Tuesday, 9 December 2014

In Search of My Identical Twin ;-)

Awww... so sweet.  (Images from Google Images)

When I was a kid, I planned when I grew up and married to have three sets of identical twin girls. Ridiculous? (I was going to be a Mountie at one point, too.) Who's to say where these fantasies come from, but I suspect many of us are fascinated with identical twins. There were twin girls living across the street from my cousins when we were growing up. One had a birthmark on her cheek, but I could never remember which was which anyhow. Twins were usually dressed alike. Understood each other perfectly. A romantic, unrealistic notion, of course, but fascinating. Imagine having someone just like you to grow up with and to grow old with? This IS going somewhere beyond fantasy.

One of these identical twins was failing until they put her sister (right) in the same incubator. When she put her arm around her twin, the frailer one's heartbeat regulated, and she gradually began to improve.

No longer my dream...

The Jackson Twins ran as a comic strip through my childhood, and I loved it. They could trick people. They were beautiful. Cute actually. Got up to mischief.  Their family was perfect except for a pesky younger brother, and Jan and Jill understood each other perfectly. They had good friends - boys and girls. Never seemed te be awkward teen-agers unsure of where they belonged, and growing up seemed to hold no fears. Of course, they never did grow up; they were teenagers (about 15) from 1950 until the strip ended in 1979. That should tell me something. ;-)

Jan and Jill Jackson obsessed over make-up, clothes, music and the opposite gender, tho not necessarily in that order. Their younger brother, Junior, whom they usually referred to as "Termite", functioned largely as a thorn in their sides. Mom and Dad were nice enough in their own quaint way, but scarcely a part of the "real" world.
Comment and image from Don Markstein's Toonopedia: The Jackson Twins

When I returned to Montreal in 1983 and completed my BA at Concordia, I wrote a paper on multiple births with a comparison to single child births. There were quads in the preschool where I volunteered, four years old, two girls and two boys. They may or may not have been identical pairs, but they certainly looked a great deal alike. In readings, I discovered that in multiple births, family may take simple characteristics in each child and, to distinguish each from the other, label the children. For instance, the first to smile is labelled the happy child. The one who cries more is troublesome. Or the quiet one is labelled shy or the thinker. No problem I guess until the labels stick past initial months and become life long lens for seeing the child. And for the child to see him or her self. Of the quads, the children were growing into their labels - and the most disturbing - one of the girls was sickly as an infant for many months, and was perceived as the trouble-making child, rejected, already in a box not of her making.

Of course, all children in a family tend to get labelled to some extent based on sometimes minute early characteristics. In a family with at least one alcoholic parent, there tends (I read, believe, and saw in a family I'm close to) to be an extremely responsible child, a clown, a peace-keeper ... etc. I don't remember the other one or two ...

Anyhow, back to twins. I recently saw a CBC documentary on identical twins by a woman in Toronto. To a large extent, it seemed to focus on the great things about being an identical twin. Closeness. Understanding. Intuition. Support. Sharing. ahh... to have such a person in my life.... at least that's what I realized I was looking for as a child - aren't we all looking for this fantasy in the deepest recesses of our hearts and minds? Someone to perfectly understand and love us? Ahh... fantasy indeed...

The only time I listen to the radio is in the car. CBC. Lo and behold, there was a program on recently (after the TV documentary had aired) on identical twins with a very different perspective. Oh - some twins supported and loved each other. However, there is another entire side - in which there is conflict, resentment, competition, even hatred... lifelong distancing that some are unable to bridge.

Dr. Barbara Klein wrote Alone in the Mirror: Twins in Therapy. She is an identical twin, is a therapist with twins helping them with struggles in individuation, competitiveness, attachment, living in a world of non-twins...  Another woman spoke of her similar experience growing up and as an adult identical twin. Both Barbara Klein and this other woman presented a very different experience than the idealized version.

from Google Images
Newsflash! Driving peacefully along in the car I suddenly understood what I was looking for ... what we all may be searching for... 

There's no identical twin - fully understanding and accepting outside of ourselves. She's been inside me all along. And at 68, it's taken (and the journey isn't over, thank God) all these years to gradually allow my other side to awaken and live. Being nice and a good girl/woman at any cost is not living. Even as a tiny child, there was what some might have labelled the 'bad' twin. I'd go so far as to say I thought of her unconsciously as the evil twin. The angry (enraged?) twin. The twin that walked a tightrope of terror, afraid someone else (parent) was going to die, that God would zap me, that I would be abandoned and die, that no one would love me if they knew the horrible thoughts I had (or didn't even allow myself to have). Breakdown. Pit. Breakthrough. Long, long journey ... And now - intimations of freedom. An embrace (much of the time) of both aspects of myself. Evil twin isn't really evil - she is simply human. Good twin was, as long as the evil twin was denied, a lie. 

So - In search of my identical twin, I've discovered her. Not where I expected to.

I wonder if Jung would call her my shadow?

Integration. Frail humanity. A normal (probably) longing for the impossible; embracing and rejoicing in my frail humanity (mostly). Loving myself and welcoming the love that is offered here, there, and everywhere. Allowing myself to be less than perfect; reaching out in love imperfectly. Setting limits/boundaries and accepting that the world has already been saved and it's not my job. Growing up and growing old(ish) with as much grace as possible. 

My 'evil' twin isn't gone, btw. Not subsumed somehow. It's not magic. The parts are held in tension. Some of the terrors continue, but they don't run my life. And - some of the passion for justice grows out of those aspects of me. :-)

Thank you to all the people in my life who have helped me along this journey - you know who you are. Sisters (SSM and SSJD), family (Jim, Sandi, et al), friends, Janice Goldstein, JTM and BWP... Mile End Mission, St. CHL, and La Nativité ... and more ...

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