Monday, February 22, 2010

Not Good at Normal

I seem to be not very good at being normal. Some days I want to be; it feels like it would be so much easier. That fact alone (that it seems to be easier) proves that "normal" is my own delusion. Not that "normal" doesn't exist; it does, as the most common personal trait or event. But since no one has every trait that is most common or experiences every event that is the most ordinary, no one is normal. (And, conversely, even if someone WAS like that, having every highest occurring trait and experience that person would be so unique as to be completely abnormal, since it is normal to be deviant.)

But seriously, some days I wish for an ordinary life with ordinary problems and being able to get out of my head. My mind wanders often, and not always in meaningful or productive ways. For example, I was performing a menial labor task that required no real thinking, and so I started to ponder numbers and their visual opposites, like 12 and 21, 13 and 31, and so forth. It occurred to me that 12 and 21 were 9 numbers apart, and 13 and 31 were 18 numbers apart. Then followed a thought process that involved thinking of a formula to explain this relation, in that when two two digit numbers are visual opposites, take the larger digit, subtract the smaller, and multiply the resulting number by 9 and that's how many numbers apart the visual opposites are. Numerically put, 12 to 21, 2-1=1, 1x9= 9, 12 and 21 are 9 numbers apart. 15 and 51, 5-1=4, 4x9=36, 15 and 51 are 36 numbers apart. It's true for every two digit number; I didn't go any further than that with it.

Why, you may ask, does it matter? It doesn't. A better question is why I was thinking about math at all. It was interesting enough to keep me from thinking about other things, more difficult things with less elegant answers. Like what am I supposed to do when I can't wear glasses because they give me migraines, and the back of my eyelids have developed a dermatological allergy to contacts? Lasik is never considered medically necessary, so I guess I save up for a few years and try to deal with my eyelids trying to blink out my contacts until then.
That's the least of my current concerns. The greatest current concern I don't want to talk about because I don't want to think about it any more, and if I began talking about it I'd want to divulge everything and that would just reveal what a terrible person I really am. Yes, yes, I know I promised to be honest here, but I'm not far enough along in this journey yet to be this honest. Suffice it to say that sometimes I consider horrible things as additions to a resume, rather than with trepidation or fear. I always wanted my life to be interesting.

Lately I've been tired of trying to be normal. Cracks are beginning to show in the overall facade of the "everything is fine, everyone is happy," that is my most often worn persona. I want to take a vacation; not just dropping my kids off with my parents and flying to Hawaii (although I would grab that chance in a nanosecond) but a vacation from being ME. I want to BE someone else for a while, fully and wholeheartedly, someone with problems and concerns completely different from mine. Not because I think their life is easier- oh no, that's an enormous pet peeve of mine- but just to get a break from MY constant inner monologue and deal with something new and fresh.

Now that I've mentioned it, let me explain my pet peeve: I'm 100% behind the idea that life is meant to be a test, to prepare us for something infinitely more expansive. We all have problems, crosses to bear, trials to overcome, and everyone's set of problems is as un-normal as they are. Growing up, whenever I was having a problem or trial or bad experience, my mother would employ the same tactic to make me feel better by trying to give me perspective; she would tell me about someone she knew who was having an even harder, longer, more painful experience than I was. This irritated me to no end. I had a bad knee injury and had to use a walker to get around my apartment and to care for my two toddlers; during that time a friend of mine twisted her ankle. We were on the phone, and she was telling me about how painful and frustrating her injury was, then suddenly she stopped and apologized. "Yours is way worse," was her reason for the apology. You know what? My knee being was as useful as having my thigh and calf attached by a marshmallow, but that did NOT make her ankle hurt less.

I'm behind the idea that life is fair- not in the immediate or mortal sense of the word, but overall, I believe that we're each going through our own test, and NO ONE'S LIFE IS EASIER THAN ANYONE ELSE'S. Conversely, no one's life is harder. Let me explain; we each have different talents and aptitudes, one of which is the capacity to handle pain. Let's assume that I have a pain tolerance of 100 points, and my friend on the phone has a tolerance of 10 points. My knee hurt 90 points. Her ankle hurt 9. Does my knee hurt more? YES. But I'm suffering 90% of my pain tolerance, and SO IS MY FRIEND. We are both suffering 90% of everything we can handle. It is the SAME.

And some people are tested early in life, some late, and sometimes yes, you have a problem and someone else has a much bigger problem at that point. That DOES NOT MEAN that over the course of a lifetime you will suffer less; we'll each get our full 100%. Our knowledge is different, our experiences are different, our trials and the things we find joy in are different, but that does not make any one of us LESS or MORE than the other. If you comparing your suffering to someone else's gives you perspective and brings you some measure of peace, good on you. That is your right and I have nothing but respect for gaining perspective. But don't you DARE minimize someone else's suffering just because you know it isn't the worse thing out there. You have no idea what their threshold is or what percentage of their total they've completed already. People tell you their problems because they want sympathy and support and love to get through it. Give them THAT, not a dissertation on the overall suffering of others.

And I never understood why my mom thought that telling me other people were suffering would make me feel better at all. People are HURTING, people are in PAIN; what in all that is going make me hurt less?


  1. I'm afraid of sharing my pain for fear that it's too much pain for others to handle. They don't really care that much. When they ask, "how are you" they don't really want to know they're just being polite. Plus when someone knows you're struggling you're treated like you have a disease, people stay away or they show up with a plate of cookies. I will never understand Mormons. Except you. You, I love.

  2. Ramsey- I don't know you, but I see you on Angie's facebook a lot. And any friend of hers is a friend of mine. She's my best. And when I ask how someone is, I really do care. Shared joy is double joy. Shared sorrow is half sorrow.

    Mine Angie, I love you. You always inspire me.

    Yes, a vacation is needed by ALL!

  3. Sometimes I think everyone wears a "everything is fine, everybody's happy" mask and is afraid of letting anyone in. Stress is so high and people are stretched so thin that we don't know how to connect to each other. We're afraid to help, because helping means connecting and connecting means taking off the mask. I've spent nearly three decades trying to understand myself, and somehow I'm still an angst ridden teenager. So I'm very glad you both love me. I love you too!

  4. I'm going to come back to this later. Screaming congested toddler on the lap at the moment. Just wanted to say I was excited to see another blog post from you - I always love your writing!

  5. Angie, my love, you are amazing. I'm always going to be an angst ridden, insecure teenager! No one gets in behind my "I'm okay mask." Let's start a club. And we'll eat peeps, since I've already had 2 in the past 2 minutes.
    The Anonymous Steph