for release Friday February 6, 2004
by Melodie Davis
Normal Can Be Nice
Normal can be boring, drudgery, the same old. But sometimes normal is very very nice. I use those over-used words (very and nice) deliberately because they go with “normal.”
The Christmas season turns things kind of topsy-turvy for a while. So even though January looks boring, January is also nice. This past January I heard people saying a number of times, “Isn’t it nice to get back to normal?” Routine. A schedule.
When the whole family is home it means having to cook or organize meals three times a day. During normal workweeks I usually only have to cook once a day. One man who had houseguests over the holidays—very welcome houseguests—talked about how much food they went through with guests on hand.
The trouble with normal is that you don’t know how nice it is until life gets turned upside down. I remember how my family’s routine got turned on end when my husband came home from work on Dec. 30 sixteen years ago with a torn knee ligament. He had surgery Dec. 31, and for the next six weeks, we coped with him on a twin bed in our living room, a hook and pulley affixed to the ceiling so he could get himself in and out of bed without me there. With a cast to his hip, I had to help him take partial baths in the bathroom sink, wash his hair, and see to all of the normal needs of our children and household.
Later our routine changed to having a therapy bike in the living room with him taking care of the children instead of the babysitter since he couldn’t go to work anyway. I came home to madcap bedlam each evening, and I remember feeling almost overwhelmed having three kids under 7 and a temporarily disabled husband. But things worked out. There are much much worse situations to endure but it certainly gave me a lot of sympathy for those going through times when life is not “normal.”
A local plumbing business airs radio commercials touting the benefits of “normal” when it comes to your household plumbing. We can all identify there. Emergency mode sets in when the pump gives out, the pipes freeze, or the well goes dry. Speaking of plumbing, it is also a very good example of everything we take for granted when things are working okay. How many times a day do we turn on the tap and never stop to be grateful for the luxury of hot or cold running water in our homes? How many millions of people in the world do not even have this basic “need” met?
Right before Christmas, our pump suddenly wouldn’t work. It was the day before we were expecting guests for a small party. We had also been hunting all week for a Christmas tree to no avail, but that’s another story. If you are having a Christmas party, two things that are nice to have are running water in the house and a Christmas tree. We pulled some water out of our old cistern, I took a shower at the office, and otherwise coped until my husband figured out that evening what was wrong. The next morning, we even found a free Christmas tree that was suitable. The kids hurried to decorate it while I went to work for a few hours. And we had our little party, with water and tree.
These are mere inconveniences in the grand scale of things and only illustrate that normal is very nice.
I’ve seen folks going around with T-shirts or bumper stickers saying, “Why be normal?” I can definitely agree with that sentiment: at times I feel the need for adventure, to step out of the box, my comfort zone, and do something totally abnormal or unexpected for me. My mother is searching for something “abnormal” or adventurous to do on her 80th birthday next summer. Our office is home to two comedians who specialize in looking at normal things in abnormal ways. I guess you could say that’s what I do, too in this column, purporting to look at life “another” way (although I do not ever claim to be a comedian.)
But that is not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about normal as the opposite of out-of-routine, things-going-wrong, life-upside-down. I love December, but thank goodness for January and February. Thank goodness for nice old normal. And don’t forget to thank God for normalcy (now that’s a funny, ironically abnormal looking word)—the things in your life you depend on without much thought or appreciation expressed: water, sunshine, skin covering your body, bones that work, thumbs, sleep.
For a free booklet for when things aren’t normal, “Finding the Strength to Survive A Crisis” write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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