Sistering

I don’t know much. Shhh, but don’t tell my students. I’m not ready for the jig to be up yet.  I only know what I know, and my most unfiltered, raw and authentic writing, that looks the most like me, that makes me go “there I am”, always comes from my truth.  This probably isn’t the most riveting or intellectual attention getter to start with in order to instill credibility, but it’s true, and true is not synonymous with perfect.  One thing I know is how to sister.  Which is ironic and hilarious considering I am biologically an only child.  I know, it’s confusing. Have I gained credibility yet?  Give me a chance though! What I know is  “sister” is a noun, but sistering is a verb. 

The word sister alone is a noun.  A female who shares one or both parents in common with each other.  When “sister” is a noun and stays a noun, it sounds like a club you have to be invited to.  You know, you have to be “on the list” to be a sister, but no one decides for you, not even you!  When you change the part of speech from a noun to a verb though, sister transforms into sistering. A verb.  An action humanity tangibly sees through life witnessing and love. 

When I was younger I LONGED for a sister.  When Santa Clause didn’t drop one off from his sled after leaving his cookie crumbs and place her under my tree after the second year I asked for one, I radically accepted that I would never gain the title of sister.  Disappointed as my 7 year old self was to not find my highly anticipated sister wrapped in a pretty bow under my lit up tree, I was more saddened by the reality that I would never have the opportunity to step into the role of being a sister.  It was a loneliness that even at 7 years old was able to sober me out of my day dreams of secret swapping, drying tears and slamming doors  through teenage years, eye rolling at what our parents said and speaking the language of facial expressions that only we would be able to translate.  I felt cheated from one of life’s greatest blessings and never fully understood why I was exempt from this piece of identity.   I was a deeply feeling human from the start, what can I say!

Fast forward 19 years later, I am 26 at a job I’m extremely passionate about, surrounded by people I am left awe struck by.  I am privileged enough to have a group of gals here who see me, know me, make me laugh until I cry (ALL the time) and love me well.  We were all unwinding from our day, strands of hair falling from our ponytails, slumped over on desks, laughing about something our sweet cherubs said or did that day.  Spring break is around the corner, (all the praise hands), and we pop-corned around announcing our plans.  When it’s my turn my eyes widen and my voice increased 5 octaves because trying the keep the excitement inside of me is just too much of an ask.  I report that I plan on surprising one of my dearest and treasured friends from college.  Now, if you know me literally at all, you know I take surprising people as serious and joyous as a football player takes the Super Bowl.  Imagining the prospect of hugging my friend tight in such a short time span after such a long duration apart has me on my toes (no, literally).  My reactions are nothing but the most genuine and authentic reflexes I can offer to my friends and the world.  I love my people so big.  I can’t help it, contain it or keep it in the confinement of just my heart. It overflows out of me.   One of my new friends turns to me and states “You know, it makes sense to me why you don’t have siblings.  You don’t need to have any siblings because you’re a sister to all, to everyone”.   This stops me in my tracks.  My heart has just been sucker punched by a love bomb.  A compliment that shook my core and awakened the light in that 7 year old disappointed girl on Christmas morning.  7 year old Samantha looked up from the kitchen table with the look of “wait, I am invited to be a sister?” I still soak in every word sweet Kayla spoke over me that day.  It has followed me weeks later and has me all wrapped up in the person who first taught me about sistering.  I RSVP’d a loud and exciting “HELL YEAH” to sistering when I met Kati.

There’s this heart melting and simultaneously almost eye-roll worthy, cheesy show titled “Alexa & Katie”. I haven’t seen the series myself, but recognize it by this audio clip that keeps sneaking on to my TikTok feed no many how many times I refresh it.  The words blare through my AirPods: “Four years later I am grateful for more than things than I could ever imagine. But mostly for the person who was by my side for all of it.  Some people are lucky enough to have a best friend, I’m even luckier…I got a Katie” I feel this sound clip with every fiber of my being because…

I have a Kati.  She taught me everything I know about sistering by being one to me. 

