Before I left for Creative Mornings in Charlotte I dreamt about my older sister.
We were getting ready together in the bathroom we used to share as kids. Both of us planning to head to Charlotte on separate trips. As I descended the stairs, I noticed her bag sitting beside mine. It was one of those rack-mounted hiking gear things packed full. Mine was just a small duffle.
“Why don’t we ride together to Charlotte?” I asked her.
“Because I’m not coming back,” she said.
I haven’t spoken to my older sister in more than four years. We are estranged, to put it mildly, over some family business that others pretend never happened.
Dreaming about her is not unusual, she frequently appears in my dreams when I’m anxious or worried. Our estrangement is the biggest failure of my life.
What set this dream apart is that it preceded my drive to Charlotte for the July session of Creative Mornings, a gathering of creative professionals where one community member gives a talk on a global theme. This month’s theme was Equality and the speaker was a 19-year-old actress from Charlotte who is now touring with a Broadway show.
Her story of equality was that she was born a twin and her twin sister has Down’s Syndrome. She spoke candidly about the comparisons people made between the two of them and the ones she’d been making her whole life and how those comparisons always left her lacking in some way. They didn’t quite tell the story.
So, from my dream about my sister being on a longer journey than I to listening to a sister tell her story of equality, I felt there must be some greater order of the universe at work.
The truth is I never liked my sister very much. I loved her because she’s my sister but we could not be more opposite. There were a thousand little failures and fuck-ups that eroded my faith in her early on and I never trusted her to get anything right or do anything of value.
The truth is I never respected her enough to allow that her own opinions and ideas might be informed by her education and experience and that she had just as much right to them as I had to mine. I never respected her enough to allow that her mistakes are her own and she has every right to make them.
We are equal but we are not the same. That was the message from the “normal” twin Friday morning to a room full of creative-types in Charlotte, N.C.
We are the summation of our experiences and our hopes and our desires and our failures and the bloody cuts and missed opportunities and moments of joy and captured moments in photographs. We are all these things in our own myriad ways.
Imperfect and inimitable.
Equally able to hurt and love and dream. Out in the world as ourselves. Only ourselves.