“What is Normal?” and Other Rantings at 4am

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I feel as though I grew up during a strange time in which things weren’t defined very clearly. There were certain ways of doing things in the past that were not often questioned due to the strictness of social pressure and then came free love, drugs, hippies, anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-establishment protesters….and then I was born. After all that. When it all started to calm down, but the lingering effects were still felt. With some people still believing in them passionately, others still fighting them as though they were as common and powerful as they had been in their time and most people just simply going back to trying to make their way through the day not really giving them much of a second thought, but living their lives differently than they would have 20, 30 or 50 years earlier nonetheless.

I know these sorts of upheavals happen throughout history and in fact, are probably happening around me right now, but I just don’t have the hindsight yet to notice them. Nevertheless, I can’t help feeling that there is an overarching sense of confusion in the world around me. We’re so stuffed with information, facts, and experiences that we don’t know what to think nor what to believe anymore.

I awoke at 4am to a typical bout of tangential thinking, unable to sleep and began a spirited conversation with the bathroom walls. When those walls became confining and hunger began to claw at my stomach, alternately pushing stomach acid up through my esophagus as it often does, I carried my tirade to the living room where I held conference with my perpetual audience. The one which never judges, unless I choose them to, never interrupts but with tiny insights and questions that press the subject along, and the one with whom I’m always able to come to an understanding in the end.

We have concluded this:

After scientific, societal, and late-night-with-beer debate, the answer, it turns out, is really very simple. Normal can be defined. It is clearly that which is defined by that which exists in the majority. Whether it be an experience, object, reaction, feeling, perspective, outcome and so on. That which occurs with a significant dominance shall be considered, “normal”. What is considered “significant”, depends on the method of measurement.

That is the extent of my attempt as a dictionary author and is intended only to clarify. What is more important is that although “normal” can be defined by the majority, that does not imply that the majority is right nor wrong. It simply is as it is.

A society is made up of social norms, mores, and values. Whether they be right or wrong, they define how we make our way through life based on what is accepted and understood. When one has experiences and a perspective outside of these norms, it is understandably the case that the majority will not be able to comprehend them.

Stepping outside of the theoretical for a practical example, it is understandable that, when dealing with a conflict with another individual would lead me to the verge of a panic attack, there were those around me who assumed I was reacting the way they would, with difficulty, but also the ability to cope. The panic was outside of what they considered to be normal so even after I would attempt to explain my perspective, they would still expect of me the same as they would expect of themselves. To deal with the situation head on, despite what they perceived as “normal” anxiousness.

What has felt to me like normal for years, I am just learning, is not what is normal for the majority. That is why I am largely unable to relate to the majority and come to an understanding. My reality is not the same as theirs. There is nothing “wrong” about me, I’m just not “normal” and I can live with that.

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