January 27, 2014

How to Be a Free Spirit.

“To study the abnormal is the best way of understanding the normal.” ~ William James

I am a free spirit.

Perhaps you are as well?

We dance on a path that doesn’t fit neatly in a box. I may appear as selfish to the ones proclaiming the cookie cutter lifestyle, but I’m not. Well, except when it comes to one thing: normalcy.

I freely admit that the word, normal, gives me chills along my spine.

I’m selfish because I don’t want my son with Asperger’s to change for others.

I hate to see him bending into the mold of “normal,” folding into the unattainable, but expected ways of being. I want the others to change.

Writer Rachel Robertson discusses a key point about normal, “Many writers in disability studies have pointed out, normalcy is a creation that is dependent on the creation of its unequal opposite, abnormality or disability.”

Normalcy depends upon there being an other, or an abnormal—a dualistic dependency.

Our culture depends upon the normal to pave the way, pushing us into unrealistic expectations, which end up as the underlying source of our angst, our sadness and our unjust experiences. It is here that our anger represents our unmet desires, and I believe that a desire represents our authentic self breaking free from the parameters of normal.

A self that is able to feel in the way we want to feel, trusting in our experiences and looking beyond the norm.

Is this possible?

Could we truly embrace ways to change the cultural construction of normal?

Can we rip open the very seams of a society that builds upon the myth of perfection, upon the illusion of expectations rooted in normalcy?

I settle into my selfish thoughts, ignoring the “yea…buts,” and look through my experiences for an insight into shifting the paradigm of normal. Not surprisingly, my life is filled with experiences that question social expectations.

Simply put, I am a free spirit.

We, the free spirits, tend to move through the parameters.

We flutter beyond the boundaries because they are more like curtains than walls, providing a source of inspiration for our creativity. Free spirits know that we can move through the permanent, as it really is only our perception of walls that keep us inside—persuade us that normal isn’t really normal after all.

In a way, a free spirit is like being a journalist hovering around a story.

We don’t always follow the AP guidelines, nor do we always look for an angle, but we must write the words—tell the story that others are afraid to speak.

Even more so, free spirits truly abhor the word deadline, as it symbolizes that a story must be completed and polished when, in fact, a story is ever changing even after the words solidify into print.

And, at times, I am selfish in being a free spirit—a guide through and beyond the cultural construction of normal—because I have no choice.

It’s my journey; I must be fluid with the rigidity of my son’s quirks. I learn to teach in a way that is rooted in compassion, not black-and-white numbers and statistics.

In my quest, I’ve learned that being a free spirit is essential in our world. As free spirits, our hearts grow so enormous. Our arms open so wide. Our minds let go of expectations, but we do not give up on those we love, nor the difficult ones.

Free spirits may led the way to redefining our cultural construction of being to encompass more than just normal. Maybe, normal will dissolve under the weight of our words, and our compassionate actions.

Free spirits never give up. I have not given up (considering the roadblocks I’ve stumbled upon on my path), but I do grow tired at times. So I must remind myself of these words:

“I say it again: Never Give Up!” ~ the Dalai Lama.

I’ve been carrying around this tattered post card with the Dalai Lama’s words for years (even before my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s). I’ve switched it from one journal to another, as we’ve moved, trying to find a place in which our son feels free to be his authentic self.

On my journey, I’ve discovered the secret about how to be a free spirit: I shall never give up, but I will always give in to compassionate actions by sharing my open-heart in a playful way.


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo Credit: Alessandra Cassola/Pixoto











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