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Nature v Nurture

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I recently took a vacation with my sister to Greece. It was the first time that only the two of us vacationed together as adults.

For her, it was a needed break from being a young mother, the Canadian winter, and her latest artistic projects.

For me, it was an opportunity to explore more of Southern Europe, reconnect with my sister, and take time to reflect.

The two of us grew up like twins. We nearly share the same birthday, with my sister arriving into the world one day and one year after me. Countless pictures of us as babies and kids show us playing together nearly all the time.

While close friends often comment that we may look alike and share common mannerisms, and even vocabulary, our personalities are unique and different.

Spending nearly one week together in close proximity, sharing the same spaces, experiences, and moments, our similarities and differences became very clear to both of us.

We travel in similar ways. The hotels we find comforting, the restaurants we find appealing, and the activities we find interesting. I have to believe this is a result of how we were nurtured. Growing up together, growing up close, we generally like and appreciate similar things.

We operate in different ways.

Where my sister is very good with details, I often zoom out and like to look at the bigger picture. The number of times the two of us would be standing next to one another, looking at the exact same art, architecture, building, or landscape, and she would point out some exquisite detail that I would fail to even notice, was telling. No matter how hard I tried, I could not notice the details that she naturally would highlight.

My sister is not the tidiest person. And while the past two years she used the excuse of having a young child, we all knew what she was not willing to admit. Sharing a hotel room with her made it abundantly clear how different the two of us are with respect to tidiness. I am naturally organized, almost unconsciously putting things in their place. My sister, not as much.

I share these simple examples to highlight the role of nature. Although we were both nurtured in the exact same way, by the same parents, the same school, in the same home, in the same city and culture, we turned out completely different in many respects.

In light of this, it starts to make it easier to accept myself. To not take blame for the qualities that I may not appreciate or that I struggle with at times. And also not to take full credit for the qualities that I sometimes feel proud of myself for and that I know serve me well.

From this place of not feeling shame for the lows and not feeling as much pride for the highs, I start to feel more grounded. "It is not all of my doing". I was literally born this way.

Having my sister to reflect back to me what it is about me that is likely nature versus nurture is illuminating. The grip is loosened on trying to change what is clearly my nature. And appreciation grows for what is clearly nurture.

I once was taught a unique meditation practice that involves a long stare at myself in the mirror. Not to check myself out, or fix my hair, but to stare into my own eyes, continuously, without pause except to blink. It is difficult to do this past 30 seconds, let alone 30 minutes.

The reason it is difficult is that it forces me to be seen, by myself, which is vulnerable. I cannot hide how I feel. Who I am. How I am. I am forced to see it all.

Spending one week with my sister was similar to the mirror meditation. I was both the subject and the observer. And what I observed was the difference between nurture and nature.

Or said differently, what I have influence and control over, and what I cannot control.

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