Normal…a redefinition

How a dictionary defines normal can be very different to how as people we do, ask hundred people and you will get a hundred definitions. Equally, ask the same hundred people what they define as abnormal, and you will get the same result. This is because our life experiences to the people we meet adding different colours and layers to how we see the world. With the advent of social media to the cult of celebrity these too add to this perception we have of the world. Seldom do we stop and think of what is normal and/or abnormal and do not question it.

We pass judgement every day; be it how best to serve tea or coffee to how to dress ourselves and the partner we choose to have in our lives (if at all). They all serve as means of self-expression, that is to say they say “this is my way” of living life. The choice of partner you will already have opinions on, some maybe tutting or swearing at the thought anyone may want a partner of the same gender as themselves to choosing not to have a partner at all. So which is the normal way? Simply put all of them are and none of them are.

Even people that claim not to be judgemental make judgements every day, knowingly and unknowingly. So on deciding if another’s choice partner as in the above example is normal or not we are making a judgement, not on morality or ethics but based on our personal sense of normality.

In defining what is normal, we need to look at our own lives, where we make judgements and where others judge us. Whilst doing this we also need to consider not just why we think this way, but what is the root of this belief and why we have these expectations of others and equally ascribe them to ourselves.

Expectations of ourselves and/or others can be due to our families, beliefs, and cultures we grew up in to the ones we find ourselves living in now, which by breaking these can lead to estrangement and even death. Equally, we need to learn not to be hard on ourselves and/or others for failing to live up to these expectations: For example, in some areas of the world you would be expected to be married with at least two children by 21, but we have to remember that may not happen for all and trying not to be judgemental on someone that by 25 is single and a virgin. How can we ascribe the actions or personality of ourselves and/or another normal and/or abnormal just because they are different to our own?

So should the word normal in this case be left like many prejudices and stereotypes be left in the past? Just because we do not agree with, have no knowledge, expect life/another/ourselves to be a certain way, is it really abnormal? Equally, should we expect others to agree with and/or collaborate with our ideas of what is and is not normal? Have they not also got their own, just as valid, ideas and ways of expressing what is normal to them?

Let us return to defining what is normal, a friend once said “it is a function on a washing machine”. Normal in real terms is what is right for us and our journey, trying to conform to the expectations and ideals of others is like wearing our neighbour’s underwear! We also try to put labels on ourselves so can find like minded people, only do this if you must to let them explore your world but remembering not to judge them by our ideas of normal, for we are not them, have not and never will experience their journey their way.

I am currently writing a short book exploring the above themes, to find just what is normal to us, the journey to find what it is but always remembering that one size will never fit all, and finally accepting what we have found, which can be just as difficult as the prejudice we can encounter from others.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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The Desert Island

To answer the old puzzle: “If you could only take three things to a desert island, what would you bring and why?” Excluding a boat, car, helicopter, plane etc. but can take a person fictional or real. I say…

The first thing I would bring would be a wind-up radio, so I would have the sounds of company and music to keep my heart and soul going through however many days I was going to be on the island.

Next I  would take a solar powered notebook, so I could write about my experiences as and when they happened, not relying on memory and also things inspired by what happened on the desert island.

Finally, I spend much of my days alone, so having company would be a bonus. So I would take a Swiss army knife, as would have more in it than a single gadget could alone provide me with.

However, I am far from materialistic, so uncertain whether or not the three items above would really make a difference to my experiences on the island. So on rethinking what my three would be instead…

Perhaps I’d ask for my health to be on it’s best form, so all my senses would take the most from the experience without worrying on getting ill from the wrong things. Sadly for me that is too much ego.

Maybe a book of 100 opening chapters (fiction and non), acts or selection of poetry by my favourite authors that had inspired me when I had read them? Yet, would that benefit my experience, no.

Three of my closest friends from different places, so could continue to inspire and support me as we do for each other now. I feel bad at wanting another there for my own needs, so again maybe not to be.

Finally, I decide I do not want to take anything or anyone with me because in life we have to rely on past knowledge and experience, following our instincts to get us through. Therefore, and so shall I.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Seeds of knowledge

Every seed has its built-in tree. A gardener does not put the tree into the seed, for it is their job to nurture the seed and help the tree bloom to it’s highest potential. In the same way, a teacher should not think of a pupil as an empty bucket to fill to a set level with information. A teacher needs to observe the pupil, spotting their unique potential, helping them in a way that the dormant potential can emerge and succeed in the world. So as the teacher grows older, they look out on their gardens, every flower and tree is a reminder of every pupil they ever taught. 

© Fi S. J. Brown

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