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.

15 Responses to Normal

  1. Lori April 25, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    Richard – The day will come when you can burn the cane – don’t just put it in the closet! What a wonderful time it will be for so many people who are cheering for you. The day WILL come.

    • Richard M. Cohen April 25, 2014 at 3:47 pm #


      I certainly hope so. As I often write, the expectation game is dangerous. Who knows?


  2. Bill April 25, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    Richard – I saw this Tweet today and thought of all of us who struggle with a chronic illness:

    “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much” – Mother Teresa

    • Richard M. Cohen April 25, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

      Great quote. Thanks.


  3. Jo April 25, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    I totally relate! Wish I could have walked both my babies into school or pick them up. They are now 9yrs&6yrs and don’t need me to hold their hands anymore. Therefore one could understand when I have no time to listen to “healthy’ mums complain about school drop off & pick up!!
    Must keep on keeping on!!

    • Richard M. Cohen April 26, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

      You, too.


  4. David April 26, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    My friend would say to me

    God wont give you what you cant handle but in your case David, he has overestimated your ability

    we all laughed because we all struggle with questions that have no answers

    I try to keep smiling, it eases the pain.

    It also helps when we try to help somebody else.

    I think back to when MS only started to affect me and we both say

    Wouldn’t it be great to just feel like shit again.

    Mary always tells me that I was never normal but she Loves me all the same

    I am grateful for that!

    • Richard M. Cohen April 26, 2014 at 4:13 pm #



  5. MB April 26, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

    Feeling marginalized by the “chronically healthy” is the absolute worst. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it. They can save the sad puppy dog eyes for some hypochondriac who thrives on it.

    • Richard M. Cohen April 26, 2014 at 4:14 pm #



  6. danny aiello April 26, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    Richard , you don’t consider yourself a hero, but I think of that Neil Armstrong line … ‘One small step for man one giant step for mankind’.. well that is how I look at you a reluctant hero . thank you

    • Richard M. Cohen April 26, 2014 at 7:49 pm #


      You are generous. Or crazy.

      My best,

  7. Betty Moody April 26, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

    Step away from the scissors. There is nothing normal about it, and nobody leaves this life unscathed. A new Boomer joins the club every 10 seconds, and two thirds bring at least one chronic disease to the party. By the time we’re 65 we’ll have three to five more enduring ailments to battle before we die. When you catch a stare that is nothing less than kind, and charitable, – invite them in.

    • Richard M. Cohen April 29, 2014 at 11:58 am #


      So I guess I am normal. Damn. Who wants to be normal? Here we go again.


  8. nicole September 26, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    Mr, Cohen, I have given up on being normal along time ago. X instead I’m learning Spanish from a local community center.

    so I figure I’ll be one up on the rest!