How many times have you been asked about your goals in life? Seems from high school on into adulthood, that question nudges a way into countless conversations with friends, family, and prayed-for employers.
For decades I would field such an inquiry with a memorized, finely worded, sure-to-please response that pointed attention to ideal social status, financial stability, and my next career move.
All that changed when I found myself in the vulnerable stage of early recovery. Instead of saying what I thought others wanted to hear, I exhaled with the admission I needed to hear myself say. My forever goal was to just feel normal.
I fantasized about this because I doubted normal people spent the first sixty seconds of early morning consciousness cobbling together flashes of fact from the night before. They probably didn’t have to ask themselves what they did or said, what lies needed maintaining, where the stashed unopened wine bottles were hidden, if they ate dinner or anything at all, and perhaps most crucial, if anyone saw them doing something they should not have done.
Back then I tried to play the role of a normal adult while hiding the fact I spent my days sneaking more than a few drinks and pushing through an occasional meal. I thought if I portrayed that high-achieving business woman who breezed though meetings, settled irate client calls, and finalized budget-binding projects on time without breaking a sweat or losing her cool, I’d be thought of as normal.
For years I wished for a different kind of normal. I just couldn’t figure out how to accomplish that without disclosing my secret supply of unhealthy behaviors. I convinced myself that if that were to happen, society would drop me from any definition of normal as I dropped my bags in front of the reception desk at a treatment center.
When I eventually experienced the latter, the stars seemed to rearrange themselves when I heard someone suggest I might consider a new normal.
Instead of quenching my thirst for what made sense with booze, scales, and lies, I could satisfy my craving for sanity by aligning myself with people who offered the kind of recovery-focused practical experience I could relate to.
As the last traces of alcohol left my body and proper nutrition settled in, clarity of mind did too. I eventually understood that what I had labeled as normal was nothing more than a story I told myself based on unrealistic expectations.
Today, normal is what happens when I do the next right thing, stay consistent with what keeps me holistically healthy, and remain teachable.
I’m grateful my life doesn’t mirror the definition of normal I once hoped for. The changes I’ve made and peace of mind that brings is convincing evidence that what’s normal is nothing more than how I feel. And that, in fact, is what I’ve always wanted.
A Moment to Breathe
What’s your definition of normal? Has that description wavered over the years? If not, take a few slow deep breaths and consider if the time has come to establish a new one. Remember, what seemed like the natural course of things years ago may not align with how you are naturally meant to live.
I’m curious about your thoughts on this topic. Please leave a comment below or via your favorite social media spot.