Sunday, December 19, 2010


One of the things that seems to be pretty ingrained in us humans is a sense of normalcy. In fact normalcy (or feeling normal) may be the single greatest driving factor in our daily lives.

We get up each morning and do what we normally do. When doing something other than what is normal, we take note of it; the common thread uniting special days is that they involve doing what we don't normally do.

Although we may daily experience aches and pains, or allergy symptoms, or stress and tension, we don't determine that we are "sick" unless we experience symptoms that are not "normal".

Normalcy defines our tastes to the point that we often don't like new foods even before we've tried them. It hones our sensibilities so that we may routinely experience events that cause trauma in others and yet not notice them ourselves.

The absence of normal can lead to discomfort and anxiety. When we go to new environments, we often carry with us elements of our normal lives helping us to quickly establish a semblance of normalcy.

Think about it. Normal is really important to us.

It's powerful.

It's limiting.

It's more limiting than anything else we experience.

Why? Because we don't think of normal as a statistical measurement of what happens on average. We think of it as somehow being more thank that, something meaningful, purposeful.

In fact, normal is purposeful, but the purpose does not lie in normalcy itself. Instead, it lies in our human need for anchor points, landmarks that let us know where we are. The anchor points could be pretty much anything that provides a sense of constancy and place. But since we tend not to think about ourselves and our sensibilities in those terms, we default to normal.

I've written before about my daughter Eila's quest for what she would do in life, how she pursued academics, and then music and drama, and then fashion design and so on. She did well in all these, and yet always felt that there was something more, something she couldn't put her finger on.

Her breakthrough came when she realized that she'd been afraid to abandon her anchor points. For Eila, who had always been a great student, anchor points were found in school grades. One day she told me, "Dad, I know why I've been so afraid to just leave school and go for what I want! When I'm in school, there's always someone grading me. It gives me a sense of who I am and how I fit in. But you know what? I've decided that I don't need anyone to grade me anymore!"

At twenty, Eila threw off the chains that bound her to her anchor points and it completely changed her life.

In the telling, Eila's actions may not seem like such a big deal. As an adult, you gotta move past looking for the gold stars at the top of your homework assignments or the affirmation from others that you're on the right path, right? And yet, most attempts to do so are simply forms of substitution, trading one source of affirmation for another.

Only rarely do we encounter folks who dare to become self-referential in regard to their assessment of course, direction and quality of work. When we do, we often caution against it. We cry out from our well anchored places in space and time, "A person has to be grounded in reality. You can't just run off and decide which way is up and which is down! How do you know if what you're doing is any good?"

And yet, our anchor points themselves are just statistical phenomena, happenstance, luck of the draw... normalcy. Had you been born in another place and another time, your anchor points would be completely different.

What's normal for you? (Perhaps it's best seen in the light of what's not.)

How do you handle situations that are not normal? Are they cause for consternation or celebration, either or both? If either, in what circumstance does an absence of normalcy lead to your being ill-at-ease? In what circumstances does it lead to relaxation? How can you learn from the contrast to be comfortable not matter what?

What are your anchor points? Which ones have you defined deliberately? Which ones are artifacts of normalcy? What would your anchor points be if you were going to draw them up from scratch? What would change as a result?


1 comment:

  1. why does an image of normalcy seem so normal, or desired? You hit it square Teflon. It seems to have everything to do with insecurities, fears, and limititing ourselves with fearful reactions to unknowns, based on fundamental make beliefs about ourselves and the universe??

    What if upon awakening, one chooses to seek to focus, on how outrageously joyfully one can embrace whatever crosses ones path, (gift wise) this present?

    If like me for example, ones feet and legs that are 'noticeable,' and wishing attention, sending me messages of pain.... I'm focusing on learning to acknowledge the sensations and parts of my body are wishing attention, and, on dressing myself with genuine gratitude and joy for making their presence known, for their years of companionship and support in our adventures together.

    What are these aches and pains? Are they not merely reactions of the habit of thoughtlessness? To be acceptable we might label them as 'normal. Do we question the usefulness of using our present/presence to dance with aches/pains? Or do we choose to embrace them, dismissing them as normal? What if we choose to make them up differently, or change our focus?

    I choose to remind myself that we each and all are quite limitless.
    Being anchored ties me down. I want and choose instead to embrace and to celebrate my freedom. Yes I may choose to anchor down for an evening, or two, but never loosing sight of the usefulness of revelling in my freedom and awareness of doing this to myself.

    normally benevolent, lol


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