I am currently drowning in my favorite sweatshirt with the beautiful two words embroidered “You’re invited” on the front with a table above, while writing this.  I embrace and welcome this sweatshirt to swallow me up after every hard day.  It is one of my favorite forms of self care, as I feel like I’m letting Kati in, who is behind the creation of it.  I’m inviting her for a seat at the table that was my day.  I rarely sit down at my table without pulling up a chair for her to sit right beside me. We’ve been sitting at each other’s table for 7 years now.  Our tables have grown longer, look different, and have transformed throughout the years, as life and distance continues to yield us in opposite directions geographically.  We found each other at our table for the first time in the form of a frat party.  I was lost at said party, (that’s your cue to pretend to be surprised), and our table scenery quickly shifted from beer-soaked ping pong tables, to a popcorn covered carpet of a college house while pillow talk and laughter carried it’s sweet scent through the halls.  Having a sleepover the first night we ever met, we found an empty seat at each other’s table that night. Never to be left again.  With us graduating years later, being pushed into the world of adulthood,  moving states, and her traveling what seemed like every time I blinked my eyes. Us showing up to the table often looked, and still looks like love letters in the mail and the comfort of pulling this sweatshirt over my head taking the place of a temporary Kati hug until I get a real Kati hug.

My sister Kati  is the most extraordinary heart I know. I learn something from her everyday, even when she’s half way around the world.  Showing up is her logo, love is her aesthetic and sistering is her tagline. She knows it, she spreads it and she’s the best at it.    She talks a million miles a minute (just like me), her smile takes up her whole face and her laugh is one of my favorite sounds to this date.  In a season where my version of love looked an awful lot like trying to serve as a “fixer” or a “people pleaser”, Kati showed me how to be something even better….a person who shows up.  Sistering 101!  The problem I ran into was when I would show up, I didn’t know what to do without the fixing or throwing out a Hallmark card inspirational quote. Ugh.  My worst nightmare, and yet my greatest and favorite life lesson learned. Offering presence and togetherness is way better than fixing:

  1. You sit. 
  2. You listen. 
  3. You lean in. 
  4. Then, you love.
  5. Repeat forever.

When I did this, and received it graciously, I realized that sistering is both everywhere and an everyday choice.  It’s not in the big grandiose gestures, or defined by your bloodline. Sistering looks a lot like paying close attention to the little details.  Like how she knows the names of my students and prays for them, and me effortlessly being able to distinguish which photo she was behind the lens of when photos are posted on social media.   It looks like post-it-noting their front door or car with character compliments and love notes after their worst day.    It looks like inviting yourself over for a sleep over with a bottle of wine until your floor ugly cry has shifted naturally to serendipitous laughter crying.   It looks like surprise visits, presence and hand holding during seasons of crisis. Waiting for the sifting together.   It looks like knowing her address from memory to send “just because” mail, or to “ding-dong-ditch” her door for her to discover her favorite Pumpkin bread recipe and flowers on her porch. It looks like making a second home on her floor or her twin sized bed.  Because nights are hard, and sometimes the best way remedy to make it through is with your sister beside you.  It looks like making birthdays a national holiday. It’s differentiating cries.  Knowing which “no, you don’t have to come” means she’s going to be okay until morning, and which one means “you better already be on your way to her house”.  It looks like book swapping, song sharing and “I sent you this gift because it’s Tuesday”reflexes. It looks like paying for breakfast, coffee, dinner, drinks, lunch, dessert and not batting an eye at being payed back because love doesn’t keep score.  Knowing y’all, it’ll probably even out eventually in the end anyways. Who cares when. Kati taught me that sistering is just relentlessly showing up for your people.  Love is something you do, not just think about doing.  Sistering is not waiting for the opportunity to be a sister.   It’s taking what it means to sister and calling it an opportunity.

Kati and I are both identical twins and worlds different from one another, all in the same big, beautiful breath.  She looks fear not just dead in the face but directly in the eyes.  Fear is NO MATCH for Kati. It surrenders its’ white flag in defeat when she has an idea, vision or a dream.  She dives into fear with a sly smirk, a shrug, chuckle and lives her best life. Then, walks away with more stories lived in her pocket and with the upmost humility and grace while boldly yet seamlessly embracing her next adventure.  Next to her laugh, Kati talking about her new big idea, or plan for tackling her next dream is my other favorite sound.  Music to my soul.   Kati is the bravest person I’ve ever known, she feels the fear, all of it, and does it anyways.  If bravery was contagious, any ounce that I have I caught from her. I was not like this before I met Kati.  I am not fully like this now, but I try to practice courage a little more each day.  I learned to step into fearlessness by watching my sister.  Kati popped my safety bubble and said “you coming or what?!” The greatest choice was taking her hand  and letting her keep my bubble popped everyday since then.  The world is her teacher, and she is mine.  Sisters are my best teachers.

