I know I was alive before I was born; I remember choosing my parents, choosing my life. It’s difficult to describe where I was. You have to imagine what it must be like to see for a blind person, or perhaps draw a parallel with dreaming. You see, but not with your eyes. I can only tell you the little that I remember; it’s less clear as age creeps up on me and yet so strong was the impression of those events that even with a fading memory the essential of what happened will never leave me.
I was not alone before I was born, and I was not alive in the sense that I am now. Who was there with me I cannot say, except that the figures were caste in shadow, resembled human form and were benevolent. I got a brief look at my parents to be and there were three distinct possibilities, three couples. It was like a film trailer in three dimensions, but in no way was it a spoiler of my life to come. No, it was a glimpse and a sense of who these people were, that’s all.
Three distinct choices, three different lives. In one I was a woman; in another, handicapped; and I clearly remember saying, “I have been handicapped before.”
“Well if you choose the other life you will be gay!” That’s all that was said. I can’t be sure those were the exact words — it is of little importance — what you must understand is this was the consequence of that particular choice. This last choice seemed like a challenge or at least interesting, or both. Why would I be drawn toward that idea? Perhaps because the first option gave me the impression of a somewhat ordinary life, the second option I had lived before. So although I really had no idea what it would mean, I chose it.
I chose it without ever vocalizing my decision and what happened next was very fast. The choice made, I zoomed down into my mother; those are the only words I can use to describe what happened because I had the definite sensation of being up above and shooting downwards at great speed.
The next thing I remember, I was born. Although not quite the person who is talking to you today I was one and the same. I had no idea who I was or where I was. I was of course still me, but all these new sensations. I don’t know how much time passed, having a sense of time I believe is something that comes later. I was simply feeling, breathing, living. If you can’t see yourself, if you are only looking out, then you cannot know your physical form except by touch. I was small.
You could be forgiven for thinking, ‘he made all this up.’ Just like any good story it needs to start well, but the fact is, I’m not that clever. No, it is like those books and movies at the bottom of the first page or when the titles roll, where it says ‘the events depicted here are based on a real history.’ Yes, they are, my history, although it’s not exactly an autobiography. I am not anyone important; I am just like millions of other people. I have done nothing extraordinary with my life.
It seems odd that I have never read a book before that recounts the story of life from the beginning. It’s a bit like people forget the start, which is why I have begun with exactly that, at least as I can best remember it.
If you have ever asked yourself those essential questions, such as ‘Why am I here? What is it all about? Is there life after death?’ If you have, then you just might take something from my history. I asked those same questions and that took me on a very long journey, a lifetime in fact. And — as I think is inevitable — rather than answers to start with I found more questions.
I had the overwhelming desire, sometime after I was born and now accustomed to my tiny new body, to blurt out everything I knew to my parents. My feeling was that they were pretty much nice people, and I think it’s a basic desire we have to share. But then I faced my first paradox, one of those universal cosmic jokes, I couldn’t speak! The realization hit me like a thunderbolt, thoughts whirred around inside my head, and I suddenly felt I was trapped inside this tiny shell.
I had to face the looming shadow of this dark thought, and I tackled it by taking a philosophical point of view. Sounds grandiose I know, but, put simply, I decided that I would have to wait until I learned to talk. Knowing somehow that day would arrive I felt comfortable again.
Dark thoughts can possess and overwhelm; they can be difficult to combat, striking to the core of your being. Fear is hard to overcome, but I don’t think anyone lives their life without knowing it. Just how deep fear can be is easy to measure. You know fear when you pray to God even if you don’t really believe; you know fear when you cry for your mother to save you though you know she cannot. Real fear like that I had not yet faced, but it would come.
My very early years passed in a blur of sensations and mixed emotions. I remember being easily able to bring my foot to my mouth and suck my toe; it made me giggle. I remember crawling on the carpet in the living room next to the big old sofa in those days before I could walk. I vaguely remember those first wobbly steps and that first word, although I am not going to pretend to you that I remember saying ma-ma or da-da; that would just not be true.
By the time I could walk and talk I had forgotten most of what I wanted to tell my parents, about where I had come from, and the life I had lived before. I was also learning fast, and I realized that talking to them as the baby I still was, with half–formed words and sentences would make no sense at all. I suppose I must have given up on that, or somehow it was just no longer very important. That makes sense, because when I was newly born, the events immediately preceding my birth were very strong; after all they included the last time I died. Now they were just less important, and I think at that point I put them to the back of my mind. I let my previous life fade out of memory, so I could get on with this one. It was all just forgotten.
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