The trouble with normal is that it only gets worse…These are the words of Bruce Cockburn, well-known Canadian singer, songwriter and activist. The meaning of these words comes true when you hear people who have a life of “the dream”, a white picket fence, 2.5 children, house in the suburbs, mini-van and sports car, vacations in Florida, etc…and suddenly the wheels come off. Why? I find it odd how often the conclusion is around the margins, “we don’t have enough”, “s/he is not affirming enough”, “is this all there is?” And yet at the core I wonder if our dreams are this small or this expensive.
I just came from the Brunswick Street Mission Breakfast and four people were there to tell their stories, a happy childhood that went wrong, a life on the streets filled with chaos and pain, a moment of connection, when the Mission was there to help, and then a better way. In some of these stories there was abuse, a matter that cannot be anything than evil and toxic to one’s well-being. But what I think we miss is how much the “giving of one’s self” figured into the healing narrative. As I listened to the beginning of the personal story, of the “white picket fence”, I heard nothing of giving back, of connecting with others who were broken or in need. At the end of the story, when things were getting more settled and peaceful there was ALWAYS a piece about being a volunteer, offering help.
I think the trouble with normal is that what we call normal looks and sounds to me like a self-contained oasis from others. The world might be broken but in my little part of heaven there is beauty and security and predictability. What we call normal often sounds like a refuge, far out of reach from the concerns that rage in our world.
That’s not to say we don’t need a refuge, a time out from intense caring and sharing. Life is not all about outreach and work with the broken. Life is also about silence, beauty and joy. But what we name as ideal has an effect on our lives and if what we hold as success looks like separation and escape then our lives are bound to be separate and escape.
And who says one can’t have both? Why can’t we have a party, a rollicking good time of laughter, good music and good food in the midst of connecting to those going through a broken time? If we are honest and name that we too are broken and we too will be broken in pieces at one time in our lives then the resilency of those around us who move forward with a new spirit will carry us on their shoulders.
Normal is not all it’s cracked up to be. And being broken is not the death sentence we imagine. Reaching out to others helps us to reach deep within and find that Spirit that brings new life.