Just the Right Amount of Strange

Have you ever met someone and clicked with them instantly because they’re the same kind of weird that you are? Isn’t it great? It’s such a relief to feel understood and accepted.

Recently someone pointed out to me that there’s really no such thing as normal. Good point. I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t felt at least a little bit “out there”.

Personally, I’d find it rather creepy if we were all alike. The implication would be that we had no free will or independent thought. I can think of no better definition of hell.

That’s why I’m instantly repulsed by people who tell me that the only way to get to heaven is by subscribing to a specific creed. That sure doesn’t sound like heaven to me. I don’t want to agree with everyone all the time. I don’t want to check my brains and my personality at the door. I would die of boredom. You keep your Stepford Wife Heaven to yourself. I’ll have no part of it.

I like to let my freak flag fly, and enjoy having it fly with plenty of crazy company!

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Collecting Strays

When I was in high school, I felt like a misfit, so I gathered misfits around me. We weren’t cool. We weren’t popular. Actually, most of us were rather troubled. But we were loyal friends. There really is strength in numbers.

Being drawn to the oddballs of the world has also made me intolerant of the intolerant. (Yeah, yeah. I know. So sue me.) If you are rigid, closed-minded, or judgmental, I tend to lose patience with you. I’m more at home reveling in the differences. That’s just how I roll.

This habit of collecting strays (which one friend calls my tendency to attract three-legged dogs), has served me well. I’ve met some amazing people that way. I’ve never related to the overly pretty (and, for that matter, overly petty) people of this world, the ones who are extremely concerned about what others think. Social standing doesn’t interest me. Image bores me.

Sometimes this bites me in the butt, though. I’ve never had a boyfriend who could be considered a huge success at life. The struggles of my lovers have too often become my own. But hey, we were in it together, and that counts for a lot.

Sometimes I long for normal, but I’d be hard-pressed to figure out what to do with it. So, if you’re feeling like a wallflower, come stand by me. I’ll make room.

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“Be safe going home.”

Have you ever had a conversation that caused you to look at things in a whole new way? I had one of those recently. I was having a delightful chat with a guy about fun things to do in Seattle. I’d never met him before, but he gave me lots of good ideas.

Then, at the end of the conversation, he said, “Be safe going home.”

Since we had briefly touched on politics, I said, “It’s hard to feel safe these days.”

And his response was, “Welcome to my world.”

You see, he’s African American, and yeah, he probably never feels quite safe going home or going anywhere else, for that matter. Never. And just like that, I lifted my head up out of the cloud of delusion I’ve had the privilege of residing in my whole life long.

This awful, unsettled feeling I’ve had for the past couple weeks is his status quo. This feeling of being misunderstood by just about everybody, of being actively disliked? He has lived that every day. The certainty that most people really don’t have your best interests at heart and are in fact actively working against those interests is a new and horrible feeling for me, but that’s his normal.

And I have to say, this sucks. That, and I’m ashamed of how spoiled I’ve always been. If nothing else good comes from the Trump presidency, at least I can say that my eyes have been opened. And my life will never be quite the same.

Everyone has the right to be safe going home. Everyone has the right, but many of us don’t have the luxury.

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What’s Normal?

It happened again today. I woke up and it was light out, so I assumed it must be time to get up. Then I looked at the clock and it was 4:30 am. That’s just not right. My whole life, the sun has never risen at such an ungodly hour. That’s because I’ve never lived this far from the equator before. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to live in Alaska, the land of the midnight sun. As I’ve done every morning this summer, I covered my eyes with a pillow and tried to get back to sleep.

If there’s not a word for this sensation, there ought to be. That feeling that the basic, fundamental rules of nature are being violated. That sense of “Not Normal.” I bet there’s a Germanic term for it. Or a French one.

I’ll probably feel it again when I experience my first real earthquake. The ground is not supposed to shift beneath one’s feet. When that starts happening, what can you count on?

I felt it when I woke up one morning this past winter to find everything covered in snow. I hadn’t seen snow in 30 years. The world was suddenly otherworldly.

