Saturday, March 7, 2009

Searching for a Normal Life--I Think. . .

This mug was a leftover at an old job I had. When I found it in the cabinet, the message spoke to me so I started using it. When I left the company, I didn't feel like the mug was mine, so I left it. But I missed it, so I asked a friend to ship it to me. We are are still together.

It's an odd saying that always gets a chuckle when people see it, "I know this sounds strange but all I want is a normal life."

What is my definition of a normal life you ask? Well, it's:

  • Working a 9 to 5 job instead of a 9 to 7:30 job and then more work from home after.
  • Eating dinner with my husband
  • Eating breakfast at home, not at my desk
  • Packing my lunch
  • Eating my lunch on, call me crazy, a lunch break instead of at my desk
  • Having--don't let my reckless abandon scare you away--um, both days of the weekend off
  • Being able to get away from work to keep doctor's appointments
  • Leaving work in time to make it to an evening exercise class
  • Talking about something other than where I work when I meet new people
  • Having the opportunity to have time away from work to meet new people
  • Not feel depressed
  • Be able to get down on the floor and stand up easily

For me the normal life message is all about finding balance. It's not a new place for me to be in to put work first and work all the time. Hubby does this too. We are not good for each other in this way. The good news is we are passionate about our work, and I really like my job--it's very creative and interesting (not so sure that Hubby likes his). And I'm glad I have a profession vs just some job that gives me money to live on. But there has to be more. I've learned from leaving jobs that things that seemed really really important at the time, I can't even remember now (when I look back at old journal entries).

My best success at putting work into balance was back in 1999--10 years ago. My grandfather had died in the fall the year before. At his funeral, I was really moved by how many people loved him. Loved him in a very simple way. Because he was just nice. Neighbors across the street and 2 houses beside him came to his funeral, his nurses did, his doctors, people from his church. I know; he was dead; he didn't know. But his connection with people, his influential circle, his warmth, made an impression on me. I wanted to make my life matter more.

The spring after his death, my 12 year old dog became ill and we made the decision to put her to sleep. I was racked with guilt that I hadn't been paying attention to her; hadn't noticed how much weight she had lost; hadn't taken her to the vet quickly enough. I had been really busy at work.

One week after our dog died, Hubby's dad died. He's always been closer to his dad, but we spoke and saw him very infrequently. Suddenly, Hubby started making an effort to connect much more routinely with his mom--the parent he had many more mixed feelings about.

Losing things you love at least temporarily makes you become aware of the precious things in life. Making connections, spending time with the people you're connected to simply because it feels good.

Hubby & I decided to take more charge of our lives. We joined Weight Watchers, we walked together every day--often twice a day. I started walking with a good friend at lunch. We made a point after walking to still sit together to eat (the lunch I'd packed)--for just 15 min at a table in my office but away from my desk. I set routine hours at work and delegated work to keep them. I determined I would only work long hours for specific short term projects--where there was a clear end in sight.

All these good habits have fallen by the wayside. But yesterday was my grandfather's birth date. A marker. Time to reclaim some normalcy.

I have never been a real normal person. I have a weird sense of humor; I talk too loud; I laugh loud; I say what I think with a gush of energy; I spit out my philosophies to people like I'm clearly right and they should adore me for my wisdom; I emote my love for folks when most stay quiet. I assume if I tell people what I want that they will give it to me. As an example, last week I waved goodbye (a big over my hand wave) and yelled, "bye!" to 2 colleagues as they left a conference room early for another meeting. They looked at me like I was insane--whoops. That is me.

I have never followed trends well. I have never seen Lost, or Survivor, or 24, or House. I didn't recognize the name of the actor who emceed the Oscars recently--I still don't know it--I think he plays some monster character, some transformed special power character, a vampire or werewolve maybe?

My dad discouraged us from being part of the crowd. Neither my sister nor I ever owned a Barbie doll. He didn't let us buy trendy clothes. He discouraged wearing makeup or having our nails done or ready glamour magazines. I wouldn't recognize Prada if it fell on me. I can't recognize most of the car emblems.

Mostly I'm proud of this social independence. Sometimes, though, I've wondered if I'd allowed myself to scoff a bit less at girls who did their nails or wore matching cute clothes if I would have felt less like a Misfit, a bit more empowered and eaten a bit less to stop the pain of feeling so other. (Because normal girls do worry about what they eat, and don't overeat, and do reap the benefits of exercise, and do cook dinner and do get up when the alarm goes off, and do make the bed everyday.)

The life I live now still makes me other. I'm mostly alone working those hours. I'll let you know if I'm wrong, but I don't think it's going to award me any huge raise or award or promotion. Not at this corporation. It's not the same as when I was in entrepreneurial world.

So I think I do, I think I do, I think I do, I say clicking the side of my pink mug. . .I think, maybe, just maybe, all I want is a normal life.


  1. Very thoughtful, honest post. I liked the story about your grandfather. How important are those friendly exchanges with our neighbors and friends. That's the kind of normal life which we should all be striving for. You are asking all the right questions in your search for normalcy. I wonder if we ever feel truly normal anyway : )I'm glad that I came upon your blog!

  2. Lily Tomlin said, "Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat." And even tho "normal" is a relative term, I hope you don't feel "other" by finally figuring out what works best for you. There is so much competition and judgment in society which makes it hard not to feel like some wild-eyed loner if you don't follow the crowd. But perhaps that's one of the saving graces about aging - accepting what makes you, you. In the end it is really all about love.

    This was such a touching post and so well expressed. I wish you the very best at setting (and holding) those boundaries and your journey to "normal".

  3. I love posts like these. They brighten up my sunday morning far more than the sunday paper would...

    FYI: Come over to my page to check out the free diaper I am giving away.

    Love... Hot Belly Mama

  4. My coffee cup says, "Normal people worry me." I'm abnormal, my family is dysfunctional, my husband's family is too. When I found the coffee mug I had to say it. "Normalcy" is unknown to me.

    I like your post and love your writing style. I want more balance. I keep saying it but have yet to move in that direction.


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