Friday, January 20, 2012


normal |?nôrm-el|, adjective: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected, free from physical or mental disorders.

Most people are normal. Most are born mentally and physically healthy and remain largely so throughout life. Because we each must live our entire life within the confines of our physical being, we generally consider "normal" to be whatever we and our circumstances are. And because of that, it is difficult for us to get a true perspective on life. We occasionally see others who are visibly different from ourselves, but while we may empathize, we have no real way of knowing how they view and deal with life on a day-to-day basis.

Yesterday, at Walgreens, I saw a young man in his early-to-mid 20s, to whom I was immediately physically attracted. We were both at the pharmacy counter, and he was perhaps three feet from me. In front of him was a pile of coins with which he was doing something...I couldn't tell what. A quarter rolled under a counter computer and went behind a wire. He searched for it but couldn't find it. At last one of the pharmacists came up and retrieved it for him. A simple enough scene, but in it I immediately recognized that there was something...not "normal"...about him, and my heart sank for him. To be young, and attractive, and yet somehow tragically different, deprived of something most of us take so much for granted...forced me once again to take a look at my own life.

I do not consider myself "normal." In fact, I have worked very hard for most of my life not to be normal in my attitudes, outlooks, or responses to life. But my not being normal is a matter of choice. The young man at Walgreens--and so many more like him, so often unseen or ignored by others--did not have that choice. That they somehow manage to deal with their condition...the fact that whatever their condition may be is "normal" to them...amazes me. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be in their position. But they manage, and my sincere admiration for them is limitless. It is not a matter of their being more brave, or noble than anyone else, though they undoubtedly much as it is of each dealing with their "normal" the best way they can.

As I grow older, I often view with abject terror the fact that what has always, always been "normal" for me, physically, is being taken away from me. I can no longer run. I can no longer eat a full meal, or lift my head high enough to drain a glass of water, or, or, or. Yet when I consider that there are so many people who have never run, or walked, or heard a symphony or seen a sunrise...I feel utterly ashamed of myself for blowing my petty problems so far out of proportion.

Others have so many gifts and talents and abilities...and youth and beauty...that I do not, that I lose track of the fact that there are those who may envy some of the things and experiences which are part of my personal "normal." I have such an infinite number of things to be grateful for, yet I often am not, because those things are "normal" to me and I accept them without thought. I'm sure the same is true of you. It's only when we are able to step outside ourselves--not an easy task--that we can appreciate all that we have. I know that when I am able to do so, I am infinitely grateful for the fact that, while I have lost so much of my physical abilities, lost so many loved ones, and that so many experiences are now forever behind me, I had them! How can I possibly justify resenting their loss to the degree that I too often do?

My sadness upon seeing that young man in Walgreens--and all those physically and mentally deprived of so very many things--is not based on pity, or condescension, but on...what? odd sense of guilt that I have been given, even if not forever, so many wonderful gifts I cannot share with them.

But I do share, by these words, what I can in hopes that while our "normal"s are not the same, our ability to understand and appreciate each other's is.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

I do love your observations and insight, D. A fascinating thought that would blow our minds is that same young man probably had a similar thought process (in his own way) about others in the past and will again in the future.

No matter what level of normality someone is (including those that would seem abnormal for us, which is perfectly normal for them), they will also look at someone and think how unlucky someone is.

My father does. He'll see someone now and remark how sad it is that someone doesn't have this or that, which confounds me. Am waiting for him to say how sad it is someone doesn't have a memory like his, which he'll promptly forget he said.

Like I said, it blows the mind.