The question I have asked myself the most often in the last 2 years is, “Am I normal?” When I was pregnant and dealing with all of those suprising little symptoms I would call my sister-in-law the nurse practitioner, just so I could hear her say those two beautiful words: “It’s normal.” When Carolyn was born and something concerned me even a little, I would call her even more frequently to hear those same two beautiful words.
When Mom was diagnosed and the roller coaster of that journey started–I also wanted to hear them. Is what Mom is experiencing normal? Are these out of control emotions normal?
And here I am, almost a year after her passing… Finding myself in a slump, depressed some days, ok but non-productive on others, busy and businesslike others, and ready to plunge into new aspects of life still others. Is the way that I’m grieving here–11.5 months later normal? Is it normal to cast long glances back to mark what happened a year ago each day that we draw closer to the anniversary of her leaving? Is it normal that in the next breath I reach for the phone to call her to tell her about Carolyn forgetting for the 215 millionth time that she really is gone? Is it normal that I can’t comprehend all the ways that my life is different and that some of those changes feel like more loss? Am I normal?
I’m trying to learn what it looks like to be a normal stay-at-home Mom without the addition of an extreme family crisis (at least as normal as it gets when your husband is in the Navy), and I still want to know what that looks like? I wonder what feelings that I’m feeling might be felt by any Mom in general–is this boredom typical? Is the frequent fear that I’m doing something wrong what all Mom’s go through? Am I being present to Carolyn a enough? Am I enriching her life with enough opportunities to learn? Is what I’m doing ok? Am I normal? Is she normal? Or have I been blown so offtrack by our lives being turned upside down that I’m not able to give that normalcy? Could some of the moodiness I experience be just the struggles of early motherhood–the fatigue of having a toddler, or even run of the mill PMS? Or does all of this stem back to my grief and the work of integrating myself into a life that looks vastly different than I thought it would before cancer happened to our family.
My rule of thumb for all things mothering related has been: assume it’s normal unless I have a gut-feeling otherwise, and play the ‘wait and see game’ for confirmation. The difference with the journey of grief and calibrating to ‘new-normal’ is that the landscape is ever-changing. There are new things, and old things cropping up in a new way each and every day. The intensity of the grief has subsided in some ways and magnified in others. The passage of time becomes easier and harder all at once.
Why do I write this? Not to vent. Not to whine. Not to complain. I guess I write it in the hopes that, assuming that I am in some capacities, normal, maybe someone will stumble across these words, and something will resonate and they can relax into the feeling that they are ok. They aren’t going crazy. Feelings are messy and don’t happen “normally.” The feeling of “normal” has a whole variety of definitions. New normals don’t feel normal. And… I think at least, that itself is some kind of normal.