Being The Eldest 0 835

A love letter to the older siblings who always felt they fell short

In my family, I am the oldest of just two, with there being a fourteen-month age gap between myself and my younger sister. We had an incredible childhood filled with laughter and fun, our parents were kind and present, pretty much all you need as children. For most of my childhood and adolescents, I was constantly reminded of the fact that I was the eldest. I had to set an example for my younger counterpart in addition to always having her back. It wasn’t something that particularly bothered me, it was just the requirements that came with the job.

Only when I was in my twenties did I realise how much this older sibling narrative had weighed heavy on my shoulders. It was a subtle pressure that had been around my whole life and it always made me feel like I had to be strides forward of my younger sibling – I had to be more mature, more put together and have things more figured out in order to be the best at the job I was born into. It had never occurred to me that having this pressure on me, and the expectations that came with it from both my parents and my sibling were almost unfair. Because the fact is, I’m only just over a year older than my sibling. 

Yes, that makes a difference when you’re three years old vs two years old, but not so much when you’re nineteen vs twenty. This standard that I had been held to, especially by my younger sibling had strained our relationship because it was so difficult for me to live up to. She wanted me to be the perfect older sister who had the patience and advice to aid her growth. She wanted me to be the storybook big sis and I always fell short. I felt like I was never mature enough and never knew what the right thing to say was. I wasn’t like the elder siblings you see in movies who are akin to a second mother. I was equally as unfinished as my sibling.

It’s hard for me to mediate this because I understand where she comes from. She too believed the narrative of what having an older sister was supposed to mean. She too didn’t realise that the expectations she put on me were not exactly fair because I wasn’t a sibling who was years older than her with years of experiences to share. I was merely a year ahead. She had friends who were my age, and I had friends who were hers. But we didn’t see those friends the way we saw each other, I saw her as my baby sister and she saw me as her big sister – not people who were just a year apart. 

Even now as adults, this narrative and the experiences that came with it can be tough to manage. I know my sibling hasn’t forgiven me for all my shortcomings growing up and that’s okay. I can understand that those things are harder to let go of because it was something she really believed in and wanted. I sit now at twenty-five and feel like I can finally be the older sibling I wish I could’ve been when I was growing up. I understand myself better and have had the right experiences to be there for her. 

It’s not easy being the eldest, you’re the guinea pig to the parenting style of your mother and father and you’re the example to your siblings. However, I do believe that if you are able to get past the resentment which can come from being the eldest and understand that both parents and siblings are following pre-ordained societal narratives on what you ought to be, you can redefine what it means to be the big brother or sister. You forgive yourself for where you fell short and understand that there is a lifetime to make up for those years where maybe you weren’t ready to step into the role. 

Life is long and if you’re lucky, you can cultivate a relationship with your sibling that is rooted in a deeper understanding of one another. Letting go of the hurt that comes with not being the ideal version of younger, middle or older siblings and accepting one another as they are. Easier said than done because ain’t no one that can push our buttons the way our siblings can. Nonetheless, I believe that if you genuinely want to, these relationships are worth the tears, anger and forgiveness. And maybe then the realisation will come that being the eldest sibling is one of the best jobs you’ve had the privilege of being born into.

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Aunty Babblings: On Masks 0 750

I am told that I babble and it has gotten worse with the pandemic and as I age! I figured that instead of my verbal babble maybe putting down these confused, excited thoughts may have a point. After all baby babbles turn to language at some point. 

The pandemic and with no work to boot gave me a lot of time to question the goings on in the world. These thoughts are not based on research but just an Aunty Babbling.

This babbling aunty rambles along on walks here and there every day. It’s really a great way to observe life and people who are living through a pandemic that just doesn’t seem to go away. I meet other regular walkers, and most if not all of them observe social distancing and if they don’t, I cross to the other side of the road or move a few meters away. 

Some wear masks and others don’t. I wear the mask as I am a senior citizen with comorbidities, because I am not taking any chances that may put me or the other at risk. Comorbidities by the way means a person with two or more diseases. A word I had to look up in the dictionary when I registered for the vaccination programme. 

Hmmm … may have been simpler to say “Tick here if you have two or more diseases”.  I wonder how many people especially the elderly etc. could Google it!

Coming back to walks and masks I’ve noticed over the past year or so that people throw their masks away wherever they like: on the road, along the grassy sidewalk, in common areas … wherever it is convenient to them. Surely, we can do better than this.

The interesting thing about these masks that are thrown away is that some are folded, fastened with the ear loops and then dumped. My question is, if we can go to all that trouble, surely, we can carry a bag, put it in there and dispose of it in a trash bin on the street or at home. 

The point here is that once again we’ve missed the point. 

Could it be that the global pandemic is here for us to learn the lesson of consideration for one another?

Yes, we should and must keep ourselves safe but we should consider the people who have to pick up after us. Are we putting them at risk? The point is that this whole virus thing is a two-way responsibility.

