My friend has had a very unexpected family crisis. She was living her life, a good life at that, and one day, in one moment, her entire life as she knew it was something else. We are taught certain facts in life. If you’re of a certain generation, you were taught Pluto is a planet and brontosauruses are dinosaurs. You are taught that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. You are taught certain laws of physics and the law of gravitation. You are taught good sportsmanship. You are taught that life is hard, but with hard work, anything is possible.
But see, life is funny. And when I say funny, I mean it brings people to their knees crying, and not in a laughing sort of way. Turns out Pluto isn’t a planet anymore, and brontosauruses never really existed. Let me tell you, I am still all sorts of pissed off about those two changes in “facts.” In fact, I still get pissed off about discovering that the way things are supposed to be, usually are not. My friend has stumbled onto this discovery as well, and she is all sorts of pissed off.
She said all she wants is to be normal, to have a normal loving family, to live a normal fulfilling life. I mean really, she certainly deserves that–she was minding her own business, recycling, contributing to the economy, doing her part in social justice issues, volunteereing a lot, raising a good family, supporting her friends. She understood relationships are hard; she worked at those things that make them hard. But see, we’re taught that relationships are hard AND there’s a happily ever after. That’s what we’re taught is normal.
She’s grieving many losses right now. She’s grieving the loss of the life she once knew. She’s grieving the loss of the structure and rules and the resulting rewards that life is supposed to be about. She’s grieving the loss of her understanding of who a loved one was. She’s grieving the loss of her projected future as she understood it. She’s grieving the loss of her 40-plus years of life as she knew it. She’s grieving the loss of trust and faith and safety and love. She’s grieving the loss of the concept of normalcy that buffers us in life events, that guide us in life’s decisions, that provides a comfortable safety zone.
She is discovering in her heart and soul that there is no normal. That’s another “fact” that is in fact a lie. Normal doesn’t exist. Messy exists. Complicated exists. Nuances exist. Shades of grey exist. Humans are messy. Relationships are messy. We’re all on a spectrum of messy and complicated and vagaries, and we move along this spectrum through life, and that is in fact normal. But normal as an end point? No such thing.
There is stumbling and bumbling along. There are paths paved in uncertainty. There are many moments of fear and betrayal and dread and anger and grief. There are moments of grace and empathy and compassion and mercy. All of that jumbled, bumbled mess is normal. But there is no one normal path paved in good deeds and hard work with occasional potholes of crises that get patched up neatly.
There is a happily ever after that is possible. It’s not the one we were taught as youngsters. It’s one we each need to define for ourselves as we stumble down our own individual paths of uncertainty and struggles in our messy pajamas with hair all askew. Our paths never lead us where we expect–we don’t get pre-programmed GPS directions. Our destinations change, oftentimes without our input. It would have been nice if our tour guide in life warned us of this at the beginning of our trip; if we knew that Normal is the place where Supposed-To-Be’s reside, and that in fact this town is actually fictional.
But never mind. We’ll make do. My friend, she is resilient. She has struggled with her own demons through the years, and she’s bravely done her own hard work of facing her Truths. She knows despite the pain and fear and uncertainty, she is brave and strong and resilient. She has had good practice with doing hard things,; she is a Warrior in every sense of the word. Despite being burdened by this current mess that is reminding her there is no normal, she is realizing messy is not an indictment of who she is or what she deserves. It just is. Messy.