Today as I drove out to a friends baby party, I listened to the Decemberists. I don’t know if I do this when I consciously when I want to think about my sister, but no matter what happens I always wind up thinking about my sister. The Decemberists make me think of my sister because she introduced me to them when she was still in High School. I remember her telling me about this cool band that she had heard on Pandora, and how she really liked them because their music had a lot of narrative and the singer was a writer so his songs told great stories. I am not sure if this is what she said verbatim, but I remember thinking that sounded cool.
Fast forward to a dozen Decemberists concerts in Washington D.C., Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a huge tattoo on my leg of a Japanese Crane in honor of the Decemberists album The Crane Wife. The words inscribed underneath of the tattoo fade into the water underneath the crane. It says Hear All the Bombs, They Fade Away. Why this in particular? My sister and I went to two concerts where they ended the concert with that song that contains those lyrics, Sons and Daughters. The whole crowd sang, and there was an really communal energy. Funnily enough, the last time we saw them perform that song together (I think) was at the Orpheum Theater in Baltimore, and I am pretty sure that the venue was packed and neither one of of being either tall or very interested in pushing through the crowd, we couldn’t really see the Decemberists on the stage. In fact, I remember thinking it was funny to have paid all this money for a concert and to watch the musicians on tiny TV screens above the bar. So I did I did best at that age, and got very drunk. My sister and I had a great time. I also remember throwing up later at the hotel, and thinking I was a terrible example for my little sister, but now I just feel ashamed that she seems to know her limits better than I do sometimes, actually a lot of the time.
So anyway, I was driving and listening to the Decemberists and thinking about my sister who is about to embark on another adventure outside of the United States of America. I will not disclose the location specifically, because I want my sister to be able to share that info herself. However, I would venture to say that it’s in area of the world is surrounded by a lot of tumultuous political warfare. Anna has already lived in both Bulgaria and Turkey, and it is is neither or or those places. However, when I mention to my friends that my sister is planning to go there, they all say Why there it’s so dangerous? All I can say to these people is if you know me, then you probably know I already suffer from overblown anxiety, so you can keep those comments to yourselves. I can read the State Department’s information as well as the next person, and I am a compulsive person, so I have.
Here’s the thing. I worry about my sister because she is my sister. She is my little person, and I want to be there to protect her always and forever, but as my puking 22 year old self showed me years ago, she is not the one who needs to be taken care of, at least not all the time. In other words my sister is an adult, and I am inspired by her tenacious spirit of adventure, and I believe that she is smart and will be successful no matter where she goes. It has been hard to accept the adulthood of my younger sibling, but as the years have moved on, I realized I needed her support, direction, and advice just as much if not more than she needed mine. I realized how much I have leaned on her for so long, and how much now I look to her for direction and inspiration to be a wiser more successful person who lives her life in service to others.
Anna’s adventures have included but are not limited to, studying and living in Chile during college, helping to manage a non-profit that serves the homeless in her local community, working as a nanny for a family in Turkey, and my favorite to brag about; she was a Peace Corp in Bulgaria where is taught English in a village close to the Turkish border, and she subsequently starred on a reality TV show called Lost in Bulgaria. On the show her and a fellow volunteer underwent the challenge of participating in all kinds of Bulgarian traditions. I honestly don’t know how popular the show was in Bulgaria, but I like to think she is a celebrity in that country, being featured on a show similar the Amazing Race without the racing aspect or the extreme physical challenges- although being kicked in the stomach by a cow seemed pretty physically intense, didn’t it little babes?
That last paragraph is to highlight the fact that my sister is like my personal super hero. She is strong and brave and she is adventurous and always expanding her knowledge base by listening to others, asking questions, and going to new places to experience new cultures and have different perspectives on life.
In the past several years as I have really tried to take control of my own anxiety, she has shared some of her suggestions, one of the biggest being mindfulness. She told me that sometimes when she was upset about something she would choose to engage her mind with other things in order to not feel so stressed, anxious, or upset. When I would call her in a panic she’d ask me if there was something else I could do besides freak out, and I would always tell her no, that was impossible. She gave me examples of ways in which she distracted herself or stayed on task during very distressing times, and I am not sure how many times she told me, but it finally sunk in, which is why I have been so diligent about incorporating mindfulness into my life.
I guess what I am saying in a very sappy manner is that I have learned a lot from my sister. I have learned that I should talk less and listen more and always ask questions rather than assume I know the answers. I have learned that sometimes you need to ramp it down, even when it seems like ramping it up is the only possibility. Sorry if that doesn’t make sense, but once I went crazy on a cruise ship and was acting really ridiculous and my mom told me to ramp it down, and because I was in my frenzy I yelled NO YOU RAMP IT DOWN. Okay, so maybe this is just an inside joke with my family, but this post is for my sister, so I had to…
So as I think about my sister leaving for another adventure abroad, I try to be mindful. I have cried about this, and I will cry some more. I don’t know how rational it is to cry. We already live 3,000 miles away from each other, what’s another ocean? So like I said, it’s not rational to cry, but I feel worried for my sister as well as sad for myself who will have less opportunity to see her than I did in the last 3-4 years while she was living in the United States. It would be really easy to get super emotional and cry and RAMP the emotion way up, but I am trying to be more mindful, like my sister taught me. So I am offering infinite gratitude that I have been able to spend time with my sister recently in Austin, Charlotte, Orange County, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This time has filled me with so much joy and wisdom and gratitude. While it makes me feel sad that we will see each even less often and communication might be harder, I am ever inspired by her commitment to following her dreams, and ultimately to be expansive. Her desire to learn and to grow makes me want to be a better person, and it makes me strive to make her proud.
She doesn’t have to try and make me proud. I could go on about how proud I am of her for hours. I can’t wait to hear all about her new adventures in her adulthood. I will be proud of her wherever she is, near or far, the Decemberists are always there to connect us.