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'Normal' Is Overrated in a Life of Chronic Pain

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I don’t think I’ve ever really known what normal means or is. I guess it’s what others think you should be, what your parents told you it was or what some television character depicted. That’s where things could really go awry, because some of the television characters we grew up viewing were anything but well-adjusted, responsible or even mature. As we grew up we discovered thatLeave it to Beaverwas simplistic if not stupid,Life with Fatherwas better than some because the father had some intestinal fortitude, and Dick Van Dyke never figured out that the ottoman was in his way and fell every time. I remember when it was a “big deal” when Mary Tyler Moore wanted to wear Capri pants on a weekly TV show, Lucy was allowed to be pregnant on TV when she was really pregnant, and we were told to “see the USA in your Chevrolet.” Of course, I was just an infant when all of this was happening but I do remember our first TV and how we became glued to it every day watching Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Bob Storm in every old, bad western ever made. I was shocked later in life to learn that good old dear Gabby Hayes was really quite young when he had all his teeth pulled, and grew a beard in order to earn a living. Was anything we were viewing as it soaked into our little brains truly “normal?”

Our various forms of entertainment have evolved with technical changes every day — the computers are smaller, but have there been any changes in what is considered normal? People are still people, families are our priorities, and we all hope life will improve for our children as our parents hoped for us. Most of didn’t plan on disease, injury or daily pain.

When I was a child I had rheumatic fever, and I will never forget when the phone call came from the doctor’s office. My dad cried, and that frightened me. I spent ten months in bed, missing school, and worst of all, going potty on a portable pot by the bed. All of these events made me feel abnormal. Once a week, my dad carried me out to our Chevy and I laid down in the backseat on a pillow, my parents drove me to the doctor’s office, and his nurse came out and drew blood from my arm. Then it was home again, back to bed, and studying at home with a special teacher sent out by the school district. I think that’s the time in my life when I began to feel different than others. It’s difficult for an 11 year-old child to miss out on a year of normal growth, socialization and everyday life.

The following year when I was able to return to school, I had been someplace most of the kids didn’t understand and I had been out of the loop. My life would never be the same again. Constant throat infections plagued me, one after the other, and my mom always fussed over me — perhaps more than she should have, but understandably so.

I often wonder how important it is to be normal, to fit in with society and to do what is expected. Oh my, but suddenly we’re in thick, deep muddy territory. Before my boots get stuck I must admit it’s entirely too complex for any trite answer, but this much I do know: Each of us has a moral compass, each of us searches for peace within our hearts based on that compass and hopefully, we find it. As members of society, we are expected to obey the law and live within its limits. We accept the fact we’re not allowed to run naked through the streets while playing a banjo. You see, we all have limits. That one silly statement assumes we can run, and many of us cannot. How many people do you know who can play a banjo? So many of life’s variables are based on our tastes, our talents and our health, are they not?

When we are suddenly or gradually struck with chronic pain, life is no longer our idea of normal. We have to develop and find new ways to do so many things. It encompasses everything from struggling to get out of bed in the morning to what we do with the remainder of our days. Many of us have lost our careers and a means to sustain life and pay our way. Still others are struggling to stay alive, and money worries are on the back burner. Others canmake it througha typical day but do so with more pain than others will ever understand. The world is filled with those whosuffer quietly, without fanfare, brass bands or medals of honor. They just trudge on. Some of us are new to this being-ill-everyday business while others among us have adjusted, adapted and overcome…every day. There is, unfortunately, a segment of those who suffer each day who have become embittered by life and toward life, and display their anger in their faces and attitudes. These are, to me, the most tragic of all. I shudder to think of the bleakness and dark repose that exists within their hearts.

Poverty, many of us have survived at one time or another in our lives. Illness has varying degrees in its intensity and duration. We fight a mighty battle to retain our version of normal in order to survive, to love and to continue to live. Unfortunately, attitude goes all the way “to the bone.”

It’s my belief that we, from this time forward, forget “normal” and just get on with the business of living, loving whatever state we’re in and embracing change. Do you have a better idea?

Every day is different than the day before, and we need to remember that “good” could be coming at us as easily as “bad.” Trudge on but do it expectantly. You might be surprised.

Last Updated:9/22/2011
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Date: 30.11.2018, 06:32 / Views: 71291