They Said I Wasnâ€™t Normal and They Were Right
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.
â€œYou know,â€ Jean says after I tell her about a couple of my odd dreams in the past few weeks, â€œI suspect these messages youâ€™re getting on being â€˜less criticalâ€™ might mean for you to be less critical of yourself. Stop beating yourself up, will you?â€
I hadnâ€™t thought of it that way. Weâ€™re in the midst of a long discussion on whatâ€™s normal, and Iâ€™m realizing with a little bit of a panic that I donâ€™t know what â€œnormalâ€ is.
I guess Iâ€™m supposed to be learning, though, because the subjectâ€™s come up a dozen times this month, each time with me being shown a way of relating that I never considered possible. Each time, itâ€™s a relief because itâ€™s such a drain of energy to be on-guard all the time against saying the wrong thing and risking not being loved anymore.
Jean canâ€™t stop fretting about the dream I had where I was with a new life partner who walked in on me in the bath- room and we were both at ease with each other. She lists various activities and events that are typical â€œcoupleâ€ things, and theyâ€™re all foreign to me. Vicki does the same. So do several acquaintances who donâ€™t know about the dreams.
And Iâ€™m shocked at the realization that in 23 years with the same man, I never once saw him pee. Okaaaaaaaaaaay.
Iâ€™d never thought about it before. Itâ€™s not that I think he was a robot or an alienâ€”snickerâ€”but Iâ€™m assured that this is not normal behavior.
Then again, Iâ€™m told itâ€™s not normal not to argue. Iâ€™d al- ready figured out for myself that Iâ€™ll definitely argue more in my next relationship than in my last one. I grew up in a household where Â the Â arguments Â were Â one-sided Â and Â any Â disagreement would simply lead to being on the receiving end of the most cut- ting remarks imaginable. Later, when I was able to â€œwinâ€ arguments with Daddy, after Iâ€™d left home, he would twist the disagreement into a guilt trip complete with a report on his health, finances, and everything heâ€™d ever done for me.
I traded one primary male relationship for another and married a championship debater. Seriously. A forensics king. He was quite intelligent Â and very good with structuring an argument. Except that he had to win. And if he drew blood to win, that was okay with him. It was part of the Â fun of a debate.
It wasnâ€™t so much fun for me.Â Â I couldnâ€™t just have an opinion: Â I had to offer irrefutable scientific proof or my beliefs werenâ€™t valid. Â And just like in my parentsâ€™ house, disagreements meant someone was going to end up with their mouth clammed up andÂ Â theirÂ Â eyes brimming over with hurt Â feelings because differences of opinions were a challenge to be won over. And if they werenâ€™t won over, there were always the not-so-subtle news articles left in Â the Â printer for me to find later. Kinda funny nowâ€”talk about having the last word.
But as my ex often pointed out with great disappointment, I donâ€™t like to argue. What he missed out on what how much I love to discuss.
So does my new normal include the possibility of disagreeing with someone and still being loved? Of two people being open with each other in every possible way? Can two people just be compassionate and Â treat Â each other well? Can one call the other from work and say, â€œHey, Â honey, Iâ€™m having a hard day with way too many decisions to make, so can I be the bottom tonight?â€ Can two people talk and neither respond and the lack of response not mean thereâ€™s something wrong? Is there really such a thing as a healthy relationship?
Iâ€™m differentâ€¦uniqueâ€¦whatever. And thatâ€™s okay. I like being unlike everyone else. But when it comes to relationships, Iâ€™m just now learning what â€œnormalâ€ looks like.
Based on what my friends say, itâ€™s a man singing and peeing with the bathroom door open.