My Normal is Not Normal

During work this week, I got a call from an unlisted number. This was the voicemail:

Hi Jeremy, it’s Jackie calling. I have some updated information for you, however the information is not urgent and I am going to send a letter to you today. If you don’t wish to wait for the letter our toll free number here is [866 number]. You can give us a call. Thank you. Bye.

I only know a small handful of Jackie’s, none of whom would assume that I would remember them out of context or have non-urgent information to mail me. I shared and unsuccessfully brainstormed with my coworkers.

So, I googled the 866 number and found out that is was from Victim Services in Canada. (They were calling to update me on Jesse. Since I am a registered victim, I have the legal right to information about him while he is serving his sentence including what programs he is enrolled in and what facility he is currently being held in.)

When I shared my joyous discovery with my teammate (it wasn’t a manipulative sales call of phishing scam! Yay!), I was reminded of something I often forget: My normal is not remotely close to most people’s normal. What for me was just an “I figured out who called” moment became an “I can’t believe all you’ve been through” moment. And that is fine.

The major plot points in my life are shocking to most people. They respond accordingly. It’s not necessarily wrong… most people respond with love, care, concern, disbelief. I just forget. When I insert joy or humor into my life’s tragedies it takes people by surprise… and probably makes them uncomfortable.

When my brother first passed away, I didn’t know what emotions to process and in what order. I was just kind of floating through life for a few days. Some time during that first week, my friend Britni texted me,

    👕👖💼👞 <<funeral outfit

and it was probably the best text I had gotten in months. I died laughing. Shortly thereafter, we discussed in depth about how I needed to eat my feelings and then go shopping for stretchy pants. (Brit, if you read this, we still need to get us some stretchy pants!)

Brit’s family has gone through their share of tragedy. Her ‘normal’ is a lot closer to mine. She’s not afraid to enter into that space and bring some humor with her.

All of this to say, don’t be afraid when someone’s ‘normal’ looks different than yours. I’m guilty of it too. Just because their life seems darker or more tragic does not mean that they don’t need and appreciate a well placed joke. Obviously be careful… make sure you have a level of trust. But it can be isolating to feel like all of my big important stories are off-limits.

In friendships, one of my most significant markers of being true friends with someone is when they make a “Your Mom” joke. I get really proud of them and give them a hug or high five. It shows me they know me and they’re not afraid of my story.

[My friend Dr. Melissa Mork specializes in meeting humor with grief. If you want to know more, contact her through her website. She is wonderful.]

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One comment

  1. Growing up in a time when “normal” was usually a dad, a mom and some kids and a dog, I had, and still do sometimes, feel that normal is very overrated. Normal for someone is usually very different than normal for someone else and until we see into someone else’s normal, we don’t even know that it might be different, or similar, to ours. I also have found that until you know someone else’s story, you have no idea what they might have gone through or are still going through. This world is so in need of empathy and compassion for others instead of hate and judgement about someone who’s normal doesn’t match theirs.

    I also just read something that said if you can tell your story without crying, you’ve made it through. I know personally that you never quite “make it through” losing a loved one. The hole is always there, it’s just not as jagged. I find that when I share my story first, especially from a place of less seriousness or shock, it makes other people more comfortable. And it helps to put a little bit back into my own heart.

    Keep doing what you’re doing Jeremy. Although sometimes your pain is still pretty raw, you are so compassionate for others and your heart is so big and so caring for everyone, whether they have a similar normal to yours or the total opposite. And that smile can always make someone feel better and put them at ease no matter what they’re going through or how they’re feeling. You are an amazing young man, Jeremy, and the world needs a whole bunch more of you.

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