Once my surgery was over and I’d had a chance to catch my breath, I found myself in mourning. I mourned my missing 2 feet of intestine, I mourned my scar-free belly, I mourned the illusion that I was healthy. But more keenly than anything, I felt a great sense of loss over the idea of being normal.
I felt strongly that my life had been forever changed, that every metric by which I measure my sense of well-being was no longer valid. This was devastating. Never again would I be normal. From here on out, I have a ‘condition’. The sense of uncertainty and upheaval was both significant and unexpected.
I stayed in this dark place for a while, but I didn’t much like it. As I began to reach out, back into the world again, I began to notice something interesting. Pretty much every one of the people who I hold dear in my life has some ‘condition’, physical ailment, or just plain oddity that keeps them from being normal. Interesting, indeed. I began to think about the folks in my life that maybe I’m not as close to… what about them? As it should happen, they all had something going on too, some attribute that kept them out of the ‘Normal’ camp. So I looked at the people who I perceived as normal and I noticed something common to all of them: I don’t know them well enough to really know what’s going on in their lives. The only exceptions to this were my 2-year-old nephew, and my daughter’s 4-year-old half-brother. What was going on here? There are no ‘normal’ adults in my life??
Here’s how I see it. What we adults *think of* as normal is not what normal is supposed to be. Truly normal means living a life unapologetically your own. Truly normal means being unhindered by worrying about the perceptions of others, of approaching the world with trust, hope, and an open heart. We adults have forgotten how to do this. We have spent so many years fixated on some fictional brass ring of what we think adulthood is supposed to look like that we’ve forgotten to be ourselves. And by definition, to be one’s self is to be vastly, infinitely and deliciously different from everyone else!
Every day I read blog postings, Facebook status and tweets from my fellow Crohnies, and so many of them lament a lack of normalcy. I hear in these complaints my own feelings, but I continue to remind myself that ‘normal’ is not a pain-free gut, 2.5 kids and a house in the ‘burbs. Normal IS my painful gut, and it IS that other guy’s kidney disease, and that gal’s cancer, and that kid’s Asperger’s. Normal is also the joy I get when I sit at my sewing machine, and the poetry you like to write when you’re alone. Normal is a lack of judgment and an acceptance of what ‘is’. Normal is all the drama, complexity and beauty that each of us brings in to this world, and the ways we choose to honor or reject them.
The next time you find yourself thinking that you just wish you could have a normal life, I encourage you to find power and strength in the fact that you already do. Remember that this whole crazy idea that a normal life is one without difficulty or pain is a ridiculous myth.