Normal

Quite an innocuous word really until you start thinking more deeply  about it.

Just what is normal?  What determines normal?  Who sets the benchmark for normal?

So I’ve been thinking about what is normal for me, since my doctor asked me a couple of weeks ago if sitting around not doing much is normal.  I replied “heavens no, I’m normally like the energiser bunny!”

But then again when I think about it, some days just sitting around doing nothing much really is ‘normal’ for me — especially on weekends or on holidays.  Then at other times I really do run around like a madwoman, doing several different things at the one time.  And probably not doing any of those really well either!

However, if for example I disappeared, and the detectives (like the ones we watch on the telly) started asking my family, friends and colleagues what was normal for me — what would they say.

They wouldn’t say ‘well she always gets up at x o’clock, has a cuppa, reads the paper, goes for a twenty minute walk…’ and so on.    To me that would be too organised, too much routine and I rebel against being too regimented.

I recall my mother-in-law always set the table for breakfast before going to bed, which was simply weird to me.  Occasionally I will get organised the night before I work, but certainly not all the time.  My movements are generally unpredictable, although I’m sure there are some things I always do that are unconsciously done.  Whilst I don’t embrace routine, there is a certain comfort in having it.

I’m sure we’ve all tried brushing our teeth with the non-favoured hand and felt really uncomfortable doing it.  We’ve done it the same way for so long we don’t even realise how routine it is.

So I guess for most of us there would be some things that could be said to be normal for us, even though we don’t think about them as such.

For those of us who drive a car, we have our own little routines when we get behind the wheel.  When asked I’m sure there is a process we follow but just don’t think about.

I remember when Kelly had been admitted to the psychiatric unit for the second time, and we — the family— attempted to tell the Psychiatrist that her behaviour was not normal for her.  He dismissed us totally — wasn’t interested in what was normal for her.  He was only interested in what he could see, and in reality we as her family were voiceless because she was an adult.

Thats a difficult thing to accept as a mother because for a long time society generally looks to the mother for information.  But as our children move on to adulthood, we become unimportant — relegated to the sidelines and our opinion  means very little.

So on thinking more about my ‘normal’, I’ve discovered that I probably have a lot of things that could be attributed to me as being ‘normal’.

So what’s your normal?

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Pleasure

I’m guessing that pleasure means many different things to each and every one of us.

Pleasure can be found in an activity such as going for a walk or meeting a friend for a coffee or meal.   It can be in a sound like the chatter of birds in the trees or a baby’s chuckle, perhaps the calling of a loved one — child or adult announcing they’re home after being out or away.

Then again it can be in the act of making something — cooking a meal for another or creating a craftwork to be admired or better still used frequently.

Listening to music or watching a favourite feel-good movie can also invoke pleasure on many different levels.

For me, I’m receiving many daily doses of pleasure from my garden.  When my son and daughter-in-law cleaned out my back garden in readiness for me to plant some vegetables, I could not have imagined that I would derive so much pleasure from a few hours of their time. What an amazing birthday gift — a gift that really does keep on giving.
For a start there was the time gifted to me which ultimately led to a much tidier and pleasing view of the yard.  Then there came the pleasure of anticipating which veggies I could plant, followed by a progressive planting.  There is still room for more, but at present there is enough.   So now every day I look at my veggie garden and see how much growth has been added, now I can anticipate the future harvest and the enjoyment I will gain from picking cooking and eating the fruits — or vegetables of my labours.

A cup of coffee, glass of wine or some special food treat can impart immense pleasure — especially if these are enjoyed with convivial company.

When I stop and think about it, though-out my day I am receiving pleasure in so many ways — too many to list.  But one of the best for me is that first cup of coffee in the morning, sitting on my back deck and watching the veggies growing — exclaiming over the flowers that have bloomed on the tomatoes and the pumpkins and watching the raspberries ripening.  The simple things in life are truly very often the best.

What gives you pleasure ?

