March 12, 2013

Where Have All the Normal People Gone?

I sometimes wonder where all the good ol’ average human beings have run off to.

It seems so easy to fill your life with judgment and loathing for others, and for yourself.

I observe how unfortunately easy it is to say something sharp or sarcastic, often in the guise of “humor.” (Putting other people down isn’t witty.)

I also take care to notice that it’s too easy to disregard those people in jobs “beneath” us, as if what you do for a living has anything to do with the character of your soul; as if store-bought education is the same thing as wisdom.

I sit, I see, and I wonder, where have all the normal people gone? You know, the ones who like to play board games, eat homemade food and talk about things that deeply matter to them.

I spoke with an old friend on the phone last night. I haven’t talked to him in literally a couple of years. His voice sounded exactly the same and it was totally normal and relaxed to have a conversation together. To me, this is a friend.

As I get older and more experienced in life (dare I say wiser), I take to heart that all people everywhere have idiosyncrasies and difficult personal attributes that are sometimes a challenge to deal with (dare I say love). Knowing this makes it actually easier to care for the people that have been in my life with me through many phases and experiences. Knowing that everyone I’m blessed to encounter and call a “friend” will at some point annoy me or upset me, because people aren’t perfect—no one is perfect—actually helps my relationships tolerate periods of discord.

Yet, while living in a new area surely brings new opportunities for connections, living anywhere can transport new relationships into your life. Will you nurture them and encourage them to grow? Or will you shut them out and stay closed off from the knowledge you could gain about yourself through these connections, much less what you could learn about the world around you?

I’m tempted, quite honestly, at times to hole up and close off—but I can’t do this. There’s an innate part of me that adores the bonds I forge with others; that adores them so much that this might be what defines me in my life; what largely defines my authentic self and my deepest needs.

My two-and-a-half year old daughter also loves people. She is also defined by her outgoing nature and need to shine with the people around her. How much of this is truly innate in me, and in her?

As I try to form solid friendships and make life-changing decisions to live my life as an open, honest person, I’m also forced to acknowledge how few people seem to do this; how few people seemingly expose themselves to others, even in the simplest of ways.

A smile, a thoughtful word, a conversation with a stranger.

Yes sometimes I feel raw and naked because I open myself to the painful aspects of human interaction when I open myself to this world. Conversely, I couldn’t have the same depth in my marriage, or in any of my relationships, if I didn’t. Absolutely, such exposure sometimes puts me at risk for infection, but isn’t the occasional injury worth it if almost all the rest of the time brings sincerity and connected pleasure?

So where have all the normal people gone?

The ones that read novels and take walks. The ones that actually look up at night and breathe in the evening stars.

I know that life hurts. I know that bad things happen to good people. I also know that not everything out there brings misery, and that there are still normal people who lament having to drive a car to work instead of bike or hike. I know there are still people who go to bed at nine o’clock and get up and see the sun rise. I know that these people exist because I’m one of them.

I drink in the night sky. I prefer to read books or play board games before bed. I’m willing to be open to life and to its players despite learning that a few of them maybe don’t have the most honest or admirable playing terms—because I know there are still plenty of people out there like me, “normal” people.

I saw a quote the other day that was an unlikely source of inspiration.

Morticia Addams (yes, The Addams Family character) apparently said,

“Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”

What’s your version of “normal?” I’m certain that it’s probably not the same as mine.

Possibly you loathe reading and much prefer TV to silly games. Maybe you enjoy driving to work. Regardless, I hope that you spend time thinking about what it is that you’re giving back to our world and to the people in it that make up your life.

Do you treat them with respect? Are you honest with your feelings? Are you accessible to the people who need you: your kids, your spouse, your family and friends? Or do you hide?

What are you hiding from?

In a short while I’ll be heading out to pick up my daughter from school. She’ll get into the car and she’ll almost definitely smile at me and point to random things outside her passenger window. Whether or not I return her smile and take the time to find where her gaze has settled, so that I might engage with her on what she’s seeing; or whether I turn up the radio and choose to shut her out of my world (and where my own inner gaze, my constant monkey mind, is frequently internally settled) by making superficial eye contact and ignoring her childish curiosity for the “more important things” in life, is entirely up to me.

Forming relationships with other people, “normal” by my estimation, is my choice.

It’s not my choice that friends can be hard to find and make because the world seems to be increasingly populated with self-centered, Facebook I-took-another-picture-of-myself-in-the-bathroom-mirror photograph-posting people. Ah, but it is my choice to not become one. It’s absolutely my choice, and my right, to live and let my own inner authentic light shine, even if it sometimes it appears that the world wants a dimmer, muter version of me.

So where have all the “normal” people gone?

They’re right here. They’re reading my post. Each and every one of us has the option every single time that we wake up to make today a new day, to make our selves new, and to stop living the lie that you are not good enough exactly the way that you rolled out of bed.

Are you normal?


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


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