bit more about herself. She taught me that she was willing to try new things, not simply resting in her comfort zone, but willing to expand that zone…making the unfamiliar a little more familiar, that she might enjoy a more well-rounded life.
I might have had an older sister I felt I could never live up to, but I also had a great role model. Though she was never able to view her world upside down, as was my fancy, she was able to pick herself up from her tumbles and find another approach to achieve her goals. There are indeed, many ways to embrace life. From all angles there is beauty and danger. And from every person, there is, I believe, something to learn.