It all began with my sister, ultimately the less rebellious of the two of us. It must have started because of the total anxiety we felt at the hands of our parents, and the ways this nervousness manifested itself at a young age. For my sister, there were many acts of rebellion in her youth; running away, her choice of boyfriends, her marriage, etc., but overall her life was a resounding yes to my parent’s expectations.
Today, although my sister does not have the financial resources of my parent’s, she represents eloquently their ideals and their interests. She is them at their very finest. She is at peace with our parents, while I am not sure what I feel. I am very proud and very much like my parents, yet even to this day, some forty-five years after their deaths, I am still angry and defiant and in my fashion alternately saying yes and no.
When both my sister and I were very young (I probably around six or seven and she around eleven or twelve) I remember hearing in the next room, which was her bedroom, a tumultuous banging into the pillow for many minutes and then suddenly coming to a complete stop. I remember seeing her do this on occasion with no particular rhythm, rather a violent swaying of her up and down into the pillow.
I figured this was either an attempt to knock some sense into her head, or her anxious ritual before sleep. I remember this very well, and feel it obviously displayed the totally neurotic ADD, DDD, EFG family we were. It obviously worked because after an energetic half hour of head banging, my sister would abruptly stop and fall deep into an exhausted sleep.
What is to be noted here is a very important point. My sister was moving her head up and down into the pillow as if proclaiming a giant YES! It seems to me today, although tormented and anxious, she was happy with her life and even in her anxiety, was willing and able to affirm it, albeit violently.
Sometime later, for some reason that I cannot remember (maybe they were painting my room) I was moved into my sister’s room for a week or two.
This was the room of my older sister where I was frequently banished and with whom we seemed so many years apart. She was much older, more vivacious, outgoing, and social. I was a loner, quiet and serious. I envied her at times, and I would have liked to have been more like her, but I wasn’t.
Anyway, for those two weeks something happened to me. I was only a few feet away from the maelstrom, and through some miraculous telepathy learned and then associated my sister’s habit. In fact, I think I probably joined her in her bedtime ritual. Now my parents had two head banging misfits on their hands. I am sure we were brought to every doctor to confirm our physical well being. No one would dare express that mentally that we had a few loose screws. They were told we would outgrow this (which we did) and that we were just nervous anxious children that needed activity and socializing to solve all our problems. After forty-five years of therapy I wish it was that simple.
Finally after some weeks I went back to my own room to continue the party in solitude. Some years later I realized that although I had learned my lessons well from my sister, it had taken a new form with me.
Instead of moving up and down into the pillow, I had learned to move my head in a violent, defiant sway back and forth. I had learned to express myself and perhaps my anger with a head banging NO!
I do not remember this exercise in sleep preparation went on for, but I think it lasted a few years. Finally it dissipated into a general free-floating anxiety and hypochondria that filled every pore of my body.
To this day my sister has learned not only to be at peace with our past, but is able to look with great admiration and longing for the years we spent growing up. I on the other hand am still clearly ambivalent. I miss my parents greatly and I valued and loved my childhood, but still there is anger and defiance in me as if part of me is still swaying uncontrollably into the pillow with a defiant NO!