About a year after my brain injury, I had regained some semblance of my “before brain injury” life back. Although my two sons had moved to a different state with their father, I was living independently and driving again, had learned skills to compensate for my memory deficits, and could speak somewhat understandably instead of just making sounds. But, my solitary life, in which I struggled to do the stuff other people do every day – that I too used to do without a thought: go to the grocery store, pay bills, mow the yard – looked very different than it had before or than I thought it should or would at this point in my life.
I remember telling my brother, “I can’t wait to get back to my normal life.” A very wise soul, he looked me in the eyes and said, “This is your normal life, Debbie.”
It took me another year to quit desperately trying to get back to the person I used to be before the injury and realize that that person was gone forever. Over the next couple of years, I gradually began to accept the “new Debbie” with her way-less-than-perfect speech, handwriting, and memory. And, in another couple of years, I began to even sort of like her.
Recovering from the brain injury taught me a valuable lesson. I learned that there is no such thing as normal. Normal is an illusion. It’s an idea we get in our heads about what our lives should look like influenced by society, the media, friends, family, and a million other things. Searching for normal is a denial of and resistance to whatever is happening right here and now which results in struggle and pain. Wherever I am in my life and whatever is happening IS normal whether it’s what I wanted or expected or not.
It’s All Normal
Eckhart Tolle said, “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” I’ve learned not to judge any situation as good or bad when it arises. It’s my job to find the good in it for me – whatever “it” is. Good is always present if I look hard enough to find it. By taking this attitude, things always turn out good because “good” is up to me to determine.
So, although finding out that I have to move is very unsettling, and my mind’s first inclination is to try to stay right where I’m comfortable now, the normal. When I accept the idea and start thinking of “how I can make this work for me” it turns out that I get to move into a cooler house that I can make into a real home for me and my animals.
At the outset, the dog getting really sick doesn’t seem to have any possible upside to it. However, his illness helped me realize just how much I appreciate his companionship and how much he’s added to my life over the years.
I have come to appreciate all of life’s ups and downs and swerves and curves. It’s all part of the journey, and it’s all normal. I used to wish for a calm life with no surprises, but now think of how numb and boring that would be. To live a rich, full life, I have to be willing to embrace, yes embrace, whatever comes my way and find the joy and meaning in it. Without any little part of it, life wouldn’t be the multi-textured, colorful tapestry it is.
I’ll take that over normal any day.
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