Bravery is vital to sistering I’ve learned.  Not just for the memory keeping and stacking up experiences to pull out when you’re old and gray, drinking in nostalgia and reminiscing over a glass of wine.  Because when you’re sistering, you have the gift of being a life witness. To fully see someone as they are.  To know their skeletons in the closet, their shame, and be fully present when their world drops from the atmosphere, all the lights blow out and neither one of you knows when the porch lights will go back on to call your lost souls back home.  It takes more than 10 seconds of insane courage to plant your feet on the ground and say “this doesn’t scare me. We can do this…together. Let’s keep moving. Walking is fine. Crawling is fine. Just as long as we’re moving together. ” Sisterining is staying. Becoming familiy is in the following.   Sistering is seeing the dark clouds rolling in and running full speed to clasp her hand, interlock fingers, before the sky grows dark and the storm rages on.  It’s opening her eyes when the clouds clear, the puddles dry up and the debris is gone and she looks down to see you still holding her hand.  Only this time it was because now you’re are celebrating her, with her.  You made it through together.  That’s what bravery looks like.  That is sistering, and it is the greatest honor, privilege and gift I could ever hold.  Much more  precious than I could ever just embrace with two arms.  Everything she has ever done, hurt through, loved fiercely, held her middle finger to, cried over, clapped in celebration for, overcame, risen to, poured her sweat and passion into, prayed through, broke through and  hugged tightly has and is always important to me.  In sistering it always will matter. 

We need our people always, but especially when life forges the hardest things in our hands and shoves them down into the depths of our hearts. Sure, I can do hard things,  but I can only do the hardest things alongside and hand in hand with my sisters. Through togetherness.  Through unconditional love.  Thorough our combined strength.  The people who choose to keep showing up when life gives great pain and see me raw are my sisters who choose to love every facet of my being.  This love shows no limits, and no conditions.  It exists despite distance, despite circumstances, season, longevity, and despite the weight of hurt.  That is the kind of love I want to walk side by side with no matter where I’m at in the world.  That is the kind of love I want and continue to strive to give no matter what place life takes me.  My sisters walk with me wherever I go, and I with them. In a world full of heaviness, that is the most beautiful comfort and gift I could ask for and simultaneously give.  

I got my sister and I was gifted the opportunity to step into sistering.  Santa Claus might have not been the one to drop this present off, and it may have been a little delayed, but this gift is one I reopen and wrap intentionally every single day. I am left better every day because of it.  Each time I hang up the phone, roll my eyes at tough love that I KNOW is true, turn away from them and towards the airport with a tear in my eye ( I ALWAYS CRY), laugh embarrassingly out loud at a text message, I learn a little more about sistering because I’ve been sistered (and continue to be) sistered by the world’s best, in all the best ways.  

To my sisters, the reason I sister, the keeper of my secrets, your sisterhood  is an answered prayer. We’ve not known each other our whole lives, but we’ve walked a whole lot of life together. We’ve wiped many a tears, prayed many prayers and celebrated life TOGETHER. What a joy, privilege and honor it is to witness the admirable person you continue to become and show up for you every day. Whether it’s on a couch sharing a glass of wine, at the beach, our hometowns, in our mailboxes delivering love from around the world, or on a FaceTime call time zones away. I pick to sister YOU any day, all the days and forever the days ahead. I won the lottery sistering you.

I am building a house where the floor is made of strength, where the walls are crafted in love and where the roof is built from bravery.  Much like sistering.  I am building myself and in the journey of self-discovery, I look around to see my sisters laying down the tile of the floor,  sanding the walls and up on the ladder inspecting the roof is strong enough to withstand the storm.  I am in their home and they are in mine.  The gift is that keeps giving and I get to experience it everyday.   If I could pick a favorite sport it would be sistering.  If I could pick a favorite team, it would be each other. 

Sister on, sister.  

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