I hadn't thought about this song for years but it popped into my head yesterday as I was making my bed. It is a tune from my childhood: I grew up to listening to scratchy vinyl recordings of Mississippi John Hurt, all the way over here in suburban Melbourne, due to my dad's academic interest.
If you don't like your sister, don't you carry her name abroad
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Just take her in your bosom and carry her home to God
Oh blessed be the name of the Lord
As a child, I found the lyrics a bit confusing. Of course, as any primary school age child will be prone to do, I got a bit stuck on the "bosom" bit. But then how would I carry someone's name when I travelled overseas (as we often did)? And then how could I take it home to God?
As I hummed the song all day, I realised it was a clever way of describing the complexity of adult relationships.
You are not my sister. You are not anyone's sister. And yet your presence casts a long shadow on my daily life.
I've been known to carry your name abroad, oh yes. And you are in pretty good form right now, so I feel somewhat churlish in invoking the dark times.
But I know you do not trust happiness. And it will be only a matter of time before you are sabotaging your self and tripping us all up in the process. And we will be back in familiar territory of resentment and blame.
I believe that when you look at me, you see someone who is confident and stubborn, someone who has had many opportunities not afforded to you. But I don't think you see me at all: my doubts, my hopes, my fears. How hard I try. When you arrive with your tribe, I usually hide behind the coffee machine and keep the conversation breezy. I have learnt not to ask too many questions. Actually, any questions at all.
I have learnt the hard way how polite interest can be misconstrued and used against me. And also, I don't really care for your news.
When I look at you, I see loneliness and pain. I see the result of growing up in hard times and parents who did not quite know how to show love. I see efforts to do better and create a loving, generous, safe family home. I see desperate need for validation through inclusion... and no real idea how to foster this through trust.
I see needy triggered behaviour -- and an uncanny ability to go straight for the jugular -- which has precisely the opposite effect.
Sadly, you make yourself hard to love.
When the gloves are off, I see that it is my job to carry your name home with me. I understand that your vicious attack on me at my most vulnerable was what sent me scurrying off to therapy in the first place. And for this, I should be thankful.
But most days, I'm human and worn out and, frankly, jack of being the bigger person and effectively erasing myself whenever we are in the same room. And some days, I silently remember that the number of days you will spend in my life is finite.
Blessed be the name.
This post is in response to the sixth prompt of the Reverb14 reflective writing challenge. All prompts can be found here; you are warmly invited to share your response and link to it in the comments below, if you feel called to do so.
The next opportunity to connect in this way is April Moon and we'd love to have you join us!