Even the word makes me uneasy.
Like a white van with no windows might pull up, with creepy men ready to jump out and throw a cloth over my head,
dragging me inside,
driving me off to some dank, uneasy destination
never, ever to be seen again.
I’ve had an aversion as long as I can remember,
found ways to stand out,
if even only slightly.
Was driven to be different,
While simultaneously being blessed with crippling self-consciousness.
The two wrestling in a sweaty tumbling mass on the floor.
I like to imagine them in Lucha Libre masks.
Kicking each other’s asses.
Throwing each other across the ring,
slamming into the ropes and bouncing back into each other,
forever pinning and releasing each other in a match that never ends.
And me, struggling to figure out who I’m gonna be in the world,
depending on who pinned whom to the mat that day,
for that matter.
Am I fitting in so that I can feel comfortable and not have to go against the grain?
Or did that last headlock ensure that I will be screaming out some unique self-expression,
something that is just Me,
that makes me stand out from this herd we are all a part of.
Even if it is hard and scary sometimes.
It’s so damn easy if you just do it.
Makes everybody feel better
and at ease
if you just do it.
Just do all of the things you’re supposed to do,
while looking the way you’re supposed to look,
enjoying yourself during the allotted time
in the way you are supposed to enjoy yourself.
Do that and all will be calm and you will be accepted.
Where the hell did that message come from?
And why did I dunk it, swish it and swallow it whole with a glass of milk to chase it down? I don’t even like milk.
How could something so easy be so damn hard?
If Normal was a bed, it’d be a bed of nails — and most of us aren’t gurus who can lay there in calm surrender.
Those fuckers are ripping off flesh.
If Normal was candy, it’d be all wrapped up pretty, but stale as shit when you opened it, like that stuff that had been lying around your
grandma’s house for like 100 years, so old it had lost all its color, now a pale shadow of its once glorious sweet self.
Don’t eat it anyway,
you’ll regret it,
Normal is never what it is cracked up to be.
It’s a wasteland.
A place where one gets lost, and being found again is no guarantee.
I would venture to guess it’s not even a real thing. Normal.
It’s something everyone pretends is a real thing,
thus making it pretty damn convincing that it is.
Normal has some pretty strong allies, the Church, Education, the Workforce.
Damn straight, Normal knows how to pick ’em.
The other side also has some big guns.
What is the other side of Normal? Checked the thesaurus and got this:
Abnormal. Irregular. Odd. Strange. Uncommon. Unconventional. Unusual.
I feel strangely comforted just typing them.
And like I want to eat them up so they get digested
and spread through my body,
landing in each of my cells,
take a bath in them,
wrap them around me in front of a crackling fire,
cut all my hair off and dance naked in the woods with them.
So who are the allies, on the other side of Normal?
Arts. Music. Spiritual Seeking. Rebellion.
These entities cannot, and do not, support or thrive in Normal.
I cannot, and do not, support or thrive in Normal.
I can definitely fit in with the best of them,
play the part and meld right into all the drudgery around me.
I can even believe that it’s making me happy,
that I am succeeding at this thing we are all doing and calling Life.
But the nagging in my gut.
The faint whispers that come
This Is Not Who You Are.
They will only be hushed for so long. They will begin to roar the mighty roar of a lion if ignored.
The nagging in the gut will become a raging storm,
of illness perhaps,
whatever it takes to get one’s attention.
This Is Not Who You Are.
Best to take heed.
Normal doesn’t give up easily though.
It has a million boxes in which to try and keep you. Always upping the ante.
What was unique today becomes popular in the masses tomorrow.
Change, and change again.
Normal will try to make everything its own. Homogenize what is unique.
It takes undying vigilance to remain aware,
to recognize that once Normal has moved in,
it’s time to look for a new bedfellow.
It waters down and leaches the meaning from things once meaningful.
It cannot coexist with the bizarre and the novel.
Those are not losses we can afford.
And yet we are taught that they are,
that different is something to fear,
don’t be it
don’t court it,
don’t express it
certainly don’t believe it.
It’s safe here.
Stultifying yes, but safe.
We all give up pieces of ourselves to fit into Normal’s mold.
As if we are all slabs of Play-Doh,
rolled out in all of our glory,
ready to be anything
anything at all.
And along comes the cookie cutter,
just the one,
the rest got left outside in the sandbox, in the rain.
It’s the star one
so there’s hope,
There are no true stars as far as Normal is concerned.
That cutter comes down — hard, steady and sure,
cutting through and disconnecting from the rest of the dough that is you.
It produces that one perfect star,
the one that looks like every other star,
all the same.
But what about the rest of the dough left behind?
What could you have been in your entirety if not for the edges of Normal searing through you,
What shapes could you be,
with All of you put to use?
What if something that hasn’t been offered in the world,
something that is desperately needed,
was discarded as the excess,
was deemed unnecessary in the making of the One shape that was deemed worthy?
Normal has slipped us a mickey.
Awakening from this slumber is the place to begin.
Gather up all that is left,
for there is much of you beyond those incised edges,
gently smooth it back together,
lovingly examine what of you was not accepted
let yourself see all of the all that could be.
Your potential is as vast as the universe itself.
Nimbly and fearlessly
press and form,
and fashion yourself into whatever odd,
misfit shape you wish to take.
Get to know your own essence,
it will not be Normal,
that I assure you.
And Play-Doh can become anything.
Just like you. Just like me.
Create with that dough a bullhorn
to shout out and
finally, oh finally,
Create with that dough some funky rimmed spectacles
that let you see the world as it is,
as it can be,
inviting the world, also, to see you,
in your flawed,
Create with that dough some badass, kooky purple boots
that keep you planted strongly as yourself,
and let you kick Normal’s empty, dried-up carcass shell right out of the door.
Create something that has never been seen,
does not have a name
and be brave enough to claim it and to
leave it nameless.
Create whatever the hell you want,
whatever feels good
and You alone.
We can do this.
Normal doesn’t have a prayer.
Kathie McQuillen often feels she is straddling two worlds, the inner and the outer, the now and the becoming. She feels gratitude when she feels fully awake, and the wonder that lives inside her is able to find purchase and form through written words. She is also, however, learning to trust the ebb and flow of being fully awake, and hold fast to faith when the void comes to teach the lessons it holds. She is, and is becoming, a writer who is a healer and a healer who is a writer — her life’s dream.