My Sister: An Exegesis on Patterns and Ice

Okay.

I’ve written about my sister before on this blog. She is probably, apart from my mother, the person I have the most complicated relationship with. In fact, it’s probably more complex than my relationship with my mother. At least we communicate.

My sister is 4 1/2 years younger. As you know if you’ve read my blog, from about age 8 to age 14 I was a hellion– or in less inflammatory terms, a very troubled little girl with symptoms of OCD, bipolar, and depression. Now, as my parents jump to remind me, she wasn’t a perfect kid either. She had learning disabilities and struggled in school. But really, that’s no match for a little girl who bangs her head against walls and threatens her mother with a knife. Yup. Both those things happened.

When I was struggling, I didn’t get along with anyone except, perhaps, a teacher or two. I had friends but I didn’t feel like I did. Basically I was too sick to really give a shit about much at all. The moral being that I CERTAINLY didn’t get along with my sister.

We fought in the normal ways, but she also was part of the collateral damage when things were very bad. It never got much more violent than an Indian burn (wow, looking back, that’s a terrible name for that), but the intention to hurt was there. I certainly made her cry because I was mean, and most importantly, my behavior scared her. I was unpredictable and lashed out at the smallest provocation. i wasn’t a safe person.

But, being my sister, she also learned how to provoke me. And when she provoked me, she knew exactly when to call for Mom’s help. And no matter what, on every occasion, my sister was comforted and put somewhere safe and I was punished. Because I reacted. I know this is basic sister stuff. Everyone does this. But for a kid whose ability to hold it together is on incredibly thin ice, and for a kid whose parents are hyper-vigilant about her moods, and for a kid who doesn’t really feel much of anything thanks to the psychotropic drugs… An angry reaction from me is met with severe consequences from my parents. And of course, because no one believes the “bad kid,” I could never convince anyone that there was an instigator in the sweet, sticky face of my cherubic sister.

We also struggled because she took on every activity I did, again, like most sisters. But again with us, this tension was on crack. Getting to feel special and good at something was, for me, the only way out of my unhappiness. Dancing was something I was good at, and made me feel good. My dad teaching my flyfishing made me feel closer to him. The boarding school I went to was a magical place that was mine, that I had made. And each one of these steps, she stepped in after, and they stopped being mine. And I felt forgotten and lost. I still feel this way sometimes.

And, of course, the icing on the cake was that I moved out at 16 to go to boarding school. My sister was 12. I missed her entire adolescence, which was fairly “exciting,” though in a different way than mine. She dated boys who treated her badly. She drank. She had ceaseless health problems. When I fucked up, I must have done something wrong. When she fucked up, she was damaged and needed protection.

The clearest recent experience of this dichotomy was when I was deep in the early part of my disorder. I’ve told the story about Russia a million times, but in a nutshell– I was moving into a new apartment, then was flying to study in Russia for a month. My mom came to help me move, then my family spent Christmas together on the East Coast before I flew away. I had a blast, despite my disorder. My family pretended to. When I returned from Russia, after a month of cheery emailing, I came back to my therapist who had a letter my parents had sent her behind my back. I was falling apart, they said, and I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was tightly wound and treated other people like shit.

I was infuriated for a million reasons, but key among this was the assumption that I wasn’t in control of my own life. Someone needed to come in and MAKE ME change, FIX me. There was no encouragement. There was no compassion. There was a mistake that needed to be fixed.

When I decided to go back on Zoloft, I called my mother, since I’m still on my parents’ insurance. I told her, very practically, what I had chosen to do. I had recently suffered an injury (which was NOT caused by the ED, fyi). My mother’s response was, “Well, it’s about time. It’s too bad it took an injury to get you to see the situation clearly.”

My disorder. My fault.

My sister’s poor decision-making. Well, she was sexually assaulted so her boundaries are fucked. Well, she’s just confused. Poor thing. Let’s make sure she has the resources to recover and let’s love her all the way through it.

