What does normal mean to you? Often we tell each other things like, “No one’s parents are normal”, or “we’re all a little crazy”, but do we really stop to think about what these things mean?
To me, normal means regular, average, conforming to a standard,usual, typical, or expected. It means the life my friend Samantha had growing up. (Samantha is actually a a combination a friends I had throughout elementary, middle school and high school so that those friends’ identities and that of their families and their life experiences can be protected and remain private) Samantha defined normal. She got good grades, but not great. She was a good kid, but was in trouble once in a while. She played basketball, and did dance class. She liked basketball, and tolerated dance. She was funny, and liked to play jokes. Her whole family would play jokes on each other. Her family was close, but not the kind of close that mine was. They were really close— not “make sure people who see us think we are close”. You could tell, by the way her parents talked to eachother, or how her mom knew to pack extra shoes when Sam wore the ones that gave her blisters to church. She had a younger sibling. Her Dad worked. Her mom had a part time job, but was home in the mornings and home when the kids got off the bus. Her parents weren’t afraid to address things head on. In fourth grade, I began wetting the bed again (a common symptom among child abuse survivors). I was incredibly embarrassed about this. I remember wetting my sleeping bag at Sam’s birthday party, and waking up, before everyone else and trying to shove it in the dryer so no one would have to know. Sam’s mom caught me, but she was really kind to me. She talked about how even big kids can wet the bed when they are up so late, and drinking soda so close to bed. She also told me that some big kids wet the bed if they are upset about something, and talking to a grown up can help. She said I could always talk to her. I never did. I don’t know why I didn’t. Later, when I began to really struggle with anorexia, Sam was a friend who stood by me. She didn’t understand, but she was still my friend. She still wanted to rollerskating with me, and go to the mall with me. And rather than shun me, or be afraid to let her daughter be around me, Sam’s mom welcomed me. She kept my “safe” foods around, she planned activities for after eating to keep me from purging. She was, quite honestly, everything my own mother wasn’t capable of being. At the time, I thought she was a nice lady, but she was just my friend’s mom. I couldn’t really reach out and trust her. Looking back at it now, though, I feel saddened by this. This woman, who wasn’t my mother, was doing all the things my own mother SHOULD have been doing, she was doing the normal things.
Normal. What is it? I don’t know. I feel like there are so many areas in life I have had to fake normal. There are so many areas in life that I really need to be taught what normal is, and I am embarrassed to admit to it. I don’t know what normal eating is. I don’t know what normal parenting is. I don’t know what normal handling emotions/dealing with feelings is. I don’t know what normal conflict between two people looks like. I don’t know what normal relationships look like– how needy is too needy? I don’t know what normal sex is. I don’t know what being a grown up really means. I don’t know what it’s like to not feel like a 5 year old child who is pretending to be a “grown up”. I don’t know what normal people do when they are mad. I don’t know what it feels like to be connected to your body. I don’t know what it’s like to not be waiting, at least a little piece of you, even a very teeny tiny in the back of your mind peice, waiting to be hurt. I don’t know how to trust that it’s really okay to admit that I’m not okay. I don’t know how to trust that someone will love the version of me that’s not perfect. I don’t know what it’s like to feel like I’m equal to the people I’m with.