I keep myself safe, and you keep yourself safe and everyone can be safe. Remember the virus is blind to our man-made differences … all it takes are a few droplets from a sneeze or a cough for the virus to enter our body. Virus or no virus, there still remains the issue of littering.

I’ve seen blue, black, pink lavender and designed masks strewn all over the place and maybe it’s time to wear the mask knowing the task that is required of us. 

Am I Really That Hot? 0 755

So one evening as I was preparing some dinner for the family I felt this wave wash over me. I hadn’t felt anything like this before so I just let it pass. I thought to myself, Oh, is that what a hot flash feels like? Then a minute later, another wave, so I thought, Ok let’s go sit down and see if this passes. I sat down and was still feeling quite off and since we also have one of those blood pressure monitor thingys in the house, I decided to check my pressure and it showed 180/100 ..yikes! Ok, let’s test that again, this machine is probably ten years old and a bit wonky, but now 190/100, so obviously I started panicking. Up to this point it was all just a matter of fact but now things were getting real.

So I looked to my better half and he looked at the numbers on the thingamajig, called my daughter out of her room and we decided to go to the hospital. Somewhere in there we phoned a doctor friend who advised the same. We live on the eleventh floor and all I could think of was that if I was going to have a stroke or heart attack, how would these two carry me out? Next was that I was wearing a dress and if I passed out, my underwear would be on show …. Side note: this is when I remembered my grandmother’s advice to always wear matching underwear so that in any emergency you will not be embarrassed. Needless to say, I put on a pair of pants in slow motion so not to trigger the impending incident which I was sure was going to happen and my only goal at that point was to get into the car so that if anything major happened, at least we were on the way to the hospital. 

Now, getting this group of three together in a panic situation was actually quite comical. You have me: panicking mother but trying to be calm to not scare the other two. You have a husband; panicking, all over the place and a little lost. Then you have daughter who is also panicking but trying to be the sober voice.

My husband decides to drive, knocks into another car reversing out of the parking lot, and my daughter and I are just standing there watching him, none of us know how to get to the hospital so they put on waze. We take a couple of wrong roads but we do end up at the hospital emergency and see a doctor. There, the blood pressure goes crazy, up and down, up and down and they can’t do anything but admit me for observation. They put a band on my wrist and I notice its red and says fall risk; wait, me? Nahh! To add insult to injury, both the band and the hospital room door had a picture of a tree falling .. what??!?

We got settled in the room and I was semi-relieved to be in the presence of doctors who would know what to do if something went wrong. My husband and daughter sat next to me, all us still feeling freaked out but a little better. Not to mention the fact that I have another daughter living overseas who I did not want to panic unnecessarily. She could easily see where I was on the app I have installed to keep track of her.. karma has a way of coming back to get you doesn’t it? So I switched that app off and swore the daughter who was with me to silence. I know, I know .. asian parents, yes, I am guilty as charged. 

I stay in the hospital for a couple days of observation, do the scans and they send me home with a device on my body which is supposed to check your pressure every half hour. This is actually a mental torture device because every time it went off, I got more panicky and was just waiting with horror to see the numbers. After all this, some more check ups, meds and the doctor diagnoses it as a panic attack.

Seriously!! Panic Attacks?! Who? Me? Are you kidding me? Anyone who knows me, knows that I am the calm cat in the room.. what the heck is this? Then comes the magic words – pre menopause.

Pre-Menopause .. that is just hot flashes right? Well, apparently not .. there’s panic attacks, anxiety attacks, elevated heart rates, an overall nervousness, anger, sleepless nights, nausea – the list goes on and on. But how come I have not heard about all this? Why isn’t anyone talking about this? Are women approaching their 50s going through all this and still doing everything they have been doing for years? Juggling work, family, home?

But before realising this, I was convinced.. let me stress on that, convinced… that the doctor was wrong and I had a heart issue or something worse. This led me to see a second cardiologist friend, who also told me there was nothing wrong with me then on to another doctor who specialised in hormones who told me the same. Still I was not entirely convinced that it was menopause. Our mothers didn’t go through all this right? I just remember my mother mentioning some sleepless nights and my mother in law hardly said anything …how come?

Then as I started reading online and talking to friends, it became clear that this was something all women silently go through. Some said it hardly registered but then others told their stories and their ways of dealing with it – a glass of wine when you know the anxiousness is hitting or something stronger,  some are on anti depressants, some exercise like crazy, some do hormone replacement therapy to soften the blow ( this is what I am doing by the way) but everyone looked for their own way of dealing with it.

Despite what any of your friends or family or even doctors say, the fact is that you are affected and you are changed. You are not the same you as before. I don’t know if hormone replacement will bring you back there or it’s just a life adapted to all these new feelings. Are we just going to make our lives smaller to adapt to our new limitations? I don’t know. I have read that it’s a phase and there is an end to it… let’s see. 

For now, my family will just have to live with me and my pre-menopausal self, I lived with their puberty, teenage angst and husbands mid-life crisis didn’t I? This is just reverse puberty as I see it. Maybe I’ll follow in my husbands footsteps, sports car .. but wait, I don’t drive…..

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