Think Different

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I have been challenged by Kim to

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My first reaction was not one of happiness (sorry Kim, no offense, I swear). I am generally satisfied with the way that I think, or at least, I am happy enough with it that I don’t want to change because changing requires effort and I’m not big on that. So I shelved it deep in the back of my brain for the last day and a half. In that time I've had a few fleeting ideas- less cynicism (phsaw), being more open to new things (no thank you) or not worrying about what other people think (would you still like me if I changed?), but none that I really wanted to think differently about. And I decided if I was going to do this, I was really going to do it.

And then while I was writing an email to a mother of a college aged girl who had the same surgery I did, I found myself writing about how I’ve given up on trying to be “normal” because it was a lot more trouble than it seemed to be worth. And that’s when it came to me.

If you go back to any of the recent or older postings about my head and the surgery you will find them dripping with my jealousy over this idea of “normalcy.” I want it, I crave it and I think honestly, that desire is what is keeping me from being happy a lot of the time. (Yes, the headaches are lending a big, fat, helping hand, but if I wasn’t comparing my having headaches to other people not having headaches, I’m pretty sure a lot of the mental anguish would be diminished.)

So (drumroll), I have decided to think differently about being normal.

I believe that “normal” does not exist. That it’s a construct within our own minds to keep us working towards something- something that is not always good or not always attainable. I believe that I have become a prisoner to this quest for normalcy and that it has taken too much of my life and way too much of my happiness. I do not wish to be “normal” anymore, I just want to be me.

I am flawed. I have a bad haircut (yea, I’m mentioning it again, you wanna make something of it?) and the rest of my hair is almost always unmanageable. I’m underweight right now and even still I have the worst looking abs ever. I am short and I have squinty eyes that look like they're crossed in pictures. I have creepy long fingers and I bruise like a peach. I burp and I tell inappropriate jokes. But I am me. And I realized that I really like that person.

Another part of thinking differently required me to come to terms with something I didn’t want to come to terms with. I am not healthy. I’ve fought that for most of my life and the fact that I’m stating this right now really, more than anything else, represents a change in thinking. I’m not sickly, I’m not dying, I’m just not in a good state of health. And there’s no way to know if I ever will be.

I have a cranial malformation, my brain lives in my spinal cord and always will. The surgery didn’t change that, it just worked to make it easier to live with. I likely have a connective tissue disorder, I have incessant UTIs and kidney infections, I have low bone density, I have fibrocystic breasts, I have an anxiety disorder and I have struggled with an eating disorder most of my adult life (which oddly has nothing to do with my weight right now, fyi). None of those things are “normal” but all of those things are bits of what has made me the person I am.

If I try to change all of those things (other than the obvious ones that need to be fixed), or pretend like they don’t exist, what kind of example am I setting for my students? For young women? For anyone reading this who might be foolish enough to look up to me? Changing things that don’t need to be changed to meet some arbitrary standard is not living life- it’s trying to be someone you’re not and to me, that’s a greater tragedy than any health condition or life problem.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know if I’ll have a monster headache, if the ulcer I’m working on will perforate and cause me to bleed uncontrollably or if suddenly I’ll wake up and be cured of all that ails me. But I will not spend anymore time thinking about all the things I don’t or can’t have because of health or other issues. I will think differently about who I am and who I want to be. I will think differently about what it is to be “normal” and how much less important that is than just being me.

How will you think differently?


lace1070 said...

Katie ~ I am totally with ya girl ~ normal is a nebulous thing. We should celebrate our unique, quirkyness ~ take it or leave it ~ I know when I found out about my brain tail all my ideas of normal went out the window ~ brain surgery totally changes your perspective, right? Hugs to you ~ Lace

Anonymous said...

The very first thing I thought of as I was reading your post is, "Honey, there ain't no such thing as normal." But then I saw you figured that out for yourself.

the queen said...

One of the first things that struck me when I was diagnosed with MS was " I'll finally be normal." Normal in my family means sickly - polio, asthma, cancer, mental illness. After about a month, Mom said to my brother, "Make way for another cripple in the family."

I worry about "normals" who get sick late in late. They have to change and adapt and they're old. And you know they'll have to.

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

Your Dad loves the circus peanut? Guess that right there is how I'll think differntly. Normally, I'd think the man was clinically insane for eating those orange nightmares....Now I'll just think that he is a man with slightly unusual tastes!!

There, I did it!!

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

YEAH - you jumped to our side!! The PATS will rule the world!!

We are so glad to have you on our side!!!


Hallie :-)

Anonymous said...

Katie, I know this is a bit unrelated, but a friend of mine just threw me your link because you and I have a piece of history in common!

I, too, had a Chiari Malformation Type I, and just had the surgery about 4.5 weeks ago. I've not had a chance to read through to see if it's been successful for you, but mine has been an amazing success

Best of luck with everything, and I'll definitely be adding your feed and keeping up with things.

kim-d said...

See, this is exactly why I wanted to tag you with this one. No offense taken; in fact, to the contrary. The only reason I took it so well when I was tagged because I had "found it" previously and had some time to give it some thought. I knew you would get it.

Normal? You are, for you. Perfect? You are, for you. Friend? You are, for me.

Anonymous said...

My therapist always told me normal was just a setting on the washing machine! It helped me to understand that being "normal" is BORING!

Thanks for volunteering to help with Flat Stanley! If you could email your address to me at, you'll be the first on our list! THANKS KATIE!!!!