I am abnormal. Don’t try to talk me out of it. I am.
I have no children. I have no grandchildren. I am a 59-year old woman living with a 68-year-old “boyfriend.” I don’t comingle finances with anyone. For me, the verb “party” is more about ice cream than alcohol. I am more intellectually-oriented than most people. That doesn’t mean I am smarter. I am not. I just spend more time and energy thinking about things that probably don’t merit the attention I lavish on them. In other words, I am profoundly dweeby. I am also a little neurotic. I eat like a four-year-old. I play like a child. I get giddy about the color pink.
Consider some of my blog posts that you’ve read. How many adult women spend money to be transformed into Tinker Bell? How many people believe God talks to them at an Orlando theme park? How often do you run across someone who names the random wild animals that roam through her backyard? Don’t you think it is a little unusual for a grown-up to hunt for the Elf On The Shelf every morning in December?
Go ahead. I dare you. I defy you to try to convince me that I am normal.
When I was younger, it used to bother me that I was so different from virtually everyone I knew. I struggled with depression before I even knew what depression was. A lot of those struggles presented as anxiety over being such an outsider in the normal landscape of life. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. I felt powerless to participate in “real life” like other people because I was so weird and abnormal. I guess it never occurred to me that my life, as weird and abnormal as it has always been, is as real as anyone else’s life.
I always felt like I just wasn’t good enough to have the life normal people get to have. Maybe because it seemed out of reach, I craved it more. For a long time, I limited my life because I believed I wasn’t worthy of happiness. This fable that I told myself damaged many facets of my life. It destroyed many opportunities for joy. At other times, I postponed living abundantly, waiting for my reality to change into a more traditional life. I would regret all this wasted time, except that I think everything I’ve experienced was necessary to get me where I am today. Sometimes, you have to take a few steps into pain in order to leap ahead to satisfaction.
At some point, I came to terms with my abnormalcy. I learned to live with it and to be happy in spite of it. Part of me continued to wish for a “normal” life, but I decided that there was no point in wasting the life I had by living in a pit. I crafted some reasonable facsimile of what I thought of as a “real life.” I enjoyed it the way you can enjoy watching a documentary on television about a place you never get to go. I tried to fit in as much as I could, always conscious that I was different. By trying so hard to mask my abnormalcy, I believe I heightened my sense of fear and shame about it. It was like I was living with some deep, dark secret that would shatter my world if anyone ever uncovered it.
Somewhere along the line, things changed. I think retirement had something to do with it. When the financial stakes of not fitting in were no longer a factor, I seemed able to embrace my abnormalcy a little more. Maybe it is just that I got tired of waiting to become normal. I’ve decided that maybe “different” doesn’t have to mean “worse.” Maybe it even means “better” … or, at least, better for me. I’m quirky and weird and unexpected and kind of cute. I’m embracing the quirk. And, you now what? It’s fun. I can be happy… not in spite of the abnormalcy, but because of it.
There are still times when my insecurities bulldoze me. Every once in a while, something happens that shines a brilliant spotlight on the fact that I am abnormal. I want to crawl into a hole somewhere. I feel so exposed, like the world has discovered my deep, dark secret…. that I am not good enough for a “real life.” It doesn’t happen often, though, and I recover fairly quickly with no permanent harm done. Most of the time, I like being good old abnormal me and I love my own personal version of “real life.” I’ve noticed that other people seem to enjoy me, as well. They seem to appreciate being tourists in my abnormal world. I find that when I slip my leash and show the people around me all my authentic abnormalcy, everybody seems to be happier. I never would have thought of myself as “engaging” when I was in search of normalcy, but now I think I kind of am.
Retirement is a great time to embrace your abnormalcy. After all, maybe you aren’t the one who is on the outside looking in. Maybe you are the one who is on the inside and everyone else is looking in. You might want to open a window and let them in.
Have you ever felt “abnormal?” How have you dealt with it? Have you found a way to indulge your own brand of abnormalcy in retirement? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have an abnormally wonderful day!