Denial

The longest river in the world?

There are often jokes made around denial, probably mainly to deflect the reality of the idea.  We go into denial for all kinds of reasons, many of which we have no real clue about — possibly from something quite trivial in our early life that we made mean something of monumental proportions.  Waiting for that lightbulb moment when realisation dawns — or not.

Perhaps it’s the way we are raised in our society, but we seem to be constantly comparing ourselves to others.  Using others as a yardstick of how we should behave, be, not be, or whatever.

Yet the comparisons we make are like comparing apples to pears — a totally unrealistic comparison because unlike a controlled scientific experiment, there really is nothing compare.

Recently — like last week — I uncovered a classic case of denial within myself.   For months I’ve been occasionally wheezing, having uncontrollable coughing fits with no cough or cold associated.  I’d brush them off making comments like “If I didn’t know any better I’d say I had asthma!”  And then go on my merry way doing my everyday stuff and not giving it much thought.

My mother developed asthma in her sixties and was in a constant battle for the remaining twenty odd years of her life with chronic asthma attacks, hospitalisation and loads of medications.  There was no way I was going to be lumped into that category, so I continued on — even carrying an inhaler to make things easier although I didn’t really need to use it much. Truly — it was just a precaution.

Then, last week when I was propped up in the treatment room at the doctors surgery, with the nurse (who is of a similar vintage to me) helping me to use an inhaler (properly) to ease my first acute asthma attack.  I was making — in between panting and puffing — some vague reasons/excuses why I hadn’t done anything about this before.  She looked at me and said very bluntly “Your’e in denial!”

I laughed around my wheezes, politely agreeing and continued my struggle with breathing.

But later it hit home — really resonated with me when I stopped to think about what she’d said.  I’ve had lots of time to think in the past week, not being allowed to do anything much at all.

She was right.  I have been in denial.  I’d been comparing myself to my mother and because I didn’t like what I’d seen, I was attempting to pretend that I couldn’t possibly be anything like her.

However, when I accept that I’d been in denial and that perhaps I really should have done something long before it got to this. I can also see why I did it.  Sometimes it’s much easier to just keep on going and not really pay attention to too many details.  Life gets so busy that we can’t afford to take the time out to navel-gaze and analyse our lives.  Or we are really too afraid to take that step because it might just make sense.

So yes, I can accept that I am like my mother in so many ways — I’m her child after all.  But my life experiences have been vastly different to hers, and because of that my current reality is going to be much different to what hers was.  However, I do have to accept the genetic component which is probably not something I can control.

So now I’ve moved to the opposite end of the scale — to acceptance and I’m searching within to see if there are any other things I might be in denial about.

This navel-gazing is an interesting concept when you’ve got nothing but time on your hands.

Surface stuff

A lot of our lives are really about surface stuff.  We chat away but  generally they are minor  conversations, skimming the surface and never getting too involved.

I work one day a week in retail,and see many people in that time.  Over the course of the day I have a lot of  conversations  but they are usually focused on the weather.  Often by the end of the day I am heartily sick of hearing about how cold, windy, wet, hot, humid etc it is.  So I play along and mention the number of times I’ve turned the heater or cooler on or off.  Smiling and agreeing when I’m advised not to go outside.

Just occasionally I have an in-depth discussion about current news, and sometimes there is an even more personal sharing — but rarely.

So what is it about our society that has us avoid participating in a more deeper way?

I recall during my childhood growing up in a rural farming community and the nearest neighbour was a few miles away — where everyone knew what was happening to the rest of the community.  Hard not to when the telephone was a party-line and anyone could eavesdrop.  But it was more than that — people cared about each other in a much more personal way than they do today.  When incidents and events occurred, then mum would start baking and we would go visiting bearing gifts of food.  Then there was always a shoulder to lean or cry on and there was no suggestion of weakness.  Just a knowing, that if the situation was reversed you’d be on the receiving end of that neighbourly caring too.

