The older I get, the less I believe in the concept of normal.
When I get into intimate conversations with people, which I often do, I discover, over and over again, that most of us are broken in some way. We’ve been battered, abused, hurt, abandoned, our emotions torn asunder in tender moments, our souls wrenched.
The deeper I am let into people’s lives, just as a person, a friend, a pastor, a counselor and coach, the more I see scars, even in cases where people seem, on the outside as perfectly “normal.”
It’s protective coloration, normal. At least that is what I think. The idea of norms and normal help society work. It’s not a bad concept. It’s useful. It’s just not true.
I look normal. Some of me is. And some of me isn’t. I am blind in one eye. I have one arm with a ruptured tendon that doesn’t work right. But you can’t see either one.
I look normal, but it took five years of counseling and therapy, with an occasional refresher to bring me back from hopeless brokenness of heart and soul, to get me back to my normal self. I don’t know that all that work fixed things, it just made me better able to cope and deal.
And that’s good enough.
That’s where most of us are, I have learned. There’s nothing special about my story.
We’re all a little broken. In our own special ways with our own unique stories. It’s a tea party of the mad. I’ve always loved Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland. As a kid, I loved its madcap madness. As an adult, I’ve come to love its wisdom. It’s a strange, unpredictable world we live in, and the best thing is to simply accept it and join the party.
If there is no normal, then we can let go of a lot of the judgment so many of us are plagued with. We can look at the abnormal as just a fact instead of a measuring stick. We can learn of the broken pieces more in a “how can I help?” or “How can I fit in?” way. We can laugh at it. (My kids often laugh at me bonking my head because my blind eye didn’t see something. I laugh with them.)
We can have empathy instead of judgment. And when we do, everything changes.
That’s what happened to me. Coming apart all those years ago was, in the big picture, was the best thing that could have happened to me. It was worth all I lost in the process. Because it was the beginning of my real understanding that we are all a little broken. Not my theoretical, “Sunday School answer” understanding, but my deep in the gut, to the core of my being understanding.
I became kinder. I listened more. Judged less. Loved better. That process continues and the woman I love, whose compassion knows few bounds, had kept me growing. There’s a lot more growth to be had. I know that, but today, I don’t mind my scars and flaws, the ones that can be improved on and the ones that can’t. They are just part of what makes me, me.
But for now, I am content to join the party. Me and Alice and the Wild Hare and pretty much everyone I know. It’s a good party, I think. Far more interesting than the normal I once believed in. And far more true.
Forget normal. This strange abnormal party of the broken and slightly mad is the place to be. Because as the Wild Hare says “All the best people are” here.
Be well. Travel wisely. Dance along the way.