Jeanette Winterson’s 2011 memoir title, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a bombshell. It was a comment her exasperated adoptive mother, Mrs. Winterson, proclaimed when a young Jeanette was endeavouring to be herself, to be loved and acknowledged for who she is.
Implicit in Mrs. Winterson’s exhortation was: Why be honest? Why strive to be who you truly are? It is easier to go along, head down, carrying the same rocks, eating the same gruel and treading the same path of low expectation and convention that has been well worn ahead of you. It’s easier to be normal.
Recently, my friend Ann relayed that when she was a child her mother offered her a penny for each school day she survived without tears. While effective in the short term, this reward system had an unintended consequence: Ann’s inability – well into adulthood – to confront any kind of authority without crying. Even a simple question directed up the ladder sets Ann off, and she still hears: ‘Hide who you are. Be normal.’
The brilliant psychologist, Abraham Maslow, once wrote, “What we call normality in psychology is really a psychopathology of the average… so un-dramatic and so widely spread that we don’t even notice it.” A generation later research psychologists would describe normality as ‘a form of arrested development.’
Ann is changing. She is beginning to cherish the gift of her own sensitivity and perspective, and she is practicing standing firm and speaking her own truth. Not to be dogmatic, or to preach. Just because she is here, on this planet, in this life school. And her affirmation? I am good, I know things, I have lots to offer.
It takes courage to break the bonds bequeathed by our elders’ best efforts to keep us safe… In fact when we have lived a certain way for a long time, when we have gone by all the rules and expectations laid out for us, it takes a lot of courage to rise above the sleepwalk of habit, to express ourselves honestly and to risk change. Applaud then the everyday hero who takes a chance, who does their inner healing work to find their self-esteem and who goes on to flower.
More than ever the world needs our unique offering, our being present and joyful in the fullness of who we truly are. Every small contribution counts, moves us all forward. It is imperative that our gifts not lay dormant.
About Monica Renée Duncan
A periodical writer for over three decades, she is a new contributor to 3rdimagazine.
“I’ve had many spontaneous and unusual encounters with the divine. For that reason, I have a passionate belief in the power and capacity of the human spirit to evolve. But every new level we attain begins with a first step, the recognition that we need guidance and help. The universe provides, when we ask.”