My mother never came to New York to help me recover or support me in my struggle. She never offered.
When was being treated for endometriosis and migraines, my mother moved to San Francisco for a month to take care of her.

My eating disorder is selfish. I should get more help for my depression. I suck at getting “well.”
My sister’s assault is obviously not her fault, so her actions after the assault are not her fault. She’s recovering, in her own time. She gets time.

I am the perpetrator.
She is the victim.

The pattern continues.

Another layer is petty but real. My sister is beautiful. She’s 5’9″, slender, long-limbed, with a round, stunning face and big brown eyes, hair that naturally curls in ringlets. She’s got that sweet sexiness of a commercial model.

I am not unattractive. But I’m not a model.

Boys flock to my sister. Girls flock to her too. She’s popular, and always has been. She gets what she wants because people want to give her things. She’s like Jon Hamm’s character on 30 ROCK.

Haha, now I believe we’ve finally gotten to the crux of the matter.

Here’s why I’m writing this entry.

My sister is studying abroad in London this semester. She whined about the program at first, but is relishing in the fact that it’s apparently the “best” ceramics program in the world.

She has also been traveling. She’s visited friends in London, Copenhagen, Munich, and now, Iceland. She’s seeing a number of different boys of high quality and doesn’t seem to understand that most people don’t get to have their pick of international hotties. She’s spending my parents’ money on all of this. Her lifestyle doesn’t take money into account at all.

None of this is objectively THAT BAD. But here’s where it gets tricky:

I’m jealous.

I live a pretty “fancy” life in New York City. I see Broadway shows, I pee in bathrooms with Julie Andrews, I go to world-renowned festivals. But I don’t travel. I am here, or I’m at “home” with my folks. MAYBE I’m in PA with A’s folks, MAYBE spending the weekend in CT or a day in Cold Spring. When I studied abroad, I chose a frugal and logical choice. I know Shakespeare well, and I didn’t want to miss any time in NYC. So I went to Russia for a month instead of London for six. Russia is a terrifying place, and I learned a lot about myself. But we didn’t travel. We didn’t have time. And when we did do “big” things — New Years’ Eve in Red Square, for one– I was scared because Russia is FUCKING SCARY. And I was logical enough to know what I needed to do to stay safe. My choice to go to Russia was a bold one, in that way– Western Europe is COMPLETELY different from the Eastern Bloc. But I didn’t travel the world. And I only spent my own money and scrimped and saved beyond belief.

But I see her pictures– traipsing about Copenhagen without a care, sipping Guiness at the factory in Dublin, jaunting up to Rejkjavik with a boy she doesn’t even really like, while money is flushed away. This really hit me when i called my mom recently, and I told her how I was jealous my sister was in Iceland. My mom heaved a sigh and reiterated that my sister is frittering away funds that they don’t have, and she doesn’t get it. She’s mad and jealous too.

So a part of me is grateful that I’m sensible and responsible.
But another part of me wishes I could do what I wanted and not fear the consequences.

My whole life I have been aware of consequences, aware that the way I act will affect the way my parents see me. I’ve lived my entire life as though I’m on very thin ice with everyone. It’s not a great way to live, but it has kept me safe.

My sister blows through her life without a sense of how she takes advantage of people. She is loved no matter what. By my parents, by men, by friends. And there will always be someone new for her.

So yeah. I’m jealous, and I’m mad, and I’m a bit sad.

And maybe I needed to talk about this?! Jeez!!

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Unfinished

I feel like I’m dying.

That phrase keeps repeating, on loop, in my head. I’ve felt so much worse than I do now, but when I’m narrating the feeling of this moment, what I feel when feeling overwhelms…

I feel like I’m dying.

I’m drowning in myself. My skin and muscles and fat are bloated and I– the little “me” that is myself– is buried deep inside and suffocating. I can’t read. My eyes won’t focus. I can’t eat right (too much or too little). Crowds hem me in and terrify me.

Food. I fucking hate it. I lost five pounds from vomiting and not eating for five days. Go me. Fuck you. Suddenly I remembered that empty feeling, that skinny feeling, that feeling that felt so manic and good. But I eat now, remember? So I couldn’t eat small portions or only on occasion. And when i tried, I ate too much. And eating too much is the purest form of self-harm I know. Food turns me into a monster. My body feels flush and bloated. I feel dehydrated and my lips are chapped.

My sister is here this week (Sunday thru Saturday). And she wants to “do” things. Which I’m fine with to some extent. But I’m, frankly, depressed. And I repeat:

I feel like I’m dying.

Tuesday was rainy and wet. We walked up to the Cloisters in the rain and wind. We got there, at last, soaked, and wandered through the museum. I love it up there. But I did feel distant, separate, slightly off. When we were done, I knew that I was hungry and ready to go home and curl up. Which we did. My sister fell asleep, and when I woke her because it was time to head to midtown to try and get Book of Mormon tix, she said, “Jazz club?” Which is the last place I want to go when I feel like shit. I said, fine, A and I will go down and do the lottery, and if we get tix, you can come down and meet us. She said okay.

I was in no mood. I sobbed over A’s subway sandwich before heading back, planning how to tell her I couldn’t possibly go out again. But I get there, and she’s curling her hair. I try to come up with a soft way of saying “I just can’t,” and finally just say, “I just can’t.” She’s disappointed, subtly, and I feel like I’ve done something wrong. Same thing happens

 

FUCK I LOST IT ALL. I finished this fucking blog entry after two fucking days and fucking wordpress lost it.

FUCK.

 

I won’t bother. Here’s this. The only thing worth sharing, anyway. See this musical. It makes things slightly better.

2012: A Retrospective

2012: A RETROSPECTIVE

January

1 – Celebrated NYE with my parents, grandmother, and family friends in Idaho.

9 – Flew home to NYC. Attended a last-minute cat adoption seminar and was GIVEN my adopted kitty. Without any previous expectation, my girl joined my life.

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22 – Begin a long week performing in a site-specific theatre piece in a hotel in New Jersey.

February

14 – Celebrated Valentine’s Day with a cold shower at the gym, holes in my socks, three vomiting men, and my best friend in her hospital bed at Sloane Kettering.

26 – The Tildas.

March

13 – Had my first audition for what would be the biggest show of my life. Earlier that day, on the train, I received the worst email ever from an agent I was hoping to work with. Cried halfway down the shore, realized I had forgotten a second headshot, cried walking towards the beach, auditioned, and cried all the way home. Subsequently, met with P and got drunk on happy hour cocktails, and then saw WIT with L. Thanks to my finagling, we were able to go backstage and meet Cynthia Nixon. Without expecting it, today became one of the best days of the year.

L, Cynthia, Me

L, Cynthia, Me

21 – Had my first callback for American Stare in New Jersey. Nailed it.

27 – Had my second callback for American Stare in New York. Nailed it.

28 – Booked a gig reading student plays with the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ. Came back on the MetroNorth only to hop in a cab to go to Grand Central to get on another train for a callback for a production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Halfway through the callback, I received a call that I’d been cast in American Stare. Left the callback.

April

3 – Flew home with Franny to visit for my mom’s birthday.

13 – Did my first extra work on a half-day shoot with Whoopi Goldberg. It kinda rocked.

17 – Ushered a show at Second Stage off-Broadway. Met the boy who would turn into the love of my life.

IMG_110219 – Filmed my first short film. No pay, in a dorm room at NYU, and I still haven’t gotten the footage, but. I felt great.

29 – My 23rd Birthday. Spent alone in a cemetery. And it was great.

May

14 – A pretty nasty self-hosted dinner party at my friends’ that really marked the beginning of the end of our friendship.

21 – A year previously, I graduated from college. This year, I had my first day of rehearsal for American Stare.

