DISSECTING THE LIE
So many people – even superheroes in the movies – want to be normal. They disavow their gifts, hide their peculiarities, and pretend to be like everybody else so they can live normal lives. These superheroes diminish their power because it makes them different. It’s sad really. We do the same, sacrificing our power and unique genius to blend in with all the normal people.
That’s unfortunate, because there’s no such thing as Normal.
Normal is a cold, dispassionate lie that divorces our soul from our human psyche and renders it plain. Colors turn to grey. Rich smells turn to dirt. Laughter becomes hollow. Normal has no sparkle, no wit, no wonderful surprises.
The quest to be Normal cultivates conformity and creates a false sense of security. It is a machine that wears down the rough edges, rubs out the dark smudges, and fills in the dimples. Unfortunately, the edges, smudges and dimples are what makes us unique and feeds our distinct genius.
Normal doesn’t engender fear – it is fear.
For most of my life I thought everybody else was normal. The Normal “out there” didn’t fit the what I knew was “in here.” I don’t have great charm or grace. I can usually be counted on to say the wrong thing, laugh too loud, or wear my anger on my face. I’m a bit of a workaholic and don’t put up with much crap.
This chasm between Normal and “Me” kept me isolated. My fear whispered, “If they get too close then they’d know how weird I am. They wouldn’t like me. They’ll reject me.” That’s what Normal does best. It isolates us by installing a “pre-reject” button, making us aliens in our own lives.
My first brush with Normal came in 2nd grade. There was a sweet and lovely girl, Ella, who was the daughter of my mother’s friend. I wondered sometimes if Ella was the daughter my mother wished she’d had. She often compared me to Ella. “Why can’t you be sweet like her?” “Why don’t you join her little group of friends?” “Here, take her hand-me-downs and maybe you’ll be more like her.” Even in 2nd grade I didn’t put up with much crap, so my mother’s plans didn’t work.
My mother meant well. She wanted me to be Normal so I’d fit in. She didn’t understand that her daughter preferred reading Tolkien, drawing dragons or beating up the neighbor boys to more genteel pursuits. I don’t know what those pursuits were – and I still don’t and I suspect my mother didn’t know either – but I do know my mother died completely unaware that Normal doesn’t exist.
A lot of people believe the lie of Normal. They believe there’s something wrong with them, and not something wrong with Normal. This is the heart of addiction We hide our real selves to be Normal and are surprised at the pain this causes. We then numb the pain and get even farther away from our real selves.
Normal is also a barrier to rich spiritual lives. There is the Normal god you can find at Normal churches, synagogues, mosques, and ashrams, but you can’t have a relationship with any god “out there.” You can only have a relationship with the god you find “in here.” But if you can’t trust your own inner world, you cannot trust the Divine speaking through your heart. It’s not Normal to hear god’s voice, but it is essential to having a relationship with it. We don’t believe our own instincts or trust our own genius so we cannot believe the voices. We eventually shut them out and wonder where the magic went.
Unfortunately, when we chase after Normal, we can’t build character, integrity, compassion, courage, or self-sufficiency. It’s hard to be curious or joyful when the outside self must be carefully monitored. If you doubt me, go into a restaurant and laugh too loud. Wear a head scarf at the mall. Wear goth clothes and a pentagram to church. Put on a suit on casual Friday. People will comment. People will be rude. If you don’t conform to Normal, then they are reminded they aren’t really Normal either.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble to detail Normal if I didn’t know there was a solution. That would be mean. And while mean is Normal in American culture, I try not to be mean. I hope you realize by now I don’t consider Normal a good thing.
To help you heal the Rage of Normal, there are seven steps to embracing your own weirdness and transcending the compulsion of Normal.
1. Recognize there’s no such thing as Normal. If Normal were True, there would be a consistent Normal everywhere you go. But even simple comparisons between America and just about everywhere else in the world shows you Normal changes. What is normal in America isn’t going to fly in Saudi Arabia, and vice versa. You don’t even have to go that far afield – what is Normal in Texas isn’t going to be Normal in California.
The things that are True, aren’t Normal. The call to “Mean what you say and say what you mean,” is a Truth, but it’s not Normal. Old-world virtues such as Faith, Courage, Restraint, Hope, Love, and Charity are Truths, but they’re not Normal. Each of these Truths is rooted in wise and prudent living. There isn’t a culture on this planet that I’m aware of that doesn’t adhere to these virtues to one extent or another. But right now, in the United States of America, Normal is anything BUT virtuous.
