We are not normal, often even to ourselves. So many of us live in our heads, sometimes the only safe refuge we know. There, we can be what we want. I protected my status as different as I struggled to grow up. This was the 1960s. Normalcy was not on my radar screen. The Fantasticks, which opened in Greenwich Village in 1960, celebrated being quirky. “I am special,. A teenage girl announces. “I am special. Please God, please – don’t let me be normal.”
Now I am a mixed bag, to stick with the parlance of that time. Feeling unique remains a piece of my identity, but there is another dimension to me that has evolved as my body has been attacked by progressive disease. I want to be normal, to run up the steps and drive down the street, to walk through a crowd without others recoiling with horrified looks on their faces. I am weary of the pity patrol, well-intended strangers who clearly feel sorry for me.
Almost all who have lived with a serious chronic condition for an extended period know the unsettling sense of being marginalized by the chronically healthy around us. People are not malicious. In their discomfort, they simply overreact. We are all too familiar with our own limitations, keenly aware of what others can do as we watch from our seats in the bleachers. Gradually and grudgingly we grow used to our separate status because there is no way around it.
I cannot bring myself to say, Please, God, let me be normal. That is going too far. I would have to get a haircut. I want to be occasionally normal. Please let me be the same as the others, once in a while. I know life does not work that way, but sometimes it would be nice to put my cane in the closet and quickly walk to the car.