I heard a story once from one of my mentors. We were discussing “normal”. She
frequently visited the States, as that is where her family lived, and she
remembered her first Thanksgiving. The smell of turkey filled the warm home,
cozy spices made their way into the linens and fresh apple pie sat cooling on the
counter for an after dinner treat. The table was set with candles and a Horne of
Plenty overflowed. Sounds picturesque, doesn’t it? Everyone gathered at the
table and pulled out their side arms, placing them all in the middle of the table (a
space in Canada that would be reserved for the main dish). So, with about 15
guns on the table, they all sat down, prayed a blessing over the meal, prayed the
Republicans would get in again, and began to pass the collard greens around ….
while my dear friend sat in shock and fear at the threat on the table. Normal.
She has also spoken of her weight issues. The medical profession once claimed that the use of a now banned substance, “SPEED”, was quite effective in treating childhood obesity. She was part of a group of children that used it during their formative years. She recounted the clarity of thought and wonderful energy that she had while she was taking it. As we are in our formative years, we are defining our meta-programs, our beliefs around what is normal that is conditioning to our current surroundings. When the substance was deemed “unsafe”, all the children were cut off “cold turkey”. I cannot imagine the withdrawal issues that these children and families experienced with little to no support, from their “dealers”. After the withdrawal ended, my mentor went in search to recreate her “normal”.
My mom taught me MANY things during her life. During my formative years we
were living in chaos – THIS I defined as “normal”. My family believed if you had a
problem, someone had developed a pill to fix it. As a result, I was on Prozac when
I was 16 years old. I never learned “normal” mood fluctuations, or normal cycles
hormonally. I remember when I went off of my antidepressants, I felt like I saw
colours for the first time; I remember feeling “happy”, but it was a different kind
of happy, like happIER. Food tasted better and the kids were cuter, but I also was
angrier. I had all these feelings coming at me that I had never had before, and I
didn’t know what to do with them. I had never learned to process emotions – do
emotions need processing? I would sit in fear and anger because I would sit in
happiness, so isn’t that what we do with emotions? I had never learned to
recognize feelings and let them pass thru – EVERYTHING got stuck. And it was
overwhelming, and it made me angry all the time. All my inner voices went
berserk – I felt free and confined by my emotions all at the same time.
I read a beautiful book called Captivating, and it really was an awakening of sorts.
I was all of a sudden “normal”. People had emotions and didn’t medicate them
(was that normal?). But still, what do I do with all these “feelings”?
We had some beautiful friends that sent us on a marriage retreat. During this retreat we worked thru hurts and past and childhood, and we watched our four couple mentors demonstrate to us at the front of the class. They taught us to speak in metaphors that our spouse could relate to, so that they could “feel” what we felt … WELL!!! At last somewhere to PUT my feelings that I didn’t know what to do with – they were Mike’s of course. This ultimately lead to a part of our marriage we referred to as a “trial separation”. I would tell him he made me feel <fill in the blank> … And he would say, “Not my intent, not my problem” I would say, “You don’t tell me you love me so I don’t feel loved.” He would say, “I don’t tell you we have a car everyday – do you still FEEL like we have a car?”
We struggled through the muck of it, finding our normal and defining it for ourselves, picking apart the details and deciding what served us and what we could let go. We let go of the labels of all the things that we thought we “should” do, and we picked up what we “could” do – or what we were privileged to do. One of my best friends told me the secret to her happy marriage of 25 years was to get up and love the shit out of him every day, and to trust and believe that he is doing the same. It is their goal that they go to sleep ridiculously happy with the decision to share a life together. I will admit, I have not always done this, and lately with kids and life changes, we are once again redefining OUR normal. Lately we have a saying that we may not have gotten it right today, but the beauty of marriage these days is that we get to rise in the morning and try again.
Last spring I went for a holiday to my aunts and uncles home in Williams Lake.
As wacky as my family is, they are my NORMAL. We all drink a little too much, we
use trucker words, and we lament about the “good ‘ol days”. We hunt, we fish,
we 4X4, we eat potato chips and dip, we pray before dinner. None of these things
do I do in my daily life, but somehow, when I am with them … IT.IS. NORMAL. It is
where I feel at liberty to raid the fridge and slouch in my comfy pants and
oversized shirts and not shower If I don’t feel like it. I KNOW them, and their
strengths and areas they are growing in. It is a place I feel safe to be just Joy –
even though there is literally a shot gun on the table (its OUR normal).
We used to have these amazingly large Christmas gatherings. The house was
stuffed full of people, presents and food. It looked like mayhem, but it was OUR
normal. The kids would step over sleeping parents on the floor after large turkey
dinners, my dad would slip my grandpa an eggnog with RYE (my grandfather
never drank). Grandpa would give the nod of approval across the room. We
would argue about going to the Christmas Eve service and then all pile into the
minivan to go sing carols. We would come back and argue about German tradition
and whether it was Christmas EVE or Christmas DAY that we opened gifts. We
would settle on ONE gift being opened by each of the kids, and that ended with all
gifts unwrapped and set up.
This year for Christmas we recreated normal again. Our girls are filling each others stockings, rather than Mom doing it. We have asked them for a joint gift from the two of them so that they will have to work together (and we didn’t have to take them shopping). We had friends over who are unable to make it back to their “normal”. It was a small, love -filled day.
I am seeing all the posts about Christmas and Resolutions and what everyone “should” be doing, and while I understand that you may have been laid off and not be able to give your kids all the things you wanted, and you may be worried about the coming year, or worried that your will think that Santa loves other kids more than them. Maybe you feel ashamed that you were unable to have the Christmas you think is “normal”, and you don’t want your children to suffer. Maybe you are on the other end, and you have saved this entre year to lavish on loved ones ALL the gifts, and someone told you that you were not allowed to give as much or in a way that you wanted. Regardless, we are all defining our own normal, and I want to, on behalf of humanity, give you permission to be YOU. Create your normal, and then allow space for that idea to evolve as it will. And I invite you to share your traditions, big or small, and allow space for others to do the same, knowing that we are all in different seasons and what is normal for us may not be normal for someone else. Lets provide sacred space for what serves us all.
From all the gifts under the tree and all the food that was consumed in our holidays, what I remember is my dad sitting on the floor with my mom singing along to Vince Gill, my uncle asleep on the floor with his dog Butch, my aunt and my granny arguing about what should go on in the kitchen and which German word is right, “the high German” or the “low German” version, my cousins climbing the door jams, and grandpa’s slight smirk as he tasted the rye.
So I truly don’t believe it is about the gifts, the resolutions or the food – it’s about the memories that make up
SO, my New Years Resolution is to be my own NORMAL! even if that’s a shot gun on my table 😉
Just my thoughts from here.