Normal life. What does that even mean anymore? Did such a thing ever exist or perhaps the term has become as outdated as ‘normal families’ and ‘normal children’ has for me.
Normal life would suggest a pattern of specific behaviours. I do ‘x’ and then I do ‘y’ and then I do ‘z’. Lately my life has looked more like: SJgahhjkgSA$#@IFS(F?US?J0u8472.
Not much of a pattern, more of a free-for-all, more like one of my computer passwords.
Going from being a ‘normal family’ to redefining what that means and looks like, to accepting ‘normal family’ encompasses a whole variety of situations – or rather that a ‘normal prototypical family’ doesn’t really exist – helped me make one of the biggest mental shifts of my life. If I didn’t have to be normal and my family didn’t have to be normal then that opened the door for a whole host of other exciting avenues.
I’m not knocking normal, rather I’m opening the door to the great unknown and saying, “why not go in here?” I’ve become rather fond of wild places, of the great unknown, of showing up at houses with appealing entrances.
And so I dived headfirst into my Masters program. You know when you have a great idea and you get really excited about it, and maybe even mull over the possibility for years and wait for the timing to be just right and then that thing you wanted, you are ACCEPTED, you GET IN and IT’S HAPPENING. Then you defer for a year, because life isn’t quite right, and then it’s here, that thing you really wanted and YOU’RE DOING IT. I’m struck by that moment when it arrives, the momentous occasion of going from dream to reality. But I’ll skip to the point. The doing is tedious. The doing is hard. The doing is work. No matter how much I like the dreaming, the doing is the fun part. And so my former ‘normal life’ as a mom who wants to write is no longer. I wrote before now because I wanted to, and for many years with urgency, but now I HAVE to write. Not that this is the judge and ruler of my behaviour, but we are literally spending thousands of dollars for me to do so. Money talks! Money talks! Now I am part of a writing community. Now I’m in writing groups with editors and published authors who are looking to me to hear what I have to say. Soon I will be face-to-face with agents and publishers. There’s no time for remembering what normal used to look like, this is my new normal. The glittery, dazzling literary world. I feel like I have been knocking on the door for years, and somebody finally let me in and is showing me the way.
A writing program, such as the MFA, is a writer’s dream not just because of its focus on the craft, but because of the writers themselves! The people! I am so fascinated by my fellow classmates. The cliché, in this case, is so true: every one of them has a story to tell. And that’s why they’re here, beside me, engaging in the normal task of writing in the extraordinary setting of the MFA.
Things will never be the same. This notion, this idea, comes up over and over in my memoir, a repeating theme, but over time, through my transformational journey of understanding what it is to become the parent to a child with Down syndrome, with much self-reflection, the tone of that messaging changes. Things will never be the same and I wouldn’t want them to be.
Change, for me, has become a mark of growth. How much more could my life possibly change over the next two years of this Master’s program? Who knows? Chances are, at some point, I will settle into some kind of neat and tidy routine. For a while. Then the world will tilt, and I’ll have to stumble back onto my feet again. But our world is constantly spinning, we only think we’re standing still. Our sure-footedness is the illusion.
Our ‘new normal’ after the pandemic may not look like our ‘old normal’, but can we use this as an opportunity to change something maybe we didn’t like about our ‘old normal’? Can we find the silver linings? Can we step one foot in front of the other and knock down that door we’ve been eyeing. You should know that Elyse, my seven-year-old daughter, never hesitates when it comes to knocking on strangers’ doors. Ringing their doorbells, too. She wishes every day were Halloween and so she makes it so, by declaration and by ignoring our cries of protestation. Unfortunately, it isn’t always enough to declare our wishes, we need to take action, step through the threshold, fully commit to our objectives, and often we need others on board. And timing. Halloween only works one day of the year.
Living life is like turning the pages of a book; once you’ve experienced the story, you can’t unread it, it’s there inside of you. There is no going back. Nothing will ever be the same. You can flag a passage, return to highlight your favourite lines, but ultimately the story doesn’t change. You have to pick up a new book for the story to continue.
I’m somewhere past my title page, floating in a sea of ideas that I will shape, with time, into a sculpture of ice. This endeavour of becoming makes me wildly happy.
I will leave you with a vision of my ‘normal life’ stranded on an iceberg, floating gloriously far away from me out to sea. I’m in a speedboat with the people who matter and my new writer friends, heading in the other direction, and I don’t look back.