Share this article!

11210003685_101f302d99_zAbout 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.

image source:

Share this article!


  1. such an inspiring post here, Debbie. brain injury or not, there is indeed no such thing as normal. looking at everything as good or bad, or even as a lesson is the optimal way to live life. When we go from ‘why me’ to what is this experience here to teach me, we can see life for the ultimate teacher that it is. Dealing with and embracing the ups and downs of life is the best way to play the game of life. If we accepted everything as normal, the world would see less pain and sorrow. absolutely love the Tolle quote – one of my favorites.

    • Vishnu, thanks for your comments. “If we accepted everything as normal, the world would see less pain and sorrow.” I love that. How right you are. It’s amazing to me that we can see a whole different world merely by shifting our perception. I am SO thankful that I learned that – the hard way, but better that than never!

  2. bheretoday Reply

    I love this post, Debbie! You know, your brother isn’t the only wise soul. Realizing that what you have right now–what any of us has–is normal and good takes a ton of acceptance. Acceptance breeds action and thanks to your “normalcy,” thousands of others get to benefit from your wisdom.

    Keep it coming, please!


    • Thanks for your vote of confidence, Beth. How’s the saying go? “Normal is just a setting on the washing machine.” So true! Learning to accept whatever shows up and letting go of the shoulds, gave normal a whole new meaning for me. I am what I am and that’s OK! 🙂

    • Thanks for your vote of confidence, Beth! How’s the saying go? “Normal is just a setting on the washing machine.” So true! Learning to accept whatever shows up and letting go of the shoulds, gave normal a whole new meaning for me. I am what I am and that’s OK! 🙂

  3. Sweet Kuhad Reply

    That’s a beautiful article Debbie. Thanks for sharing this. Love the concept “there is no such thing as normal”. What you have, wherever you are is normal. Acceptence of this would lessen the pain or vanish the pain for sure. Love

  4. Debbie, I remember reading this piece in late 2014, when I was at my lowest point battling anxiety and depression after the death of my Dad, caring for my Mom, and rehabbing my husband after back surgery. I thought I’d never be “normal” again. Your wise words helped me to re frame my expectation and “normals.” This article was one of the lights that helped me find my way back to life. Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights. They are truly gifts to so many.

  5. This is so inspiring, Debbie! I agree, we change our life dramatically when we except everything changes and can have perspective on the challenging times.

  6. As you say Debbie our perspective is so vital to our happiness. And we get to choose what it is, another win in my book. What you have done with your life since your injury is nothing short of miraculous. You are definitely an inspiration to many of us. Thank you.

  7. Just came across this article, so very timely for me, thank you. I have been trapped, grieving the life I thought I had and not being prepared to accept how life has changed for me! I recognise that I am wasting what I DO have whilst grieving for what I have lost and that this is now my life, my normal! Time to adjust my perspective and rejoice in the new me…….

    • So glad it spoke to you, Mags. It’s a transition for sure – and not an easy one, but when we accept the life we have and find the good in it, there is peace to be found. 🙂

Write A Comment