By Danea Horn
Have you ever had a grouping of words strike you so profoundly that you almost need to pull your car over when you hear them? Fortunately, I was pulling into a parking spot when they came over the radio, or I would have done just that.
I was listening to Capital Public Radio, our local NPR affiliate. The program was titled Autism Grows Up. You always find fascinating things on NPR. Anyhoo, toward the end of the program, and just as I was driving up to the bank, one of the interviewees, a 27-year-old woman with autism, was talking about having a boyfriend. She said that, for her, marriage seemed to be the ultimate. Being married somehow equated with being “normal.” Then she said one of the simplest, most beautiful and profound things I’ve heard in a long time. She said:
“There is no normal. There’s just me.” - Jackie Armstrong
Wow. Wow. Wow.
How often with illness do we think: “I just want to be ‘normal.’” Maybe normal means not taking medication, not being in pain, having energy or any number of other things we see other people be and do and have.
Just last night, Phillip and I were watching a DVR’d episode of So You Think You Can Dance (which we love, by the way). Hayley was performing a gorgeous contemporary number, and I wondered what it would be like to have a healthy, athletic body that could dance like that.
Life can sometimes be one big comparison between ourselves and what we perceive in others. It is time to drop that. We need to live what Jackie so eloquently stated: “There is no normal. There’s just me.” That’s it. Just me. And just you. Whatever they may be.
Normal really means nothing. It’s just made up. Something our mind uses to judge ourselves. We can let that go. Nothing will happen. Life will still move on. The only difference is that maybe we’ll be a tad more relaxed about whatever life is for us. Pain, no pain. Energy, no energy. Meds, no meds. They just are what they are. If we can become comfortable with that, then we can seek to improve our circumstances and our health without the guilt and the blame and shame, because really all we need to be is ourselves.
That’s one I’m going to repeat over and over again.
Danea Horn is the author of Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Strategies for Women Coping with the Stress of Illness. You can find her online at www.chronicresilience.com.