shark swimming through a dense school of fish that all look the same

Not Normal

Do you really want to be normal?

Many systems, cultures and beliefs point to other types of intelligence. For those raised in Western cultures, there is a relentless focus on academic achievement from the day you are born, or the day you give birth.

You conjure up the hope that your child will be ‘normal’ as soon as possible. And then rapidly push for them to be ‘above average’ as they grow older, maybe even elite. But of course, all these hopes and dreams for what your child will do or become are ultimately underwritten by the need to protect them, by ensuring they are as ‘normal’ as possible and ‘fit in’. Can you really have it both ways? Is it possible to be ordinary and extraordinary?

What a beautiful oxymoron. On the bell curve of life, apparently, we all want to be at the upper end where scarcity breeds a select number of “A grades” and “first places” reserved for the most intelligent and physically adept that walk among us.

Yet in the next breath, we strive for normality and toward a picture of success that is, 95% of the time, not even our own picture of success. It’s an inherited set of norms, beliefs and behaviours that we never ‘opted in’ to in the first place. A little bit like spam email. It appears in your life, whether you asked for it or not.

Most people think that “normal” is safe, comfortable and connected. But the truth is that the drive toward “normality” deprives us of everything beautiful in this world. When we normalise something or someone – we take away their magic.

Normal breeds comparison. “Not normal” breeds fear.
Normal flat lines heart beats down to a single dead line.
Normal cherishes the average. But average is always stuck in limbo. Right in the middle of nowhere. The middle of everything, that ultimately amounts to nothing.
Normal says “behave like us, believe like us, then you can belong to us.” Unique says “you don’t have to believe to belong.”

Normality is the perceptual canvas that your worth is determined by your school grades, your job title, your bank balance, your assets, your physical abilities or your lack of problems. “Just keep swimming… nothing to see here”.

And that’s the whole get-up. “Nothing to see here” is the goal of normality. Yet every single human wants to be seen and valued (dare I say – loved) for who they really are.

For every human that has graciously allowed me to truly “see” them over the past 2 years, I promise you, that you are anything but normal. You are incredible.

Most people think it’s normal not to be crazy. But the truth is – it is crazy to want to be normal.

Here’s what normal looks like in Australia right now:

  • For every 2 or 3 marriages, there was a divorce in 2019 (ABS)
  • 1 in 4 kids (25%) and 2 in 3 adults (67%) were overweight or obese in 2017-18 (AIHW)
  • Nearly 1 in 2 (45%) Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. (Beyond Blue)
  • 1 in 6 Australians are currently experiencing depression or anxiety or both (Beyond Blue)
  • Nearly everyone believes mental health in the workplace is important (91%), but only half (52%) believe their workplace is mentally healthy.

Nearly all of these challenges come down to a simple contrast – being valued for “who” or “what” you believe you’re expected to be vs. who you really are.

That’s what love is all about. For yourself and for someone else. To be able to see another human for all the beauty they hold inside and out. For their incredible and unique way of getting about life that is to be celebrated.

Some of the most inspiring and beautiful people on this planet are the ones who are unjustly labelled as ‘weird’, ‘disabled’, ‘broken’, ‘not normal’, “strange’ or ‘unique’. Ironically, how they are seen by others is simply a product of the soul that is looking at them. Each of these human beings has done something extraordinary, something “normal” people try to achieve their whole life. They have discovered a way of thinking, of living and being that is completely unique. The see the world differently. While everyone else has been busy trying to feel and be ‘normal’, they have jumped the boundaries of time to realise that trying to be someone else is futile – they have carved out their own path to life.

As Oscar Wilde says: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Perhaps you will pause the next time you are heralded by the brave announcement of a colleague that we have successfully emerged into the “new normal” and question whether in fact, that is something to aspire to.

The education system is simply that – a system. Sometimes systems serve their participants incredibly well. After all, that’s what they were designed for. It is not the fault though, of a system, that people within it are disgruntled.

“Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets[1]”.

  • Wisdom is to know when you have outgrown the system you are in.
  • Courage it to take action in finding a better system for you.
  • Breakthrough is to create it for yourself.

There are many types of intelligence and physical ability. The enneagram teaches of three centres of intelligence:

  • The head-centre of intelligence: what we would typically associate with schooling and education. With thinking that “good grades” denotes your worth.
  • The heart-centre of intelligence: the reason why some people succeed in life by listening to their heart
  • The gut or body centre of intelligence: the reason why some people make better choices by “going with their gut” and taking action, than getting stuck in a ‘head vs. heart’ loop of indecision.

You are intelligent, just for the fact that you can get through life. And no single path or system should ever strip you of that understanding.

If you are blessed to make progress with your body – then go for it!
If you come to life with the growth of your mind – then keep exploring!
If your heart lights the path from within – then trust it!

When all three come together in unison, you are home.

To chase ‘normal’ is to live in a world of grey, devoid of colour. The defeating pursuit of normality strips life of its beauty.

Over 3 million Australians are on anti-depressants. A drug designed to ‘normal’ out the highs and lows. To return us to an un-noticeable state of sedation. (OECD)

In fact, part of the reason I started to drink in my younger years was to ‘fit in’ and ‘be normal’ because everyone else was doing it. For many addicts, they will tell you that their drug of choice helps them ‘feel normal’.

We are paying money, to put things into our bodies, that get us closer to the illusion that normality is what we seek.

We consume – to feel normal.
We create – to feel incredible

Now shift from your body to your mind. What are you putting into your mind – under the guise of being normal?
The news? Facebook? Instagram likes? The latest series to binge? Addictive games? Conspiracy theories?

And what about those things that you feed your heart?
Doubt? Anxiety? Comparison? Fear? OR
Grace? Love? Forgiveness? Empathy? Patience? Courage?

No one needs another guilt trip. It’s far too normal, to feel guilty by falling short of expectations. Expectations that were often created by someone else, but willingly consumed by you.

Perhaps the cruellest outcome in the search for normality, is to immunise ourselves from the presence of miracles.

As Albert said – “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

The most profound miracles in our life – magical moments, places, people and things – seem to lose their magic through familiarity and normality.

The birth of a child.
Saying “I love you”.
Taking a deep breath.
Growing tomatoes.
Dancing together.
Learning to crawl.
A creek-side walk.
A butterfly.
A star.

A human.

We become “used” to it. Conditioned. We slip into normal. And in doing so – we cease to recognise the miracle in front of our face. For it is not that miracles no longer exist, it is that our instinctual drive toward normality as a security blanket for fitting in, for acceptance, means we cease to recognise the miracle for what it is. Diluting the most profound – down to the most normal.

These are not normal lives we are living. They only become normal, when we cease to recognise the love, life and electricity that surrounds and lives in all of this. In all of us.

So why are we trying so damn hard to be ordinary?
Why are we trying to be the best possible version of normal that ever existed?

 “What does all this mean finally, I kept asking like a college kid. Why does it make me want to cry? Maybe it’s that we are all outsiders, we are all making our own unusual way through a wilderness of normality that is just a myth.”

Anne Rice

A miracle is an extra-ordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws…..

Roll out the welcome mat.
Come home to abnormality.
It is beautiful here.

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[1] This quote is attributed to a range of people, including: Don Berwick, W. Edwards Deming, and Dr. Paul Batalden