While there are few things less constructive than pondering the “what ifs” of life, I do it frequently. Our lives are filled with “what if” moments when we wonder how our lives might have been different if we’d done or said something other than what we did do/say.
I can think of three “what ifs” that I an convinced drastically affected who I am today. Perhaps the most significant is: what if my leg had not been badly broken when I was five? Even though it was broken…totally by accident…by a little girl (a long story) and occurred at about the same age as I realized I was not like other little boys, I never linked the accident to my being gay. I firmly hold with the theory that one is born either straight or gay, and I was definitely born gay. But that event altered my life dramatically by making me hesitant to engage in any activity in which I might be physically hurt. This of course includes sports, though my fear of being hurt was probably a far second to the fact that I’ve always had very poor hand-eye coordination and am something of a klutz.
The second “what if” that played a large part in my life involved the day…I must have been around six…when I was standing one summer in the yard singing Christmas carols. I wasn’t singing for or to anyone but myself. And then a man passing by stopped and said…I’m sure not unkindly, “Why are you singing Christmas carols? It’s summer!” I was already almost excruciatingly shy, and for some reason, the man’s question so mortified me that I have never been able to sing unless it was in a group. I wonder if my life might have been different if that man had not asked me that question?
When I was between seven and eight, I was invited to a classmate’s birthday party, near the end of which the mother hosting the party insisted we dance, boy-girl. I had never danced, did not know how to dance, and most definitely did not WANT to dance boy-girl. But I’m sure I did, if for no other reason that children do what they are told. I was once again so agonizingly embarrassed I can remember the feeling to this day.
Ever since I saw the face of God in a parted cloud—another long story—when I was about seven, I have been thoroughly convinced that I was somehow very special. Not necessarily superior to others, but apart and removed from them. Part of me still, against all odds, clings to this totally unsupported belief. And yet I am constantly looking around at other people, at the gifts they have, at the ease with which they react to any situation, and feel somehow lacking; somehow inferior. But since I am not like other people, my logic goes, I should hold myself to higher standards than they. The frustration comes in the realization that I can’t and don’t—which leads to feelings of inadequacy and failure. Even now, if—and because—I cannot do things with the grace and ease I see in others, I simply do not even try.
Stemming from that day of singing Christmas carols in the yard, I have gone to great and often counter-productive lengths to avoid calling attention to myself. When other people in a crowd are reacting with great enthusiasm to something, I am incapable of doing so, and in my efforts to not call attention to myself, I call attention to myself by just standing there like a statue.
There are so many “what ifs” in life, a different reaction to any one of them having the potential to change the future, to change who I am at this moment. Even attempting to consider them can open a black hole which unchecked can draw everything into it and result in my not being able to do anything at all. So perhaps the answer to constantly asking “what if” is simply not to ask. Well, okay, but what if……?
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=13...).