I Have More Questions Than Answers, but That’s Okay

Twelve was a big year for me.

That’s the year I started to question what my parents had taught me. That’s the year that I began to have lots of questions about the great big world. I was raised in a religious cult, and luckily, I began to pay attention to the fact that my parents were contradictory hypocrites. They couldn’t practice what they preached, but boy, oh, boy, could they hold my feet to the fire. Could they ever.

Why?

Well, because I was powerless. I had no power. Children don’t. So it’s very easy for parents to be exacting record keepers, holding their children accountable for every word that comes from their mouths, every eye roll, every unwelcome question, facial expression, or gesture.

If I’m to venture a guess as to why I started to question things at such a young age, I would say that it’s because I have above average intelligence.

I’m not bragging. I didn’t get to choose that asset from a list of options before I was born. Clearly I had a set of well-developed critical thinking skills quite early in life. I’m so glad that I did. It has saved me a lot of trouble.

I also register high on the empathy scale, so injustices bother me — a lot.

Cruelty makes me cringe. Yes, as a young, smart, creative girl born into a radical religious cult that held women back, I suffered immensely, but I also felt the pain of others. I mean really felt it in my own body. Every time one of my siblings was beaten, I was beaten, too. Every time my parents fought, I felt the sting of their hateful accusations. Every time I read a news story about a local murder or violent war, I felt the mass human suffering in my own body. That’s what it’s like to register high on the empathy scale.

It sucks but many of my questions originated because of my empathy.

I didn’t get to choose my level of empathy from a list of options before I was born either. And although I suffered and continue to suffer today because there is so much cruelty in the world, my empathy forced me to look beyond merely getting my own needs met at a much bigger picture. It forced me to think and ask lots of questions.

What I saw when I was barely twelve years old was a world run by a lot of adults who didn’t practice what they preached.

Some could do better with a lot of effort, but many didn’t seem to have a choice. Their responses to the suffering of others were limited just like their cognitive ability to make good decisions.

If only people were given a list of virtues, skills, and attributes to choose from before they were born.

Even if we were told that we could only pick ten from the list, that might be a help. You know, would you rather be good looking or smart, kind or clever, tall or short?

But we’re not given any choices whatsoever.

Wherever we were before we arrived, it must not have been a place where choice was considered very important. We certainly weren’t offered many choices when we were born. I mean let’s face it, would I have chosen my parents? Probably not.

We like to talk a lot about freedom of choice.

As near as I can tell when we arrive, we’re handed a package with everything we need to start our lives as though it was already predetermined. And, even if the package we were handed was simply random good luck or bad luck, which is much more likely, it still isn’t terribly comforting. Being born starts to look a lot more like playing the lottery than a preplanned event.

A few will win the jackpot, but most will not.

At any rate, I was gifted intelligence and empathy and used them both to help me make choices as I grew up. Which has caused me to do more thinking than many people about why things are the way they are and what makes humans do what they do. I’m constantly scratching my head in wonder. It’s perplexing to say the least.

My friend who’s about my age, seventy-one, recently ask me, “Teresa, why must you always write about things that are controversial or troublesome?

And I answered with, “Why are you still talking about dating and guys?”

I mean I really don’t “get her” any more than she “gets me”. I just assumed that she doesn’t have a choice about what she thinks about any more than I do.

When I left my home, the cult, and gods behind at the tender age of eighteen, I entered the civilian world unprepared for what I’d encounter. I soon learned, however, that I had more questions than answers about mainstream American life as well. So much of what I was experiencing made no sense.

Do people just do what they do because everyone else is doing it?

There were so many things that were off limits to me in the cult. Yet, here I was free to choose and as near as I could tell everyone was choosing to live a certain kind of life from a rather small menu of choices.

Basically, it was date, get married, work, have kids, buy a house, work some more, and then die.

At first it looked like I had a lot of choices. I mean, I could watch movies, wear worldly clothes, cut my hair, dance, drink, smoke, go swimming, and listen to rock n roll. There really was a long list of carnal pleasures to choose from. You know, things that would help pass the time. All of the above was on the long list of sins when I was in the cult, however. So, you better believe that I was more than happy to finally get a chance to indulge.

Eventually, I began to notice that so many people were unhappy.

It didn’t seem to matter whether people were in a cult or in the civilian world, most were struggling with one thing or another most of the time. They didn’t seem to see a way out, however. Everyone to a greater or lesser degree conformed to the culture they’d inherited at birth and then proceeded to live a version of the same day over and over again for the rest of their lives.

Can you see my dilemma?

Because I was born and raised outside the mainstream culture, I was forced to make a decision. Do I want to live out my life in this subculture that I didn’t get to choose or do I want to leave and venture out into the mainstream culture? Most people are never confronted with such a clear choice.

I left and the rest is history.

That was a big decision, life altering. Yet, I still had questions. Sure I’d settled the god question. I’d busted the god myth to my own satisfaction, but there were more questions that followed.

I slowly began to realize a few things.

There is no one true way to live a life. All of it is a human fabrication.

Life doesn’t have meaning, only what we assign to it.

I’m not important except to myself and a very few others.

I didn’t get to choose what makes me who I am but neither did anyone else.

Life was not designed with our happiness in mind.

And if I can ask questions, even if I never find the answers, I stand a small chance of encountering a longer list of options than the short list my culture hands me.

I’ve never regretted leaving my home, religion, and family behind.

I’m glad that I was able to free up a little space in my brain simply by busting the god myth. I was lucky to be born with the ability to think critically.

Asking questions was key to whatever success I’ve experienced.

Sorry but not sorry, mom and dad. And sorry but not sorry, mainstream America. Sorry but not sorry, world. I am who I am and I plan to finish out my life asking questions. I may not have been able to choose my parents, DNA, citizenship, socioeconomic bracket, IQ, looks, height, language, family life, health, or culture. I inherited all of that through the sheer lottery of birth. I can still ask questions though. Lots of questions. Unless I’m genetically predisposed to dementia, I plan to live out my life asking questions.

I still have lots and lots of questions. More questions than answers for sure, but I’ve come to expect that.

Teresa Roberts is a retired educator, author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.

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