I have had times in my life where I have railed against it and times when I have craved shelter within its walls.
Normal means to be within the confines of what is deemed acceptable.
It can be a word that makes people feel vindicated, on the side of right, within the bounds of what is desired in a measurement of some kind; a blood pressure reading, dates of birth, test scores, bounds of behaviour...
It can be a way of gathering people together "Oh that is entirely normal." was a sentence that made my new mother heart feel so relieved.
And, it is for many, a word of exclusion and fence building.
A young rugby league player sustained serious spinal injuries in the weekend and on announcing that he will now be a paraplegic, a rugby league spokesman said they were holding out hope that there is a mistake and that he will live a normal life.
I was instantly defensive. People with disabilities are normal. Humanity is a continuum of all kinds of measures, kindness and compassion, height, weight, religion, nationality, ethnic group, whether you like nutella or not... all kinds of things make up this crazy human experience.
But to exclude someone from being normal because of an accident is offensive. He is still the same man. Sure he is going to have to make a shitload of changes but he is still the 23 year old he was before that tackle went wrong.
I want to help people to see that this kind of exclusionary speech separates people. In a time where he most needs connection the clumsy attempt at kindness and hope that was offered just pushed his boat further from the shore of "Normal".
Then when I came home I read this from Dr Ronna Detrick. She quotes Dr Estes whose words on normal were a long drink of water for this very thirsty ugly duckling when I first picked up Women Who Run With The Wolves 20 odd years ago.
The 3 Secrets of the Gifted Soul
- “Since you were born gifted, you will never lead an ordinary life.”
- “Eccentricity is the first sign of giftedness. You are made one-of-a-kind, with all your oddities. They are arrows pointing straight to your giftedness.”
- “If you are seeking to be normal, I hope you’ll get over it. Normalcy is the enemy of giftedness.”
So normal gets turned on its head here... To desire normal is too small for us. To desire shelter within the range of what the overculture deems acceptable is what keeps us small. Stops us from speaking our wisdom out into the world, painting our paintings, dancing our dances, singing our songs, writing our poems.
Normal can be a haven where the windows are closed and the air is musty. Where unlived lives gather dust.
I would like to reclaim normal as the whole of the continuum of humanity, with our giftedness and our tediums, our magnificence and our mediocrity are all swimming in the same ocean.
What we fish out is up to us.