When my children were small, we moved to a suburb of Melbourne and not long after a new house was built next door.  I was on good terms with my other neighbour and those across the road, so I prepared to do what I’d grown up with.  I took the three children and knocked on the door.  When the lady answered the door, I introduced us all and welcomed her to the neighbourhood.

Now past experience would have her invite us in, or even make some joke about mess and just moving in but I got nothing.  She didn’t want to know me — didn’t even open the door fully.  So we left.

A few weeks later my four year old went missing so I ran to my friendly neighbours for help.  One got in the car straight away and started searching the streets.  My new next door neighbour was in his driveway washing his car and I called out to ask if he’d seen a little boy, but he didn’t even look at me when he said no.

I was crushed.  My friendly neighbour found my boy, read him the riot act and brought him home.

But how sad it is that we can’t show we care without being thought of as nosy or prying.

Strangely or not, I don’t believe the suicide rate was anywhere near as high as it is today. So perhaps that had something to do with the sense of community we had back then.  Yes, I believe there are pockets of that still surviving today, but very few.

If we could just show a little more caring when we talk to people, then perhaps we might notice if someone is not really coping.  We may see that a person needs a shoulder to either lean or cry on, or just a good listening ear.

One of the highlights of my week is my coffee morning with the ‘girls’.  We chat about whats happening in our lives, but we also share our disappointments and make ourselves available to be of help in any way whenever needed.

Our society has us all rushing to keep appointments, make deadlines but not make time for our neighbours.  often we don’t even know their names.

Ross also goes to a mens coffee group weekly, but most people need to make appointments to meet for coffee and a chat.

So, if we as a community took a smidgen more time to ask a friend how they are, really mean it and be prepared to truly listen then just maybe we would notice a declining mental state.   We might even start to slow the suicide rate down.

People power at its best.

Trust

The Thesaurus says trust is —

“To rely upon or place confidence in someone or something (usually followed by in or to)…”

So to trust is to believe that something will happen, or that someone will actually do what they said they would do.

A week ago I offered to lend a fairly new acquaintance  a reasonable sum of money.  She didn’t ask — I offered and after some deliberation she accepted saying she would pay me back next Tuesday — today.

I mentioned it to a couple of people and the reaction was the same — wow you’re game doing that, what if she doesn’t pay you back?

Well, I went with my gut feeling, and decided that I could trust her.  I felt happy about the whole deal and had no doubt that she would pay me back today.  Then at eight thirty this morning I got a text message from my new friend asking if I would be at home today.  I replied that I would be and returned to what I’d been doing — reading in bed.

Half an hour later the doorbell rang and there she was with the money — but there I was still in my pyjamas with bed hair and all!

So I’ve learnt to trust my gut instincts, something I never used to do.  Whenever I have a major decision to make, I now stop and think about what my gut is telling me.  If I have any qualms such as butterflies or find myself rubbing my tummy then I think about the ramifications of continuing.

Now I know — or I don’t think it’s  a scientifically proven method but for me it seems to work — listening to my body.

I’m sure there are times that you’ve felt uneasy around someone, or just met another and felt really comfortable with them.  That’s your gut instinct at work.  But for most of my life I’ve ignored it and made some really stupid decisions that when I look back on I can recall not feeling quite right with.

So when have you gone with your gut instincts?  Have there been times when you have made a decision with your head and felt uncomfortable about it?

Sadly a lot of the time we ignore our body, feed it crap and expect it to hold up under the strain.  Yet if we treat it right, and really listen to it then it won’t let us down.

Spring procrastination

I found myself getting excited when spring arrived — finally an end to those cold dreary winter days and the promise of some warmth, even sunshine.

Time to update the veggie garden with new plants that I can watch grow whilst I sip my morning coffee on the back decking.  Lovely.

