06 November 2007

One can only try

One can only try to be normal.

Normal is indefinite, changeable, elusive. It can mean anything. It includes almost everything, depending on where one is and what time it is. Trout for breakfast, remaining silent, speaking up, a desire for acceptance, a fear of death, five fingers on each of two hands, choosing the green crayon for coloring leaves, having difficulty remembering names.

Normal. All normal.

A neighbor complains that another neighborhood resident is "not normal." Pressed for specific behaviors that support her impression, she says "She wants to know what everybody is doing. She leaves her laundry on the line all night. She has indoor furniture on her front porch. She drinks beer in the morning. Nobody's ever seen her husband."

I often refer to myself as "a freak" which translates variously at Thesaurus.com as weirdo, enthusiast and divine act. I use it to refer to a) the frequency with which my behavior is perceived by others to be curious, odd, inappropriate, quirky or inconsistent; b) the frequency with which I feel out of step with most of the people around me; and c) the absence of certain routines and the excess of other types of routines that define my life.

In my perfect dream of living, no one uses "normal" as a yardstick to measure anything or anyone else and just being is good enough and complaints or problems are discussed in specific enough terms to allow a meaningful conversation about possible correctives.

To say "normal" is to say very little. It is, too often, an unkind, ineffective shorthand. To a degree, it's unavoidable since even the most eloquent speech is incomplete and inaccurate. The limitations of language. But the possibilities between us expand in direct proportion to the integrity and care and intentionality we bring when we talk to each other. The difference between "Be nice!" and "Please don't interrupt or talk with your mouth full of food" is immense. The first statement may communicate your displeasure with me; the second statement offers me some options for remedy.

For some people--most notably and painfully, several members of my family--my ideas about language are troublesome and annoying. My request for clarification or confession that I don't understand are read as being too analytical or "playing dumb." Where do I go from there? It feels like a closed door that I've stood outside of my entire life.

In moments of desperation or wretched yearning, my mind frantically schemes, concocting scripts, lines to deliver that might give an impression of normalcy. I try to design a facade, paying attention to language and posture and facial expressions. How does one convince or prove...or delude others into the perception that one is normal?

Even if the disguise succeeds in the moment, there is the long history of being perceived as "not normal" to deal with. And given the slippery nature of "normal," maintaining the pretense long enough to overcome the preconceived notions and earn the other's trust is a daunting task.

I'm not sure it's possible.

One can only try.

1 comment:

  1. can you say the same things for "happy"?

    I don't think people care if I'm normal, but they seem to want me to be happy.

    And that's what I want for them as well.

    YB Normal,


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