Of Phone Calls and Parasites

“First”: the scariest prefix in the English language. My list of personal terrors (yes, I have a list; why don’t you?) has an entire section dedicated to the word “first.”

First conversation with a new friend. First time on a rollercoaster.  First rehearsal. First day of school. First day of work. First day of anything.

This being the first day of the first week of school, I’ve been forced to do a whole heap of scary things within a relatively short time period. My immediate thought, like a good little blogger: I can write about the first day of school and facing my fear of homework! But I’ll have plenty of other first days to turn into rants brilliant blogposts. I want to talk about something a little less ordinary and a little more personal–and a whole lot more terrifying: a first phone call.

A couple of days ago, I called my sister. For the first time in my (fairly good) memory.

I know what you’re thinking. You called your sister? Not scary. But let me explain.

1: I hate phone conversations. Unless there’s something specific to discuss, I’m bad at making conversation at the best of times. Over the phone? Forget it.

2: My sister and I aren’t exactly what you’d call close. Which is a polite way of saying that…I haven’t been a great sister.

Back in high school, we looked like this. That is, when we weren't fighting about silly things.

Back in high school, we looked like this. That is, when we weren’t fighting about silly things.

See, I have this thing called an ego. Did you ever read K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs series? It’s a YA series involving earth’s invasion by parasitic aliens called yeerks. Basically, they’re slugs that embed themselves in people’s brains and take over their victims bodies. People are trapped in their own minds and bodies with evil alien slug parasites forcing them to betray their own planet.

The point is, I personally think my ego is a bit like a yeerk. Even when I recognise that my actions or impulses are only the result of my ego, I feel trapped, watching my own pride force me to betray the people around me. My ego-parasite stops me from apologising. It keeps me from giving in even when I know I’m wrong. It builds a habit of hurting people and then won’t quit the habit. (The difference is, of course, that I can’t blame an alien for the damage I do.)

Three guesses who that hurts most often….

…got a guess?…

…..Yep. My sister.

Combine my natural stubbornness, my ego-parasite, me being a horrible living-mate (I know; I discovered this over the summer, but that’s a story for a different post), and the fact that we have very disparate interests, and you wind up with …well, not much of a relationship.

But my sister is a beautiful, talented, interesting young woman, and I’m realising more and more that I’m missing out on a lot by not having a better relationship with her. And a few days ago, my sister turned nineteen. Thanks to 2,000 miles between us, I couldn’t be there. So I called.

How I felt was…

I felt kind of this. Lots of "what if...?" Lots of panicking.

I felt kind of this. Lots of “what if…?” Lots of panicking.

…mostly panic built on statements beginning with “What if” and a lot of focus on me.

And guess what?

We had a great conversation. It wasn’t awkward. I learned things about her life. We chatted about things she did over the summer and our plans for the school year. We shared some laughs. We joked about our brothers and commiserated over homework. We said “I love you,” which is actually not something we do a ton.

And you know something? I enjoyed the call. We still don’t share a lot of interests. Our hobbies, life goals, and personalities are different– but she’s my sister, and that means we have things in common. It’s just that those things are buried under layers of arguments, misunderstandings, and frustrations. But maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to beat my ego-parasite. Maybe it just takes getting past myself and making someone else feel loved.

Oh, and one other thing– I think I’ll call my sister again.

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About Elizabeth Syson

While consuming tea and coffee at an alarming rate, I read and write everything I can and pursue my unnatural love of copyediting. My hobbies include learning new instruments and languages, riding horseback, sketching very badly indeed, and periodically recommitting to doing yoga regularly. View all posts by Elizabeth Syson

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