Saturday, December 19, 2009

On being different

Many years ago when I was in therapy, my therapist said something to me that really took me aback.  She said, "Well, you know, you're certainly not what most people consider normal!"  Those weren't her exact words, but it was something to that effect.  I asked her what she meant because I had always considered myself normal.  She pointed out my some of my choices - nursing my kids til they were done, attachment parenting, considering homeschooling, living overseas, travelling and speaking several languages, artistic bent, ecologically minded (in the days before green became an advertising slogan), free-spirited. I'd never before considered that I thought or acted differently than the majority of other people in society.  It was so startling to me I didn't know what to do with the information.  I have tucked it away and occasionally bring it out, look at it, ponder it, polish it, wonder at its veracity, recognize the truth of it, shake my head, tuck it away again for next time.  Am I really so odd?

My children think I am - though in a nice way, I think.  They don't know any other kids who've had to grow up with paintings of naked men and pregnant women all over their houses.  They don't have friends whose mothers go away for retreats where they dance all weekend with a bunch of crazy hippie types (it's a wonderful type of dance called Contact Improvisation - I met many of my dearest friends there, including my husband!  The picture is of me (in purple) and a friend dancing - now does that really look crazy??!  I just think it's FUN!).  Most of their friends' parents have "normal" jobs and take normal vacations and have regular art in their houses - framed prints of VanGogh or Wyeth.

It's a little bit uncomfortable sometimes that people perceive me as "different", but mostly I don't mind it.  I have a student whom I tutor who has gotten to know me more personally than most of the kids do.  She'll find out a tidbit about me and shake her head and say, "Ms. Singer, you're the most interesting person I've ever met!"  I'm glad I can broaden her horizons!  I guess I am a bit outside of the bell curve of normal, but I don't think I can do anything about it.  It's who I am.  I would suffocate if I had to try to fit into a mold of societal expectations.  I grew up trying to be "nice" and "perfect".  I performed well and did what was expected of me, but once I got out of the house, I started shifting and grew in new directions that felt better to me.  My plan for the rest of my life is to continue to follow the still small voice within, trying to discern what my inner spirit would have me do in order to express myself most authentically.  Life is too short to try to do anything else!!


  1. What really IS normal? Do we really need to worry about what others think, if we are creative, productive and causing no harm to anyone or anything?
    I have been lucky in life to meet so many wonderful women who are talented, strong and unique. I think they are all "artsy types" and some of the most fascinating people I know. Susan, I think of you not as an oddity but as a rarity. I am glad to know you and glad you are exactly like you are and who you are.

  2. Adele,
    Thanks for your comment! I don't feel bad about being different - just aware that's the case! But thanks for that affirmation. I'll re-read it whenever I AM feeling "less than" for being how I am - it's a tricky balance sometimes, for sure!