I was scrolling through my brain of what has brought me to where I am in my life now. I tried to find a way to string together the commonality between the biggest bouts of growth I’ve had as person. I find myself today a different person than I was just a couple of years ago. There have been great changes that were of my causing and some were of not. The biggest change in me came from one thing:
No one likes the feeling of being wrong, but I doubt there’s something that has such a power for change if we but embrace our wrongness. Just sit there for a while, being wrong. Being right rarely challenges our worldview, it rarely requires us to think outside the box- or the compartments- we’ve built for ourselves. While there are many experiences that challenge us to grow and to be more, there are few things that require introspection like finding out we were wrong about something we were sure- we KNEW- we were right about.
After Casey was diagnosed with autism, I wanted answers. I wanted to know why he regressed, why he lost his words, imitation and love of all foods. I searched and found and answer that felt right: the vaccines. His regression was RIGHT after he was vaccinated, right? I mean, it was around that time. But it had to have caused it. Right? I stopped vaccinating him and delayed vaccinating Peyton until I was sure he didn’t show some of the early pre-regression signs Casey had. Even then, against the science-based arguments of a doctor I now have a lot more respect for-I delayed his vaccines as long as I could stomach. I did not want to be wrong. I didn’t want to give Peyton autism, too. I was wrong. But not about Peyton’s autism. I was wrong about vaccines.
I had done what so many had done before me. I had wanted answers where there were none. When I came across data that proved otherwise, I found myself doing what is well documented in controlled psychological experiments: I dug in. My belief only got stronger in the face of conflicting data. I built up walls inside my brain to continue to be right about something because ANY answer was better than none. It gave me control in an area I felt completely powerless. Eventually, I embraced my wrongness. I dragged all of my kids down to the doctor and go them all caught up on their vaccines and have vaccinated them on schedule ever since (minus the times the doctor’s couldn’t allow Abby to be vaccinated because of her health issues).
Since realizing I was wrong I’ve felt a need to steer people away from the very real dangers of not vaccinating their kids. I’ve fought hard against the prophetess of the movement- Jenny McCarthy. I seek to prove her in her wrongness so that other people aren’t led down that path. Being SO wrong about something like this changed how I felt about vaccines, but not how I felt about being right. It didn’t shake me of my belief that my gut, my feelings about The Unanswerable Questions. I went on being right. I went on not challenging my preconceived notions about family, faith and who I am and what my place on this earth was to be. Until I was wrong again.
Into my adult life I believed that being gay was a choice. I remember when I read the science behind orientation and my beliefs were challenged. People are born gay. Instead of rethinking the whole issue, I went with what I was told: Sure, sure, they can be born gay, but they don’t have to be gay. They can be celibate. They don’t need LOVE, companionship or even to be recognized as equal to heterosexuals. They still had a choice. Ugh. It wasn’t until I had children who were born different that I saw the parallels. Though there is no disability in being gay beyond what society has imposed on it, my rightness was challenged in fighting for equal rights for my children. For fighting for inclusion. I didn’t want people to leave my kids out because of the way they were born. In that moment I knew I had a choice: Be a hypocrite, or be wrong.
I chose to speak out for equal rights. In so doing, my rightness was again challenged in regards to my faith. My testimony was challenged not by people outside the faith- but from people on the inside. I was told that it was 100% true or 100% false. There was no grey area. So I studied. I spent a year studying it all. I came out on the other side ripped from the whole framework of which I had built my life. I had been wrong. It wasn’t what I had thought it to be. There is no pain-none- like that feeling. It was a death, a defeat, a divorce all wrapped in one. Being wrong about something that so many times I had stood before a congregation and said that I knew, not even that I believed, but that I knew, felt like it split atoms within my soul. I broke into a million pieces and have put myself back together completely rearranged.
The pain of being wrong about this thing, and the ongoing pain of other’s believing that I am now wrong, has it’s fingers in every area of my life. But it’s opened me up to something remarkable: though wrong hurts, it opens our brains up to endless possibilities. It forces us out of the boxes we create for ourselves and allows us to become whatever we want to be. It gives us compassion and empathy but mostly, it gives us a reason to listen to the other side of the debate. Being wrong before has opened me up to the possibility that I am now wrong and will be wrong in the future. Being wrong has freed me. I see the universe in a brand new light. I see science as art and the Unknown Answers as having endless possibilities. My brain is free to roam into any idea, and then it is challenged to decide if it is right or if it is wrong. I’m cautiously optimistic about being wrong in the future.
Many of you now are feeling that I am wrong in the views I have said. That’s fine. I could be.
My hope for you this new year is that you will find yourself in your wrongness. That you will be challenged and that you will grow. That you will be set free.
I am free.