I think the first time I noticed it was a few months ago.
“How are you? How do you feel?”asked Charlie the shrink (who I haven’t seen now for months, due to a simple lack of things to say). I hesitate for a moment, assessing myself. Looking at myself from the inside out and outside in. I see myself as I was the last time Charlie saw me- crumpled into a crying, heaving heap. Still feeling persecuted and bruised and unable to imagine myself feeling any other way but that.
And then I look at myself as I am, in that moment. A head filled with little things- errands, daydreams and ideas and all manner of things that are banal and mundane and ordinary.
“I’m… good” I surprise myself with how true this is. “I feel… normal.”
Charlie is a clever man, and he gives this sentiment the validation it deserves. We’ve defined ‘normal’ before, as it stands in this situation. I’d told him, over and over, that while I recognised ‘normal’ as a relative concept. I just wanted to be ‘back to normal’, as I saw it. I wanted to be able to have normal interactions with people again. I wanted to live a day that wasn’t marked with pain and flashbacks. I wanted to feel like a part of society again, like your average human being. Not like a pariah, a victim, an oddity.
It’s not until I look back at the last six months that I realise how much that feeling of being ‘normal’- returning to the real world- has permeated my life. That’s the thing with normal, perhaps. When it leaves your life, it does so with alarming speed and sudden clarity. But it sneaks itself back in, so slowly and with such settled ease that you barely notice it all.
And it presents itself in the strangest ways. It shows itself when I realise I rarely ever experience that feeling of deep bitterness anymore, the one that used to swarm my mind like a hive of bees whenever I contemplated the reality of parenting alone, compared to wrangling children in a pair.
It’s there when I find myself surprised at the shock on people’s faces as they learn about my husband’s death. I used to dread social interactions for fear the topic would come up- the possibility of that question being asked would permeate the conversation and I’d be able to think of nothing else. Now it’s a blip, an inconsequential dot on my social radar that passes soon enough, and leaves no lasting damage.
I recognise normalcy, oddly enough, in the way I can be bored, apathetic, alone with my thoughts… and not need to run. I can daydream and not cry. I don’t write as much, don’t work as much, because I no longer need to focus that hard on something just to feel I have a substance, a purpose. I still love to explore, but without the same unquenchable thirst I had before… maybe I no longer need to dive into the remnants of other people’s lives in an attempt to forget my own.
Lately, I’ve begun to feel quite boring. I’ve had to reassess that, remind myself that maybe it’s not ‘boring’, but ‘normal’. And as I’ve said before, that’s a blessed state to be in once you’ve been out of it. It’s comfortable and indulgent and fits like a well-worn glove.
It’s like putting the person you’ve always been back on.
Normality is a head space… boring could become a way of my life.
I’m about to turn life, and that of my children’s, upside down again. There’s guilt from that, and it picks at me.
At least this time it’s on my own terms.
I think- I hope- it’s for the best; that this upheaval will eventually lead to happiness for all of us.
Normal is great. But I’m selfish and greedy and I want happy, too.
Big changes are happening, here, very soon. I’ll keep you posted.