2. Find and embrace your genius. So often we feel lost and wonder why life didn’t come to us with an instruction manual. We are uncertain because we’re looking outside ourselves for Normal to guide us. The Truth is that your instructions in your heart. Look within, embrace your unique genius and follow it to the best life possible, no matter what that looks like. Your genius is your soul’s mission in this world. Love your genius.
There’s a bumper sticker that says, “Well behaved women don’t make history.” Normal robs us of history by snuffing out genius. You can’t be a genius in whatever pathway you’ve chosen and adhere to Normal. It’s not going to happen.
3. Forgive yourself the time you spent trying to be Normal. Once you embrace your genius, you may feel that all that time you spent chasing Normal was a waste. Now that you can love your weirdness, you’ll want to spend as much time being weird as possible, but there is all that time you can no longer get back. There’s also all that time you spent trying to make other people seem Normal. It’s water under the bridge, as they say, and the best you can do is live your weirdness to its fullest now.
4. Find other similarly weird people and support each other. It’s hard sometimes to be weird, especially when you’re surrounded by people who don’t yet realize Normal is a lie. One of the most insidious effects of Normal is it makes everybody Other. There’s a common trope in our culture – the rugged individual. Unfortunately, humans are not meant to be individuals. We’re herd animals that evolved in small family groups between 30 and 100.
Buddhist teachings propose the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The Buddha is our inner sacred nature that rests in peace, love, compassion and joy. It is covered by illusion and compulsion, but it’s there. Mindfulness, meditation, prayer and other spiritual practices clean out the mental and emotional debris to reveal our inner Buddha natures.
Dharma is our pathway. It can include sacred practices and the scripture that guides our activities, but it’s also our genius. Our personal Dharma is the purpose behind our lives that clarity and heart-centered living can reveal.
The Sangha is our tribe of like-minded people who support us in our journey. They usually have a similar journey and through dialogue and reflection can help us reach our spiritual goals faster. They also call us on our shit. I’ve declared myself enlightened a half-dozen times in the last twenty years. Fortunately, I have spiritually-minded friends to laugh at me. Without that feedback, I could have gotten stuck on my pathway.
5. Cultivate and express your genius. Don’t hide it. Our inner genius can look artistic, but it can also look like compassion in everything you do or being fully present and engaged with your children. It can look like planting gardens or helping other people find their highest and best selves. Your genius is your calling and you need to get it out of you.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the Gospel of Thomas. “If you bring forth that which is within you, it will save you. If you don’t bring forth that which is within you, it will destroy you.”
The Greeks had a notion of a daemon, or portion of your soul that seeks expression. Originally, a daemon was a bridge between humans and the gods. It was later twisted it into an evil force, or a demon. However, a daemon has a purpose that cannot be denied. Unfulfilled daemons led to insanity and self-destructive behaviors. Even now we have a concept of ‘inner demons,’ without the understanding our demons – or daemons – are unexpressed, unacknowledged gifts of the Divine. Normal supports a victim mentality, which destroys bridges, even the ones to the gods.
6. See beyond the illusion of Normal. Never demand Normal and don’t accept its demands upon you. So often people are afraid of anything or anybody that doesn’t seem Normal because they see the human soul as defective. These folks – the believers in Original Sin instead of Original Grace – feel that without strict norms, we’ll descend quickly into mindless savages. There is plenty of evidence to support this notion – have you ever read the comments on Facebook? However, in smaller groups where people actually know each other and meet face to face, kindness and mutual support are much more common.
That doesn’t mean you should destroy people’s delusions of Normal and it doesn’t mean you can’t play the part if need be. I healed up my nose piercing when I started work as a trainer for an insurance company. I needed the job and needed to fit the Normal mold to do my job. But that never once meant that I no longer believed in Normal. I still read tarot cards and do workshops on Spiritual Communion. I just know that everybody else that I work with is pretending to be Normal, too.
7. Be grateful every day that you have found your unique, genius self. So many people live and die and never know there’s a world outside Normal. They go their entire lives believing something is wrong with them. They long for Heaven or Hell because they’ll find peace.
Gratitude is a special, high-frequency energy that strengthens everything it touches and that includes your inner weirdo. Love it. Appreciate it. Give it time to get out and play. Teach it what it needs to know to fully express itself. The only way you can do that is if you’re grateful your genius – your inner weirdo – exists.
Reclaim your inner weirdo. Genius and Normal cannot coexist. Neither can passion or joy or grace or unconditional love. Normal robs us of our skin, our genius and our passion. It is a tool of control that shapes expectations – thin, flawless, wealthy, and increasingly sleazy. If you don’t fit, you don’t sit. If you buy into Normal, they can sell you anything.
However, if you use these seven steps to reclaiming and cultivating your inner genius, you can coexist with the world of Normal without having to lose yourself in its dictates.