Without consciously thinking about it (and calling it ‘Spring Cleaning) I started a re-organisation of my spare room.  It’s a task that has been calling me for a long time and is way overdue.  So I decided to re-organise the furniture first, then I started sorting through the cupboards culling madly.  I was well underway when one of my grandsons visited.  He looked at the mess and said “Didn’t you used to have a bed in here?”  to which I replied “Yes Zeke, it’s still here but I’ve hidden it for the moment!”

I set myself the goal of doing two to three hours a day for the next three days and I estimated that it would be looking awesome by the end of that.

But I got distracted — big time.

Now we are a few weeks down the track, and whilst I have achieved quite a lot, the room still isn’t finished.  Occasionally I enter and move a few things around but not really focusing on it so it remains a mess.  I guess part of the problem is that I don’t really need the room for much more than storage so it’s not an urgent task.

Yesterday I realised that this job has to be finished by Thursday afternoon as my youngest grandson will be staying overnight — that means I have to find the bed again!

Seriously it won’t take me too long to finish the job, but I often find myself getting bored with things I start — or perhaps it’s just the lure of another bright shiny thing that appeals more?  Not sure, but I see a pattern in my life where I start something with great enthusiasm and then it seems to fizzle.  I have several unfinished tasks around the house that probably won’t take me very long to complete yet I’m dithering.  I know that when they are finished I will feel great, have a sense of achievement yet even knowing that I still procrastinate.

Still I know I’m not the only one procrastinating — spring itself has been doing just that by giving us some beautiful days to make us think we can put our winter woolies away, then we have a few more cold days again.

But I know that when it finally makes up its mind, the weather will be awesome again — and my spare room will look amazing.

Outcomes

Of the many failings we have in being a part of the human race,  the one where we get attached to  objects, outcomes and feelings is probably the silliest.

Now theres probably nothing wrong with that, excepting for how we go about the attachment.

Starting with things —  take my car for instance.  I’m attached to it, I like it and at times I even love it.  But after all it is a ‘thing’ and cannot love me back — it gets me from A to B whenever I need it to as long as I keep it fuelled, watered and oiled.  I even spring for an occasional service to ensure it keeps going.  Its comfortable with a heater and air conditioner that work really well; the fuel economy is good and theres’ enough power in the engine to get me out of a sticky situation on the road.   I pay the registration to entitle me to drive it on the road, as well as insurance— but in the end it is just a car, it does what it was designed to do and thats that.

Then there is the house I live in. I like it as well, and at times I even love it.  But really it is a roof over my head, somewhere I can store all the other ‘things’ I’ve collected over the years.  Someplace I can cook meals, relax, entertain and tend the garden as I grow vegetables and herbs to use.  Yes, I am nesting, making it a more comfortable place to live in — especially as I spend quite a lot of time here.  For the past nineteen years I’ve made sure that the mortgage that is in mine and Ross’s names is paid on time, that insurance and rates are paid, but I’ve only lived in it for around two and a half years.  So yes I’m attached to it, but I’m not living for it and if I had to walk away from it I could.  Yes, its in a good location and has most of what we need, but it is also part of a breakdown in a family relationship and for that reason alone I won’t become too emotionally attached to it.

A natural part of our make-up is to become attached emotionally to people.  Most of us do.  The first is usually to our family, although some people seem to have no qualms about walking away from that.  Each to his own as the saying goes.

We make friends at school, our workplace and develop our own social life away from home.  Some of those friendships last our lifetime, many move on and are only remembered occasionally, if at all.  Tomorrow we farewell a friend we’ve known for over four decades, and it will be a very somber  occasion at first.  Later we will reminisce over the memories we’ve gathered in that time.  We will probably laugh a lot, and shed a few tears, so sad —but it will be good.

Occasionally we can let our attachments develop into obsessions — being too hung up on the outcome of what we desire to deal with it rationally.  We can become too attached to an outcome to really enjoy life.  Often more concerned about looking good to consider what is vital.

When all is said and done it is the people you have in your life that are the most important — not the possessions.