Thursday, October 18, 2012

On Being Normal

BLOG READER WARNING -- I have finally told some folks that this thing exists so now there's an audience of more than just myself.  I don't know what I was thinking.  I was perfectly happy pretending that I was writing for an audience and knowing that nobody was reading any of it.  Not that I expect lots of folks to read but now I feel some pressure to be interesting, which is funny and stupid.  So I am warning you, dear reader, that you are not my audience.  In fact, I am my own audience.  I am putting it in a blog in the interest of expanding my audience beyond myself, but I have no idea how to write for you, so I am going to write for me.  Consequently, a lot of this is likely to be boring as hell, pedantic, pedestrian and other p words of which I cannot immediately think.  There.  Now I can eschew that pressure (there's another p word) and just continue jotting thoughts as they occur.  Perhaps eventually there will be a readable style going on, but that's not the goal.  Too bad for you!  ;-)

I think  it would be nice to be a normal human being.  I know they're out there somewhere. Hello!??!?  Maybe not.  conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.
They used to call colleges that trained teachers Normal schools.  
Wikipedia:  A normal school is a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Its purpose is to establish teaching standards or norms, hence its name. Most such schools are now called teachers' colleges; however, in some places the term normal school is still used.
Which is totally weird and is at the root of a lot of what is wrong with schools.  
Conforming schools.
Or conforming people.  The question is whether conforming is a consummation devoutly to be wished or anathema to real happiness.  I mean, you wouldn't want to be called abnormal or irregular or unnatural.  On the other hand, most of us don't want to be seen as merely standard or common.  We are inevitably conflicted by the definition of normal.

But perhaps most important are the consequences of normality, or the lack thereof.  Normal people do lots of things that seem a bit elusive to me.  Or maybe its just that the things that are generally elusive are labeled normal because they benefit the labelers.  

In the end, though, normal is pretty irrelevant.  What matters is happy.

And happy is much more significant and perhaps less elusive.  When I think back on the happiest times in my life, they were times when there was a strong synergy between my sense of satisfaction with the integration of family, love, work and play.  If you think of normal in terms of being integrated it starts to make more sense.  

Happy is what normal does.  

Normal is what happy does.

Happy is what happy does.

Normal is what normal does.

What is the intersection between happy and normal and comfortable?

Wiki How has a great list of 10 ways to be happy that I like.   You can use it to self-assess your happiness.  There's probably a number that can be assigned to it...people like having scores.

1. Be Optimistic -- This is an easy one for me.  I am optimistic to the point of living in a fantasy of positive expectations.  I believe everything will always turn out alright.  Actually, they don't really do that, but I think it doesn't matter.  My experience is that often times, if you keep believing that something will work, then it will work.  It's infectious, too.  If you think something will work, the people around you will also believe it and if everyone believes it, well then there you have it.  This is particularly useful with my work with theater, where a great deal of faith is required.  Optimism is a kind of faith.  It's a faith in the future.  If you don't have faith in the future it's hard to be happy.

2. Have Something to Look Forward To, Always -- In an earlier blog I talked about anticipation, which is like this.  Anticipation is often as good as the real thing.  I love watching this happen with movies or books that are coming out.  Folks will wrap their whole existence around that moment when their anticipated favorite film or book arrives.  The midnight opening or release.  Of course, at this moment my whole life is wrapped around something to look forward to, and that's definitely raised my happiness quotient.  At the same time, you can't live for the future.  There's a big difference between anticipating and wishing the current context was over.  "I'll be happy as soon as..." is a fallacy.  If you are happy already, then you can anticipate with happiness.  It's about Joy.

3. Follow Your Gut -- Well, this is mine to a fault.  If something feels right, I am totally there!  Oh, yeah, let's follow that feeling.  The hell with discipline or reflection!  Hmmm....  Something resonates here around conformity...don't conform if it doesn't feel right.  Something like that.

4. Make Enough Money to Meet Basic Needs -- Apparently that's about $40K in the US.  That's one of the scary things about this upcoming income!  I guess the other nine ways to be happy will have to be enough!

5. Stay Close to Friends and Family -- Oofff...this is a hard one for me.  I'm not good at maintaining contact with people.  When I do manage to connect with folks we will typically have lots of #6, so that's good!  But connections are infrequent.  Part of this has to do with being busy, but for an introvert there's the constant impulse to just go home and read a book.  Particularly given how social the work I do in theater can be.  Even though its at arms length, when I'm directing I am in a completely intensely social environment and a I think that as a balance to that I retreat to solitude a lot to recharge.  But it is important to do this.

6. Have Deep Meaningful Conversations -- This is something I am happy to do at the drop of a hat.  In fact, it is one of the things that I enjoy the most and I think I can make other people crazy around it.  At the same time, I'm can be completely guarded and folks have no idea what I'm thinking.  Like I'm an egg easy over sitting on your toast.  Everything is all packaged up and neat but then when you poke it the yolk gets everywhere!  Very messy.

7. Find Happiness in the Job You Have Now -- Yeah.  That's good advice.  I keep trying to do that but it's a struggle.  I get that the grass is not greener on the other side of that there fence.  In fact, it's the same damn grass, most of the time, and moving over the fence rarely fixes anything in the long run.  On the other hand, sometimes the history of a place and a position are such that a change is indeed for the best.

8. Smile -- I like this.  I do this.

9. Forgive -- I do this too.   People generally mean well and if we weren't so narcissistic we'd probably tend to have less stuff to forgive in the first place.  If someone hurt you it's likely they were thinking about something else.  Still, sometimes it hurts anyway.

10. Make Friends -- Not so much.  People are hard to get to know.  And annoying.  Ha!  Not a good outlook I suppose.  And I'm busy.  I'm too busy to do a good job of connecting with the people I already know without having to figure out how to manage new relationships.

Hmmmm...#5 and #10 don't bode well.  Perhaps normal has something to do with not being isolated?

There is a rhythm to happy as well.  It ebbs and flows.  It's nice when it all works together.  Then change happens...and you can feel euphoria or enthusiasm, but real happiness gets built over a longer span of time.

Allright, enough bullshit for one post.

No comments: