Does anybody really know what normal is? Does anybody really care? (You should be singing a Chicago song as you read those questions…)
I spent many of my professional years working with my friend, Diane and hundreds of teachers to raise our capacity to successfully teach students learning English as their second (third or fourth) language. The specific training was called “Project G.L.A.D.”. One of the things we learned about was how the brain worked and a key strategy to increase learning was to connect new language to emotion.
Since learning that idea, I’ve often reflected on my own learning and life experiences and I’ve found that it’s really true. Emotion plays a large role in learning and in memory. Thus, I have a clear memory of this specific moment in my life though my childhood friend, Cindy, will confirm that my longterm memory is horrid. (She tells me stories from our early years and it’s like I wasn’t even there.)
This memory is clear and it involves another childhood friend, Janice. Janice, my mom and I were standing in our kitchen. I can picture it clearly…the kitchen cabinets were stained green. My dad surprised my mom and lovingly sanded and stained them one summer while my mom was with my sisters on a high school youth group trip. It took him the full ten days that they were gone. As soon as he got home from work every day at 6:30, he changed clothes and went to work in the garage until late into the night or early morning. It was a labor of love. The 70s kitchen look was completed with its yellow tile counters, lovely speckled linoleum floor and copper-colored appliances. The family room (really a family “corner”) had large orange and yellow flowered wallpaper, an orange chair, a console-style tv, and an “antique green” kitchen table.
So back to the memory…The three of us, Janice, my mom and I were standing in the kitchen and I made some dumb teenage comment about something not being “normal”. My mom reacted quickly by “snapping” me on my cheek with her fingers and asking me, “What IS normal?”
Huh? She shocked me physically and emotionally with that snap. Thus the event and the question stuck in my memory. And I remember my 13-year-old self thinking – it’s just a word…sheesh – lighten up. But it obviously caused me to do a little more thinking about the word. I mean…”normal” is just me-my world, my realm. It’s my life. My friends. What kind of a question was that? Normal is me.
Clearly, my mom made an impact on my thinking because here I am, 50 years later, reflecting on her question, “What is normal?” And who gets to define it?
No need to perseverate on a metaphysical, moral, or emotional definition of “normal”. And I’m not going to go to the dictionary like I usually do. For today, I’m just going to think about it in personal terms. I’m going to say that Glen and I will be learning how to live in our new “normal” world. His feeding tube will change how we live. It will create a new “normal” for us. And it will be OUR normal. Not yours. Not theirs. Ours.
I don’t think Glen would mind me inviting you to join us in the journey of learning to live in our new normal. Some of the journey will be shared here on the blog. And Glen really meant it when he invited y’all into our home. So please…join us as we redefine our new “normal”. I can assure you that there will be some bumps along the way. It just might be a wild adventure!
And finally…Thank you, Mom. Thank you for “snapping” me into questioning my thinking. For making me stop and examine life from the viewpoint of others. For being ahead of the times.
Normal. What a weird word.