25 – Boarded the Amtrak for DC to visit with my family. My mom was singing at the Kennedy Center with her choir on Memorial Day.

June

1 – Left Franny with her catsitter and boarded a train to New Jersey to finish rehearsals for American Stare.

16 – Opening Night of American Stare.

120 – My family visited New Jersey to see my show.

July

8 – I first met the agent who would later sign me.

15 – My “friends” from “my” “company” came to the show. It sort of sucked.

16 – Industry Night for American Stare. One of the biggest nights of my life. It didn’t realllllly turn out how I’d hoped, but. Worse things have happened. Either way, it was a huge blast.IMG_1123

17 – Met that boy for the second time. Was pretty sure I was already in love.

22 – Closing Night of American Stare. A hard, hard night.

24 – Met with the agent who offered to sign me.

August

3 – Phone was stolen. At least it was on a really really fun wonderful night with my American Stare ladies. Got a new phone. A was away at drill. I missssssed him already.

5 – My first by-appointment off-Broadway audition. I didn’t book it.

13 – Started up birth control again. Worth it.

20 – He said he loved me. I reciprocated. Of course.

22 – Saw Sleep No More with the boy. It was something.

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September

1 – Went with A to visit his family for the weekend. It was lovely.

14 – A and I spent our first real romantic weekend in Amish Country in a B&B. It was remarkable.

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24 – Huge audition, huge meeting with agent. Even thinking about it now makes me anxious.

October

6 – First step of the major move into A’s place.

13 – MOVING DAY to Washington Heights!

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20 – Very late night shoot for another non-paid gig I never got paid for. But A came with me and waited for the full 3 hours while I did ballet in Times Square in a leotard at 3am.

29 – Hurricane Sandy hit NYC. We stayed safe– not everyone did.

gty_hurricane_sandy_16_satellite_jt_121028_wblog-1November

3 –  Saw my favorite show of the year at Playwrights’ Horizons, The Whale by Sam Hunter. A was called into active military duty– with no timeline. I might have lost him for a month. Instead, he was home after a day or so.

6 – Barack Obama is back in the White House, and I cast my first official ballot in NY State. Also, we had date lunch and double-featured Argo and Lincoln.

 

watch-barack-obama-victory-speech-for-election-2012

21 – Left for PA to visit A’s family for the holiday. We also visited Gettysburg, which ROCKED.

December

4 – The beginning of a week of fun with A, where we saw Nutcracker at NYCB, Golden Boy on Broadway, “my” “company’s” show off-off-, and the Big Apple Circus!

17 – Home to Idaho with A. He left after a week, I stayed till the 29th. We had fun. When he left, I missed him almost more than I knew how to handle.

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31 – Celebrated the New Year with the best thing in my life (A), in PJs, with a kiss and a toast.

Here’s to 2013 being the best year yet. I’ve got a good feeling about it.

Happy New Year, my dears!

Sometimes you know it all at sixteen

I just downloaded all my Facebook data to my computer so I have it (kind of cool– I have a record of my life from age 16 till now).

Anyway, I stumbled upon a message my sister sent to me after one I sent to her about our relationship (it’s tenuous, at best). I had forgotten the really powerful, strong response she wrote to me.

You don’t really need to know the backstory except, perhaps, that my sister was sexually abused by a boy at summer camp when she was 15, and our relationship has always been tough.

i never talked to you about what really happened, but i think that it is important i do.
He would force me to do things while i screamed and cried, but never stopped. in the beginning i thought i might have a chance at getting away, and i tried, but every time he would get me. i remeber every night trying to sneak back to my cabin unnoticed but he always seemed to be everywhere. so i got to the point where my mind was telling me ‘you are not getting out of this.’ so to protect myself, i told myself this was the way it was supposed to be.
My worst memories are being locked in the bathroom in his cabin, feeling like a rag that he threw on to do anything that he wanted. whenever i remember that day, i remember it as though i am detached from my body, hovering over myself and him. I can’t even truly grasp what i was feeling then. i just remember sheer fear so deep that all you can do is feel numb.

These are the kinds of things that start to run through my head in sleep, in silence, and there are always triggers that push these memories from the depths of my mind to the front.

When this experience was happening i had no idea, or capability to deal with it, so i pretended i wasn’t there. but in the beginning of winter break, i for some reason felt safe enough to tell mom one of the things he did. Hearing myself say that was like actually experiencing it for the first time. so all winter break i felt like i was there, locked in the bathroom, or trapped in the woods and my only way of escape was to get out of the house. i felt like if i was home i would start to remember things i wasn’t ready to deal with. so i started to distract myself with things-like tim. he has really helped me heal. but i feel like i wasn’t myself during that break, and i wish that i could have been present. for you, for our family.

I feel like our relationship means a great deal to me.
i know that we have never been the typical ‘sister pals’ that the TV world seems to know, but i feel like we have a silent understanding for each other. Maybe because we were raised together, maybe because even during our hard years i feel like we had some kind of bond. whatever that bond was, it was lasted us until now and i have faith in it.

I think that this winter break we were both silently grieving. You for your relationship and loneliness, me for my lost youth and loneliness. i wish that i could have stepped out of my world to see that our pain was similarly matched, but for some reason, at that point in my life i wasn’t ready.

I am always willing to work at our relationship.
it is something that is very dear to me.
I hope that when you come we can both be honest with each other, and i have much faith that we can.

I wish that we had the kind of relationship that we watch in the movies, but the truth is, we aren’t the kind of girls that you would typically see in the movies. I am coming to embrace this.

i am excited to see you and i hope that when you come we can create the relationship that feels right to US.

i love you

It will suck, and then it will be over.

It’s been a long, long while.

A few updates to get you the gist of where I am:

1. Still with the boy (A). Head over heels, struggles and all. Great sex, good talks, complete dedication on both our ends. I’ve never felt like this before. Moving in with him next month.

2. Been on 3ish auditions since I signed with the agent. BIG one today with casting director who was one of my profs in college. Then I have to have a meeting with my agent to talk about styling and pictures (which I hear as “lose weight you fucking fatty”). I’m terrified about it.

3. Spent the weekend a few weeks ago in Amish Country with the boy. We bought a quillow (a pillow that folds out into a quilt). I love him. It was glorious. I did not want to come back.

4. My sister probably has endometriosis. It depresses her and it’s depressing the hell out of me.

5. The last week I’ve been in a depressive funk– binging and starving and staying in bed and whining and crying and feeling like shit and feeling jealous of the boy’s ex for getting to see him at work every day which is dumb but still it just adds to the “feeling like shit.” Hopefully finishing today will help.

6. I think this feeling is anxiety. It is a nervous warmth, like an electric current, that runs from the pit of my stomach into my throat and stays there, buzzing. It clutches my throat, makes me feel nauseous. I don’t know why I’m anxious. I don’t know why I’m so scared. I want all the “things” to go away– no requirements, no needs, no work, no negotiating with A to make sure we get done what needs to get done, no one to tell us where to go or what to do… just time, open and warm.

7. The boy was supposed to come home with me over the holidays (he still hasn’t met my parents). BUT he works all through December (literally 2 days off– 24th and 25th). He was suggesting a quick two day trip (fly in 21st, stay 22-23, and fly out 24th so he’d be home for Xmas), which sounds completely insane to me. Completely. And he’d have to take shifts off, which wouldn’t make him happy. I don’t know what to do. I’m going home for Christmas… does it make sense to do a week in November, a few weeks in December, and then come home for Christmas? I don’t think so. But what are we going to do?

9. So far so good with the new birth control. Had some breakthrough bleeding early on, plus moodiness, but now, about 1.5 months in, I’m in pretty good spirits.

