Friday, July 5, 2013

Back to normal

Whenever I read a news website or pick up a newspaper, I’m often inundated with stories telling me in great detail how other people live their lives. It’s often all saturated in a sense of “this is how I should be living my life.” It tries to give the idea of certain things being normal and certain things being not normal.
When I walk through department stores, the pictures show individual people as well as families looking happy. They’re usually wearing whatever clothing the store sells and are often using some product that the store sells as well.
This same set of ideas repeats itself over and over and over again through the threads of modern American life. Over and over again, we’re given the idea that certain things are “normal” and thus are “good,” while things that are “not normal” are considered “bad.”
Have you ever noticed how often “normal” involves buying something?
When I think about some of my best memories of people from my life, I don’t remember the clothes they were wearing or the things that they had. I remember their laugh. I remember their kindness. I remember their wisdom.
Whenever I think of the truly profound and life-altering moments that have happened in my life, they don’t appear to me with the clarity of a photograph from a travel magazine. They never took place on some perfect beach that I had to pay thousands of dollars to travel to. They took place in an apartment living room or on a walk through a park. They took place in a hallway in a college building or in that quiet nook in one of the hidden tiers of the library.
Normal life doesn’t look like a travel magazine.
The meals you make don’t look like the pictures in Bon Appetit. The clothes you wear don’t look like the perfectly arranged items on a fashion model. The car you own doesn’t turn your commute into some curvy road with pine trees along it.
These things are not normal life.
Normal life is filled with joy, but that joy stands out because of the normalcy and, yes, disappointment around it. Normal life is filled with special moments, but those special moments mean something because of all of the ordinary moments around it.
Normal life means filling quite a few of your hours each day doing something you might not necessarily want to be doing, but it also means that you get to go home at the end of that day and spend a few hours doing something that you really love.
Normal life isn’t seen on The Travel Channel or the Home and Garden Channel. Normal life is seen in a child playing across the street or someone wiping their brow after finishing a hard task. Normal life is a walk in the woods or a good book on a rainy afternoon. Normal life is that good feeling you get in your gut after you’ve completed a task and you’ve done it well.
When we start believing our life isn’t good enough because it doesn’t match up to the “normal” we see on television or in advertisements, we start believing a lie. We start believing that we have to buy things to reach that false “normal.”
That false “normal” doesn’t exist. Our lives are actually normal, and no product will change that.
Thankfully, that real normal that we live every day is a pretty good one. It’s filled with moments where someone smiles at you or the sun shines on you and warms your skin a bit. It’s one where you can see a rainbow in the sky after a rainfall or you can hold the hand of someone you love.
Yes, it’s imperfect and messy, but it’s that imperfection that makes those little moments genuinely beautiful.
You don’t need to spend money or feel self-conscious about yourself to experience the real normal. It’s all around you and it doesn’t cost a cent.


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