For as long as I can remember, I’ve viewed life as a series of codes that must be cracked. Relationships, school, physical activities such as competitive sports–I was barred from these life situation by mysterious codes that others seemed to possess. Why did I, of all people, not have access to the necessary cryptic information? Would I never enter into the secret fellowship of humanity?
In my immaturity, I viewed any success as a cracking of the life code, an entering into the world that others inhabited. I have a very early memory of this: I don’t think I attended preschool, but I visited a preschool for, perhaps, one day. Despite my inability to connect with others, two girls fought to sit next to me during circle time. I solved this problem by explaining to them that they could sit on either side of me. I was elated by this. I thought I had finally cracked the code. I would thus be able to exist as others did. Later, not surprisingly, I discovered I was mistaken. I filed the experience away for further meditation, but as with other minor and inexplicable successes, it never made sense.
The only way to be as others, I discovered, was to mimic them–mimic their behavior or dress or pretend to be in rapture over their flavor of music, even if it left me cold. But this method only worked through junior high, and it didn’t actually work if you want to get right down to it. By the time I was sixteen, I had been smacked over the head so many times and called stupid so many times that I knew my mimicry was a pale imitation of what it meant to be a human, or more precisely, a teenage girl.
Fast forward to adulthood, and I’m desperately attempting to crack the code of being a wife, a mother, and a success in the world. And because my success as a human came to revolve around writing, it was clear from my general lack of acknowledgements that I would never crack that code. Don’t misunderstand me–when I won a short story contest in my twenties, I thought I had finally cracked the code, but it became painfully obvious that I had only cracked the code for that moment, with that story, and with one judge due to the poor quality of the other entries.
I’ve experienced other moments of elation–other moments when the universe coalesced into illusive veils of success–moments in which I could convince myself that I belong to the same human race as others–that I belong, and that I deserve the answers to the codes that have barred me for decades.
I bring this up for an important reason, and not merely because I need to give voice to my thoughts. Recently, I felt I cracked an important code. I cracked the code of the book I was working on–where to begin, where to end. And as with all past experiences with my code-cracking abilities, I believed in that moment that I had finally cracked the code to life.
But I haven’t, have I? Do you want to know why? There is no code–that’s the horrifying truth. I will never find the answer that will allow me entrance into the secret society of human beings. There isn’t a handshake. There isn’t a secret numerical list, a selection of words that rents the curtain.
The truth is horrifying, but it’s equally liberating. I no longer need to find the answers that will make me human. I’m already that. I’m weak. I’m broken, and God has reached me through my weaknesses. His veil was rent, not simply for those around me, but for me. Do I need more proof than that?
Do you feel as unsettled as I do? Do you feel uneasy with my answer? God has reached me, but if there’s no code to be broken, no answer to be found, then the problem with humanity was always in my head. And that leaves the problem squarely with me, with a version of me so little, so young that the answer is incomprehensible–no code, no answer, no fix.
Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be, after all.