Sunday, May 2, 2010

Normal is a City in Illinois

I've been keeping sort of an erratic schedule since March. Between the shenanigans surrounding my 40th birthday, helping direct the school play, and the general madness that comes with family life, I sometimes feel like I'm barely hanging on with the tips of my anxiety-gnawed fingernails. And for someone who loves (obsesses) about structure, this kind of routine really wears on me like an itchy, ill-fitting corset (made of yak hair).

Just recently I thought to myself, "I can't wait until things get back to normal again." Normal? Is there really such a glorious thing as normal? What does normal even look like? At the time I hatched this pie-in-the-sky thought, I suppose I was thinking about a schedule in which I knew what to expect every day (insert eye roll and cackle here). I know, I know...but I at least like to know sort of how my day will present itself. I enjoy balancing my time between work, rest, and leisure activities. I could absolutely never be one of those people who races from one thing to the next until falling into bed, totally spent. This is especially important because I live with an autoimmune disease that rears its ugly head when this balance becomes...ummm....unbalanced.

To add an extra little crazy to my already special demeanor, I wrestle with anxiety and my ongoing, sometimes relentless pursuit of attempting to control my schedule (and well, most everything), and then experience stress when things don't work out just-so. This stress affects the autoimmune hoo-ha, thus creating someone I call Crazy Angie (although I'm certain my friends and family have chosen other endearing names for her).

Crazy Angie is not especially fun to be around and, as you can imagine, I do my best to avoid unleashing her too often. I'm sad to say that she's made her share of public appearances in the past couple of months, hence my longing for something I call normal. It's such a funny word. I never, ever like to think of myself as normal. I like my quirky outlook on life and I guess I'd even be somewhat offended if someone considered me normal or boring. So wishing for normal with regard to my personality or viewpoints would be silly. To me, weird = normal. So maybe I long for a boring schedule? Is that it? Do I really want to be that person who becomes so inflexible with her schedule that she can't meet a friend for an impromptu cup of coffee or game of Scrabble? I really hope not. I think normal is such a subjective word and maybe I just need to pick a different way to describe what I want to experience. Maybe it's just plain balance. And balance for me is different than balance for you or anyone else. I can still be quirky and off-center within the confines of balance. I can learn to say no if my schedule feels too full for me and my health feels out-of-sorts and I can work on releasing feelings of guilt surrounding all of that. I can know that my mental and physical health outweigh other people's expectations of what I should be doing.

I feel pretty self-aware and just have to remember to keep myself on track. I am also eliminating the word normal from my vocabulary. Normal, schmormal...I'd just rather be a very balanced Crazy Cat Lady.


  1. My niece has an auto-immune hoo-ha (not the same as your's but I was telling her about you yesterday). She'd been hospitalized because it flared up in the course of the holidays and completing her masters. She just thought it was 'normal' overworking. Then, BAM! blindsided. She's very meticulous and organized. Lists upon lists. Sound familiar? She'll graduate mid May.
    so, when you're faced with such things, it pays to be hungry for structure. It helps you get things done even when it seems the 'normal' person couldn't.

  2. So true, Ang, so true. Sometimes I'll feel guilty if I don't push myself like someone else does and then I realize--everyone has their own way of finding that balance. That other person may be able to take on 10 things at once, but for me to feel balanced (or at least to attempt it!) I can maybe only take on 5. And there's nothing wrong with that, we are all different. Some of us more different than others. :-) Thanks goodness for that, right?!


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