Fake power exercises ruthless control
In vain attempts to nurture sisterly virtues
Bible-grounded communication floods my ears
With thou shalt and thou shalt not
Beleaguered sisters throw group loyalty to the winds
In favor of loyalty to one’s fragile female self
Being docile sometimes becomes a stand-in for
Being truthful or angry or distressed
Like cookies born of one cookie cutter
We stare at our unknown selves in consternation
Who we are together remains a mystery
As we strain to survive apart from each other
I’m aware of being watched by Daddy night and day
Without so much as a polite knock at the door
Driven to precarious survival techniques
My heart and stomach drown beneath anxious fear
During the past week I reviewed dated notes I kept when I began working with a psychotherapist in the early 1990s. I was in my late 40s, drowning in depression. One of my first tasks was to connect with my three younger sisters.
By then we were scattered over the USA and beyond. What we knew about each other personally was fragmented at best. We were aware of the large outlines of our adult lives. However, we didn’t have an informal network for safe, sisterly communication.
I never talked with any of my sisters about the rules in our family, or our father’s corporal punishment doled out regularly to enforce the rules. Nor had we talked together about who our father favored, or why.
Sometimes life felt like a war between sisters. I could deduce which sister was the favorite of the day. I also knew I was a favorite target for ‘Let’s get Elouise in trouble.’ No sibling likes to have the oldest sister designated as the parental stand-in.
As you might guess, we weren’t there to console or encourage each other. We were focused on staying out of trouble or deflecting attention to another sister’s behavior.
I began my adult work on boundaries with telephone calls to each of my three sisters. Would you be willing to talk with me privately (no reports back to Mom or Dad) about our experiences living at home? I was starving for sisterly conversations. Each of my sisters, in her way, helped me come out of my lonely closet of indirect communication, depression, and denial.
My next hurdle wasn’t nearly so easy. How would I name and maintain adult boundaries with my parents? Stay tuned!
Thanks for your visits and encouragement. Tomorrow I have tests to determine how much damage peripheral neuropathy has done to my feet and legs.
Praying for calm in these troubled days, here and abroad.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 October 2021
Photo taken by JERenich, Easter Sunday, 1953