I will never be normal. That ship has sailed. I’ve been odd since my birth on the living room floor. I spend an awful lot of time wondering what my life might be like, what I might be like, if I hadn’t been born and raised in a cult started and led by my maternal grandmother.
I might have gotten well baby visits and vaccines, but given my mother’s poverty then, I might not. In another, cult free life, perhaps I would have had pain management in high school instead of illegally purchased pot. Or maybe even insurance couldn’t have spared me sexism in medicine resulting in poor pain treatment for girls. Maybe I would have fought back, or reported the man who molested me. Maybe not.
There are other what-ifs too, of course. What if I’d never married the biological father of my child? What if I’d come out as gay at fourteen instead of thirty-one? What if I really had run away with my best friend to bum around the magical city of St. Augustine? But none of those are as fundamental or basic as what if I hadn’t lived in a cult.
A lot of what’s gone wrong in my life, a lot of my worst decisions and reactions and adaptations, can be traced back to the cult and how it shaped me. I can see my grandma’s fingerprints like dark smudges all over my soul. And that betrays the real, scary questions behind all these what ifs.
Who am I, and who would I be in that other life? It’s hard to imagine I wouldn’t be happier. Would I be as kind or as wise? Could I be wiser if I hadn’t had to learn critical thinking late and the hard way? Would I still have my son? Would I still be disabled? Would I still be this bad at love?
There are no answers to be found in the swirl of questions, so I must content myself with uncertainty. I can assess my emotional state by how much I idealize that alternate world; the more depressed I am, the more certain I would be better off there. It’s a strange longing for something I never really had.