“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
This is what us Americans grow up hearing and repeating all our lives. I believe it – to an extent – within certain realistic limits.
I have a sister who has both mental and physical disabilities, due to complications during her birth which cut off oxygen to her brain. When she was
very little, a doctor told my mother she will never walk, eat or go to the toilet on her own. He callously counselled that she be put in a home and
My mother chose not to do that. I don’t know if she believed my sister could progress further, or if it was just a practical matter of not having
the financial means to do so. I know she struggled with the prospect and confided in me that in leaving that doctor, she almost decided to drive off a
freeway overpass to put an end to both her and my sister’s lives.
My sister did progress – but slowly. She began to walk at three years, she wore diapers much longer than normal, and for a very long time, could not
speak well enough for anyone to understand but my parents, my brother and I. She struggled with the world mentally and physically, and I tried to be a
protective translator for her. It was not a matter of just translating her words, but translating between two different worlds. Her view of the world
was not the same as the collective we lived in, a deep understanding of her internal processes and associations was necessary to clarify meaning for
her and for others faced with her.
I was intensely enmeshed , therefore, in her psyche and intensely aware of the challenges she faced. I was aware of the cruelty of others towards her,
even when she herself did not percieve it. I was alert to the ways others would try to take advantage of her and the ways she was vulnerable to
manipulation. It was easy for others to dictate to her what she should do, or even what she had done – other kids would try to use this in cruel
I had a measure of guilt about this, because in contrast it seemed things were so much easier for me. Adults found me bright and curious, peers found
me attractive and caring. Doors opened for me and praise was abundant. Jealousy also, was abundant, and struck chords with my guilt.
I developed a habit of sabotaging myself and giving a bad impression of myself to others to soothe this sense of injustice. Faced with opportunities
my sister wouldn’t have, I seem to set up reflexes which give the impression I am lacking in intelligence, courage, personality, or strength.
I was once diagnosed as having a “fear of success”. It never sounded accurate to me. I crave success and I also usually achieve it. But never
quickly or easily. I think I want it to be hard for me. To make things more fair for those who never have it easy, like my sister. I make things
harder for myself in various ways – from the projects I decide to undertake, to the impression I give to others of what I am capable of. I tend to
strive to be underestimated.
For a long time, I explained this to myself as being a value upon the moral of the Tortoise and the Hare. Sometimes it is easier to reach success when
no one else is watching you creep along. When they have assumed you are incapable and make no effort to put obstacles in your path. In the long term,
you quietly move ahead and everyone is surprised at the outcome. There is some truth to this, I haven’t stopped seeing from that perspective –
precisely because it has been confirmed in my life over and over again.
But it is hard to be the tortoise and go along unimpeded when you are an attractive female in a foriegn land. I am old now and actually enjoying not
being attractive anymore for that reason. But still, being a foriegner makes you”exotic” to others and attracts attention. No matter how hard you
try, there will always be a slight accent there that pulls eyes and ears your way for better or for worse.
Just standing out that way attracts jealousy for those who crave being noticed and I end up having to work doubly hard to soothe them – to convince
them they are smarter than I, they have more talent, more personality, are more attractive… so they can feel content and wave me off as
inconsequential, non-threatening, and leave me to creep along my path.
It results in a huge amount of self disparaging speech and actions, which accumulate and become heavy for me to carry. It does add to the challenges
though, and gives that extra balancing difficulty to make things more “fair” in my mind.
Whenever someone wonders why people do self destructive behavior, it is worth it to consider this possibility. No one does anything repeatedly without
some sort of desired effect resulting from it.
My sister grew up to do so much more than expected. She went through the same schools as I (in special programs), she went on to become a mother and
raise a child on her own, and she has a job she’s held for years and evolved in. Her life is relatively “normal” and she is able to communicate
with others without problem.
She has a car and drives, but took the driving test for her license 9 times! In her first year of driving she had many accidents (minor fender
benders) but then no more. She is living breathing proof that where there is a will, there is a way.
I hold her in my mind when I am in the midst of trying times. She really is what allows me to endure and overcome. It is ironic, really, because she
used to see me as some sort of idealized figure. She saw me as having more attributes and gifts than I think I ever had… but that is also just what
happens between siblings anyway.
She is my candle. Whenever someone mentions giving up, (when I’ve gotten myself into one of those huge challenges) I can’t even entertain the
thought. It would be indecent. I have no right to give up when she does not have that luxury, and has proven so clearly that nothing is impossible. It
might take a long time, it might take a toll on your emotions or body, but it can be overcome.
I remember hearing a conversation once, in which someone was asking “If God is so powerful and good, why does he make some people born with
I am not a theist, but I can still consider the question as one attempting to find the value in such terrible challenges (whether planned out and
intended by a deity or not).
I would say they might be here to inspire and teach us. To recognize the potential of will and effort that exists within us all. I am thankful for my
little sister, probably my greatest guru…
edit on 6-5-2017 by Bluesma because: (no reason given)