The ACTUAL Epiphany falls on January 6, celebrating the presentation of Christ to the gentiles, represented by the three “kings,” or “wise men.” Mine happened yesterday, in our church choir hall, as I helped wrapped gifts for children in need. Another amazing, out-of-the-blue opportunity to see feel respond to an ancient emotion-churning dynamic in a different way.
A classmate & friend of my oldest brother, someone with whom I have layers of connections going back as far as I can remember, stopped by the table where I was wrapping presents.
He has, at different times of his life, been friends with both Peter & with my older sister. He asked about Peter, then about Mim. He was interested to hear the details of her July 2015 death. It’s always uplifting to share the story of her passing, which was a wondrous death at the end of a life filled with struggles.
That’s a familiar scenario I’ve stepped through many time over the past 2 1/2 years. What came next was totally unexpected.
He shared with me that Mim had written him a letter sharing the darkness in her life. The look in his eyes, the demeanor of his body as he mentioned being touched she’d written to him, was surprisingly familiar to me. Mim would take people into her confidence about the demons that troubled her life to gain their support, even admiration. I am not saying that she was insincere in what she wrote – am sure it was 100% correct, since my sister’s life was crushed by dark forces. But they were also at play in such self-revealing moments.
What I saw in my friend’s eyes. I’ve seen countless times in the past. Never thought I’d see it again. In the past, it would have brought on a WHOOSH of pain, at the sense of tender support that Mim raised in others hearing her genuinely heartbreaking reality. She was a master at arousing sympathy, to infill people with a longing to reach out, make things better. Mim, at least as she presented it to me, played that like a master violinist.
That sounds harsh. Imagine how it felt to HEAR, directly from her. One of the great constants with my sister was how she seemed compelled to feel openly – if only to me – derisive of people, even people she loved, admired, cared about, compelled to winningly present herself as victim, which she could do convincingly because she truly was. Am sure that something horrifically traumatic happened to her as a little child, that her sole goal after was to never let herself be vulnerable to hurt, resulting in a life perversely obliterated by it.
Yesterday, here, right in front of me, was someone I personally admired, sharing his sense of awe at her being so open. And I didn’t freak out inside. I also didn’t feel numb. It was interesting.
The friend was present decades ago when she opened up at a church camp about how her camp experience – especially the minister running it – had brought her from invisibility at the back of the room to the there-for-all-to-see front. That statement has stayed with all who heard it – it’s been quoted to me many times over the past years. And the church camp was truly a huge aha for Mim – in addition to all the very real good it did, it brought home to her the power of being damaged & at the same time doused any desire on her part to try to heal.
I can say that because Mim said it to me.
As she pointed out to me many times over the following years, Why try to heal her damaged self when being just as she was made people bend to how she was? She crowed about being the driver of organizers changing how they did things to to accommodate her, to draw her into the action. Where was the upside in trying to make things better when being just as she was held such power?
Not long ago, it would have turned my stomach & broken my heart to to hear my friend share Mim writing to him about her darkness, to see the awed light in his eyes & feel his sense of being honored by her sharing such a deeply personal confidence. Instead, I simply felt interested, wanted to hear more. Experienced it new information, fresh ability to understand differently.
I believe she was honest sharing that the camp leader brought her from the back of the room to the front. Absolutely. I saw that Mim’s experiences at the camp opened up a world she’d closed down. Thanks to the Laurel Camp, her world opened, expanded; she became engaged, energized, empowered in ways she never had. She went on to get her bachelors at NYU, part of an experimental (now long established) program of night classes for non-traditional students, to get her MSW from Rutgers. She LIVED, at least for a while.
At the same time, she always touted the fact that camp organizers changed their practices to accommodate HER as the defining reason to stay just as she was.
Both were real.
Yesterday gave me the opportunity to experience those peculiar dynamics real-time, in spite of Mim being gone 2+ years. The Universe gave me an opportunity to not plunge into a depression, to not get past it by brushing it off. To just let it be how it appeared. To realize more fully & compassionately my reality of being Mim’s dumping ground, the one to whom she could denigrate, tear down & rip apart the very people she’d taken into her confidence, whose hearts were tenderized & reaching out to her.
I never expected to have the opportunity to hear anyone express so clearly to me, so so openly a classic Mim manuever – – taking them into her confidence about the genuinely wretched pain of her life, to see that unique light that’s lit up countless eyes recounting to me their special experience of her sharing her pain.
Even if it was totally genuine on her part, I know for sure it was intentional. Her intended outcome was to get that response. This will sound harsh, but it was how she came across; she needed that sort of reaction the same way Voldemort needed unicorn blood – to maintain her hold on feeling alive.
Mim was clear that she knew exactly what she was doing in being so open. As she described it, when she came across as being her most vulnerable was when she felt most in control. Am not saying that was true. That was what she told me. And she told me because I couldn’t do anything. Just hear it.
My thanks to the Universe for the unexpected opportunity to review a whacked-out dynamic I never expected to experience again. To fully feel it not as drama or bitter dark comedy, but simply as interesting.
A reality of life that I’ve discovered over the past few years is that there are things we can’t understand because we either don’t have sufficient information, we don’t have the experience to understand what we do know, we lack the wisdom to feel the compassion necessary for understanding. Imagine all the things I could understand better, if only those three things always came together!
Wholeheartedly grateful for yesterday’s mega epiphany for me, a stunning AH HA. There is no making sense of my sister. Can’t be done. She was & remains a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. Other than knowing that a driving need to be considered different, not like others, outside the norm, was central to her, there is no getting to the core of who she was.
For the majority of my life, making sense of Mim drove my own life. I tried for years – all it did was waste time, energy & effort. Realized years ago that trying to make sense of my sister was like endlessly striving to fix a broken watch that turns out to be missing a piece. A dedicated yet futile effort.
As for Mim, she was who she was. Whatever that was. Know there will be people showing up in my life, probably to the end of my own days, with that unique light in their eyes, that awed quiver to their voice, sharing that “special” sense of Mim that she opened up to them.
Let it be. And keep moving forward.