10. The anxiety, the fear, the sadness, the overwhelmedness, grabs at my throat as I sit here and type. I feel my little fluttering self beating fast inside my body… easily hurt, easily wounded. I have to be strong today. I have to show everyone that I’m beautiful and brave and confident, but all I feel is like a small, scared little bird who isn’t quite enough for the big bad world. Even though A skipped working on his own music this morning to stay with me to keep the anxiety at bay, when his ex texted him to come in early to work (basically she’s his boss… yeah, I know), that little bird burrowed into my throat. I told him, “I wish I could hire you as my admin assistant so anytime I texted you you’d come right away.” And the thing is, he does do that for me, obviously. But that little bird of insecurity, the little flutter inside my throat and my eyes and my lungs, teetered dangerously. I feel off the ground… unbalanced and unsure. I don’t trust my body to do what I need it to or my voice to stay strong and solid. I don’t trust my eyes not to drip with tears throughout a meeting about how I look. I don’t want to talk about how I look. But that’s what this meeting is. Sometimes I think that the theatre is a fucking awful place.

11. In six hours, it will be over. After he goes away with the ex this weekend (for a run they scheduled in Disney months and months ago), he’ll be back and he’ll be mine. And I’ll know it. My feet will feel solid under me. I will feel good enough and special enough and I will breathe. In November, we’ll move. And maybe we’ll go to my home. Or maybe we’ll just have our holidays in NYC together, set up a tree, and then I’ll take him home next year. And then I’ll be home for Christmas, for food and love and warmth, for the sweet town I love and the family who cares. And then life will continue, up and down and around and back and forth, but it will continue.

It’s exactly what I’ve been telling myself for the last week.

It will suck, but then it will be over.

It will be over.

It will be over.

So Long, SF

Hey all,

Sorry I’ve been MIA– I’ve been visiting my sister J at school in San Francisco. It’s actually gone better than I could have even suspected, but that’s a tale for another post. Now, on my way back to NYC, I’m just feeling a lot of feelings (no way! feelings? you?).

It’s a confusing feeling.

It’s certainly not that I want to stay in SF longer—I know that Julia is ready to move on and I’m ready to go back to being a somewhat nerdy homebody.

Perhaps part of it is not wanting to jump back in to “real life”—work and auditions and appointments and shows and the endless scheduling it all entails. And maybe a bit of it is going back to being alone primarily. Don’t get me wrong—I love to be alone—but unlike this sort of microcosm of a trip, where there’s only one person you ever have to please, or spend time with, or consult, in my solo life there are so many pieces I have to organize. I have to please my boss, and dress right and be on time for my ushering gigs, I have to negotiate the needs and schedules of my friends, I have only myself to make decisions.  It’s hard to be stretched like that, in many directions with many things to think about. I’d never really thought about that before.

All I really want to do is have the airplane drop me off at my house in the West on the way back to the city, and to have a week where I only have to think about ME. Last night J and I saw a movie called 50/50 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (my fake BF) and Seth Rogen about a guy who unexpectedly gets cancer—I actually really enjoyed it. Anyway, he is the ultimate example of “needing to be taken care of.” And I felt like a crazy person because it almost made ME want cancer because then at least I could be the first priority for people, so I’d have an excuse to say “I can’t” and have people bring me things and care for me and all that’s involved in that.

Obviously I don’t want to get cancer (OBVIOUSLY) but it was a very clear emotional reaction. I felt really pretty lonely and sad, actually. I almost wouldn’t even mind doing the caring. You know, maybe that’s it. Maybe I wish that people would NEED each other more. Or that we (and by we I mean I and the royal we) wouldn’t have to be so independent and self-sufficient; that we could fall and fail and there would always be someone there to guide us back.

All this to say, I’m coming back, and I’m feeling weird, and I’m definitely hiding inside myself hardcore in order to “get through” today. I’m burying it down because I know once I walk into my apartment I’ll feel somewhat better. I just need to make it through the rest of this unbelievably long day.