On Being a Twin

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

Being a twin is one of my two-truths-and-one-lie tricks. If we didn't grow up together or we're not close friends now, you'd never know that I'm a twin. It's always a surprise to people when I say, "I have a twin." To parents on the street pushing twins, I always stop and admire the babies and, at some point declare, "I'm a twin," noting my belonging to this special club that fewer than four percent of humans inhabit. Being a twin is an experience only twins can understand. My twin sister Katherine and I used to laugh and call ourselves "wombmates." From our conception, we were never alone. We were always a part of one another, completing one whole. Though we occupied different physical bodies, we existed in reference to each other.

One of my regular practices is Yoga Nidra. As part of this practice, we contemplate opposites. This mental shift, from one sensation, feeling, or thought to its opposite, opens up a greater expanse of awareness. Not only are we able to move from a potentially entrenched experience to it's opposite, but we open ourselves up to all of the experiences in between and beyond those two opposites.

In all of my years of writing about my emotional musings, I have only touched on my experience of being a twin, but in reality, it is one of the foundational pieces of my identity. It occurred to me the other morning as I was meditating, that for me, growing up as a twin was like being one of the opposites. When I was young, I was very shy. My twin sister Katherine was incredibly outgoing. I was an athlete, a swimmer, one of the quietest, most independent of sports. Katherine was a thespian- a drama star at our little high school. I was awkward socially and she was gifted, popular with all of the cliques. I am grateful that she forever let me tag along to receive little sprinklings of her social magic. I would never have been comfortable going to parties, concerts, and school events without Katherine. She was my confidence and my guide in this realm that I had never had to develop on my own.

We were like two halves of a whole, two pieces of a puzzle, Yin and Yang. Katherine was the lighthearted, funny one and I was the serious, worrying one. As an adult looking back now and knowing more about child development and family systems, I understand that we were perhaps guided into those roles to complete a larger family picture. As I watch my daughter, an only child, navigate through her world, one part, one whole, I can see how different it might have been to grow up not being a twin.

In Yoga Nidra, we try to see the preferences we have and to soften our grip on those preferences. I prefer to feel happy and playful, but fully welcoming the experience of sadness and despair helps me understand that, without those emotions, there would be no happy and playful. Without one, there is no other. Ultimately, preferring one emotion over another does not serve us because we need all of the emotions to feel any of them. Seeing opposites enables us not only to release our preferences for one or the other but helps us to see all of the other stops along the way.

For many years, I felt like the unpreferred twin. I was stuck in my role of the serious twin, the rigid, uptight one. And Katherine was locked into her role as the life of the party, always being happy and light. We both felt pressure to keep our half of the circle intact. We first separated in college. I went south and she went east. It was a micro-separation and we remained very close. At first, the space away from Katherine was painful. I didn't understand how to access the pieces of myself that Katherine had occupied growing up. I felt like an imposter--being social, taking up space in that way, trying on the role of playful and fun.