Hurrying up to slow down, I try to accept the fact that I will arrive late to yoga class. ‘Center yourself, set your intention for practice’ I think as I swear under my breath at the slow-moving truck that nearly causes me to miss the green light.
More than simply feeling stressed from wanting to move faster than I currently am, I feel angry, and not at the truck driver, but towards my older sister.
‘Maybe I should write about this for the writer’s group’ I think as I unfurl my yoga mat and hastily join the class in downward facing dog.
Bending and twisting into a yoga pose, I read the words ‘That’s a bad idea’ on the shirt of a fellow yogi over my left shoulder.
‘That shirt is probably right’ I think, and silently thank the shirt for the message that I will doubtless ignore. I prefer my wisdom to be hard-won instead of hand-delivered to me.
I had initially planned to select a well-polished poem to share at the writer’s group, however I suspect that something more raw and recent will better serve me, especially if my goal is to help myself process a difficult experience. I try to resist biting the bait of my sister’s jabs even as I feel how deeply the hook has already plunged into my mouth.
The yoga teacher’s voice breaks through my inner dialogue long enough for me to hear her mention that our emotions tend to pool in our sacral area. As we move through a vinyasa flow of warrior poses, my body feels like a volcano of rage. The back story is going to sound like the petty fighting of cats. I wish it didn’t bother me so much, but it does.
What happened is that my sister took a cheap shot by throwing up smoke and mirrors while arguing with our mutual friend when my sister told our friend that I had agreed with my sister’s assessment that our friend had acted bitchy during a trip we took across Europe more than five years ago. In an instant, I was dragged into the hell hole of my sister’s drama. My sister placed her boots on my neck without my consent to make herself an inch taller within the sinkhole of her insecurity: she lit me on fire for her own warmth.
From my perspective, my sister and our friend had both gone through a challenging experience during our trip because their needs at the time were opposed. Our friend needed a modicum of alone time each day while my sister pushed an itinerary packed with incessant socializing. My sister was quite vocal about her opinions to me during the trip, so I listened to her at the time.
When our friend recounted to me what my sister had said about my purported concurring of my sister’s opinion when our friend discussed the ordeal some time afterwards with my sister, again I listened.
Now it is I who feel the sting of the wound in the relationship between my sister and I, and between our mutual friend and I. I check my body for tread marks from my sister throwing me under the bus with complete disregard for truth, justice, honor, or kindness.
During yoga class however, I finally have a chance to listen to my own feelings, and I feel irate. My mind is aflame with anger which translates to a minefield of tensions in my body. What my sister had told our friend was a lie, inspired by my sister’s desperation. I know this because I would not have agreed with my sister if she had described our friend’s behavior as ‘acting bitchy’ because long ago I made the decision not to condone any form of the word ‘bitch’ to describe women, on principle. Furthermore, by nature I seek to understand and not to judge, to connect instead of dismiss, and to build bridges instead of walls…except when I feel unsafe, in which case I retreat into myself, as I am by writing this reflection now. What I remember from our time traveling together was assuring my sister that the moment would pass, that the friendship would heal in the future. I wasn’t wrong about that: their friendship is closer and more harmonious than ever now.
I’m not sure how to move forward, because I don’t want to discuss the matter with my sister, lest she strike like a venomous snake at me as she has countless times before. I already feel poisoned enough by the toxicity incurred by hearing just a few of her words second-hand. I’d have more success trying to behead Hydra than trying to have a conversation with my sister that wouldn’t further widen the Grand Canyon-size chasm between us, chiseled by her innumerable cruel words and actions towards me over the course of my lifetime. To broach the topic with my sister would result in more hurt feelings on my part, and I’ve had more than enough of those, so to protect myself I choose to lay low. My sister’s tendency to turn each conversation into a fight, and one argument into several more with dizzying speed and disorienting tangentiality is what pulled me into the misunderstanding between her and our friend in the first place. A bucket of shit water does not do well to clean up shit.
Then there is the pool of difficult feelings that sprung up between my friend and I due to my sister’s aligning my reported thoughts with her own. ‘What a mess’ I think as I gaze upon the hurt, disappointment, betrayal, and loss of trust I feel this has caused. I hesitate to try to clean up this mess because I am damn tired of cleaning up messes I didn’t make, and addressing the matter risks making it worse. To understand this, you must know that my sister is eager for any reason to fight, and is ever ready to harshly criticize both my actions and inactions, so I perpetually feel backed into a corner by her. As usual I play dead, hoping that she won’t see me if I don’t move, that my own silence will shut her up, that she will get bored and move on to other prey.
Yoga class finishes with savasana, during which time I take stock of the benefits of practice while resting on the mat. Previously pent up energy now flows more easily through my body, ready to come out as written words.
On the drive home, traffic seems to be flowing more smoothly too. I realize that this is likely due to my perception of the situation, as I am not rushing to get home. The part of my mind which catches occasional glimpses of enlightenment and taps into the unity of all things muses that since we are all parts of the same whole, and our egos will dissolve once we are liberated from the weight of our bodies, then who is there to describe anyone as bitchy anyway?
At the same time, the human in me, the fighting cat, the angry younger sister who has long been fed up with a lifetime of mistreatment by my older sister (though I would like to pause to give credit my sister’s contribution to my spiritual development due to her abundance of abusive behavior towards me in this lifetime) thinks, ‘my sister harmed me for her own benefit by trying to make herself appear more justified in her maltreatment of our friend all while using the offensive and derogatory term towards women ‘bitchy‘…what a bitchy thing to do’ with a wry smile reserved for the times I feel like a Buddhist monk revealing a zen koan.
With the rose of my heart blooming open with compassion, I am able to see that the same insecurities which drive my sister away from others stem from her need to feel close, safe and connected to others. I understand those needs, because I have the same ones, as we all do. I do not condone my sister’s actions, however I feel less angry towards her with this insight. I’m glad I bit the bait of letting myself become as upset as I needed to, because I chewed it over and spit out what I hope are some words of wisdom, with all due respect to the ‘that’s a bad idea’ T-shirt I saw in yoga class. The transformation I feel inside is palpable, like a pebble I place before me, perhaps one of many I will use to build a bridge between my sister and I. I remind myself that the only constant is change, that my sister is on a healing path just like me, like all of us, and we are all walking each other home.
No longer hurrying up to slow down, I arrive.