It happens when you bite into something you expect to be savory and it turns out to be sweet, or vice versa. It happens when someone reacts completely the opposite of what you anticipated. It happens when someone does a violent act that you can’t imagine doing in your worst nightmare.

We all live by certain assumptions  and expectations that really don’t hold up on close examination. These deeply held beliefs are what give us a sense of security. Most of us prefer to be able to predict our world. It’s weird to think that all of that is an illusion.

[Image credit: leandecisions.com]
[Image credit: leandecisions.com]

Family Norms

One spring break in college I went home with a friend. Half Catholic Italian, half Jewish, hers was a noisy, welcoming household. Neighbors would come and go without knocking on their door, and help themselves to whatever happened to be cooking on the stove. The house was full of light and crackled with energy.

And forget about sleeping in. If you tried to, her father would kick open the bedroom door, shout, “Time to get up!!!” while throwing himself headlong into our bed. Then he’d bounce for a second until he was sure we were awake, kiss us both on the forehead and say, “Breakfast is ready.” Alrighty then. I guess I’m getting up.

For the first time in my life, I realized that not everybody grew up the way I did. Mine was a very quiet, reserved Congregationalist Waspy New England household. No one came to our door without giving about a week’s notice. For the most part, no one came to our door at all. Silence ruled. Calm and routine was what you strived for. The loudest noise was probably the hum of the refrigerator.

And for the most part, that’s exactly how my home is now. I have no idea why I bother renting a place with a living room. It’s not like I ever have guests or eat at the table. For me the living room is simply what you have to walk through to get from the bedroom to the kitchen.

I’m not saying that one lifestyle is superior to the other. It all depends on what you’re used to. I think living in my friend’s home would have made me a nervous wreck, but it was fun to visit. When it was time to go, though, I was a little relieved. I looked forward to getting back to what, for me, was normal.

Our families can probably trace their styles back for generations. That fascinates me. In essence, the way I live my life is strongly influenced by ancestors from hundreds of years ago. The way I do things and what seems comfortable to me was laid out long before I was born. I walk down the heavily trodden path that total strangers, who just happen to be related by blood, have followed for centuries.

And I’m actually kind of okay with that.

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Chaos: The New Normal?

A coworker of mine was describing a situation in which he and his brother were watching TV and they got into an argument which then escalated into a fist fight, and the police had to be called. Just a regular Tuesday night at Chez Coworker, apparently. I remember thinking, “Huh. My whole life, the police have never been called to my house. Am I normal, or is he?”

Someone else I know regularly shouts and makes intimidating gestures, causing tension, fear and anxiety in his household. He says that he’s of Mediterranean descent, so he can’t help it. That made me wonder about all the Italians and Greeks and Turks that I’ve passed on the street who have managed to behave themselves and act with courtesy and respect. Who’s the stereotype?

And then there’s the girl whose husband tried to choke her. But she’s still with him, because she loves him. I tried to imagine sleeping under the same roof with someone, even for one night, who had tried to kill me. I’m not getting any pictures.

Another story: this guy left his car keys on the counter and went to sleep. One of his relatives took the car without permission and got into an accident. The guy wakes up, sees the damage to the car, asks who was responsible, and no one admits to it. And they all (every one of them is an adult) still live with him. Oh no. Not me. Not even for a second. I’d have gathered them all in one room and said, “Either someone confesses and makes arrangements to pay for damages, or every single one of you is out on the street.”

Another woman racked up thousands of dollars in phone bills by calling her boyfriend who was in the military overseas. She was the only one in the house who even knew someone overseas, so there was no doubt who was responsible. Not only did she not pay the bills, but since the phone was in her parent’s name, their service got cut off, and they haven’t been able to have a house phone for years because of it. Not to mention the fact that their credit is ruined. It’s the great unspoken thing in the family, but apparently she has no remorse whatsoever. That same girl’s sister stole her own 10 year old child’s birthday money.

All of these things have me wondering, who is living a life outside the norm? Me, for being shocked by all of the above, or them? Are most of the people on the planet just animals with no moral compass whatsoever? Should the Jerry Springer Show be considered a documentary? And to think there are people out there who still refuse to believe we’re related to primates. Sheesh.

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