What can we learn from Sisters?

During our first trip to Scotland, I bought a novel entitled Sisters written by Danielle Steele for either 2 or 3 pounds from a charity shop. It was a bargain, but my father spent some efforts to carry our stuff (including the novel) especially in our dwelling in London [1]. In summer 2017, after my father’s hospitalization, doctor advised him not to carry heavy things.

Since then, I told myself to read the novel to learn some vocabularies when I have a spare time. Alas, I had never had the spare time, until I took my highest paid job hitherto. I started to read it in our high-rise apartment with a sea view until I got busy.

Sisters is a family-oriented story. It reminded me on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

***
Every cloud has a silver lining.

As a result of the accident that killed their mother, Annie, the artist in the family, received a major double blow upon learning that she had lost her sight and could no longer paint; painting’s all she ever wanted to do.

At first, she refused to see the psychiatrist, Ellen Steinberg, as described in Chapter 12.

However, Dr. Steinberg’s personal story, inspired Annie and myself, though fictional.

After Ellen finished her medical school 24 years ago, she had trained to be a heart surgeon. Alas,  a drunk driver hit her in a car accident. He went to jail for 2 years, and Ellen was blind for the rest of her life.

Ellen wasted a couple of years pouted, drank a lot, and drove her family insane.

Thankfully, she got a job in an ambulance company, answering the phones. Later, she got another job on a suicide hotline, which led her to psychiatry.

She decided to go back to school to study psychiatry. There, she met her husband, who was a young professor at the medical school and have four kids.

How can Ellen, being blind, do all that? Annie was fascinated to learn.

Ellen shared that we must learn, develop other skills.

We make mistakes, we try harder than everyone else at times.

We do what we have to do.

For example, Ellen read reports by having them translated into braille. She types all her reports in braille, and her secretary retypes them for sighted people.

***
Work is a source of meaning.

Viktor Frankl defined happiness as a by-product of forgetting ourselves in a task that draws on all our imaginations and skills [2].

In Chapter 19, Tammy, the responsible second sister who quit her job so that she could be with her sisters, especially Annie, had become the chief laundress, since she wasn’t working.

She also served as the chief cook, schlepper, maid, and bottle washer.

She later confessed that she needs two things for happiness: a job and a maid.

She needed to get out of the house and go to work.

Like Tammy and Ellen, I feel that I need to have a job to feel financially independent and make meaningful contributions to society [3].

***
Below are beautiful sentences to learn positive vocabularies.

Page 2: … Candy was always easy– good-natured, funny, irreverent, sweet, and surprisingly naive after the success she’d enjoyed since the beginning of her career.

Page 3: Her face was the most forgiving on the planet, and the most desirable.

Page 5: She did everything with grace, and could make tying her shoelaces look sexy.

Page 6: Candy was not only gorgeous but decent, and very bright, even if still naive and young, despite her success.

Page 7: “I love my mom,” she said honestly, “and my sisters. My mom get really upsets when we don’t come home. Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas. I missed Thanksgiving once, and she gave me shit about it for a year. As far as she’s concerned, family comes first. I think she’s right. When I have kids, I want that too. This stuff is fun, but it doesn’t last forever. Family does.”

Page 13: She (Annie) took drawing classes every day, and was learning the painting techniques of the old masters. In the past year, she felt she had done some very worthwhile work, although she still felt she had much to learn.

Page 18: Charlie had been mildly annoyed, and rather than waiting for another week to to to Pompeii with her, he said he would make the trip with another artist friend. Annie was disappointed not to go with him, … He was a very talented artist, although an older artist who had advised him in Florence said that the purity of his work had been corrupted by the time he had spent doing design. …He was extremely sensitive about his art, as many artists were. Annie was more open to critiques, and welcomed them, in order to improve her work. Like her sister Candy, there was a surprising modesty about her, and who she was. She was without artifice or malice, and was astonishingly humble about her work.

Page 28: Her parents were proud of her (Tammy) but were worried about her health. It was impossible to be as stressed as she was, have as much responsibility as rested on her shoulders, and not wind up with health problems one day.

Page 32: Tammy always came up with some idea that saved the day. She was famous for it.

Page 37: The two oldest sisters in the group definitely had the strongest work ethic and Chris accused them both of being workaholics.

Page 40: And their mother had been more outspoken and more willing to be unpopular with her daughters, if she was convinced she was right. Sabrina thought she had been very brave, and respected her a great deal.

Page 43: Their mother was always generous with praise. She was proud of all four of her girls, and in their own way, each of them was doing well. More importantly, all four of them were happy, and had found their niche. Their mother never compared them to each other, even as children, and saw each of them as individuals, with different talents and needs. It made their relationship that much better with her now. And each in her own way was crazy about their mom. She was a like a best friend, only better.

Page 251: But the show had something, a kind of down-and-dirty misery to it, and yet behind all the window dressing was a thread of hope. Tammy like that. They rarely seemed to tell people to give up on their relationships, …

***

[1] It is conveniently located across the St Paul’s Cathedral, but it has no lift and our room is at high floor.

[2] The various sources of meaning include:

  1. creating a work or doing a deed.
  2. experiencing something or encountering someone (love).
  3. the attitude we take to unavoidable suffering.

[3] In summer 2017, since I tried to provide more fresher mother’s milk than frozen breast milk, I decided to stay at home. I rarely had interactions with grown-ups of similar or related interests, had to face selfish neighbors who hurt Little Prince [4] and me, often hogged the toilet, and the list goes on. Moreover, negative news [5] from places where I had been fascinated with, visited or lived, and the hospitalization of my father, made me feel some negative emotions, that I decided to convert into motivation.

[4] The father of the neighboring family made Little Prince eat Zam-Buk (an antiseptic ointment) while he was a teething toddler!

[5] Media diet and abstaining myself from depressing/violent movies work for me.

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