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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

What is normal?

Being Typical

To be broken is no reason to see all things as broken.”
Mark Nepo

As you may know, my educational background is in counseling. I am well steeped in diagnosis and pathology. I was born with an analytical mindset that is always assessing. But I've come to understand, though it's taken far too long, that not every broken person or thing is pathological. You know how sometimes when a broken bone heals incorrectly, it has to be broken again and reset? Well, that's how I think of life circumstances that crack us open—they provide, in addition to pain, opportunities to reset.

I think we are a little too quick to diagnose and prescribe. That no doubt comes from a positive place—to make it better; to help this person get past their trauma and move on. But sometimes, people need to stay with their ill feelings, to sit with them until understanding comes, and a new appreciation is gained. Not always, of course, but sometimes. Remember Job, in the Old Testament? How he dons sackcloth and sits in the ashes of his former life? He takes time to mourn. It's so uncomfortable for his neighbors, that, in their attempts to make it better, they only make it worse.

Sometimes what we think of as pathological is simply a variation of normal—whatever normal is. Sometimes, people don't need a label that helps them to identify what sort of “deviation from the norm” they are; they just need to find ways to accommodate their difference. There is no check list when it comes to being typical, so that you know whether you fall safely into the statistical mean. We humans are scattered across the bell curve on many different measures beyond intelligence. Adaptability, for instance, is a major skill, no matter what sort of cracks and breaks you may have. I see this every week in my trips to Lakeshore, the training site for the Paralympic teams. Talk about your adaptable people!

In a kinder, gentler world, we don't label people according to their differences, nor do we celebrate some and not others. We just accept each person as they are—as we are—with a mixture of gifts and deficits that add up to one original and valuable human being.

                                                        In the Spirit,

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