“I just want a normal life.”
The words sucker punched me through the telephone, striking me with familiarity as I listened, each anguished syllable bringing me down from the good mood I enjoyed seconds earlier. I understood her desire, her frustration as I listened attentively to my friend describe her longing for a moment’s peace. Before me a mourner, if only for a moment, a woman pining for a complacent life she looked back upon and believed she once enjoyed. Divorced with children, a rocky relationship with the ex, dating mishaps and disappointments, her outlook is not at all uncommon. In fact, it is typical.
Her days are not easy. She is managing children, a house, finances, and the biggest undertaking of all trying to carve out a piece of happiness for her. Her world is stressful. Life has somehow morphed into one gargantuan task, and the prospect for achieving balance often looks discouraging. I felt for my friend. I have been there. I am still there, treading perilously through the ebb and flow of each day that passes, each day whose current pulls me further away from the tranquility of my married life.
Moving on after divorce is much like bungee jumping from a cliff into rough waters below. We all relish the comforts of home, even when that home is not so comfortable. The bad marriage from which we emerged−the abusive one, the loveless one, and even the boring one−has stagnated us. For years we made due, learned to adjust, and made excuses. Somewhere along the way our normal was born. For a while all was quiet.
Until that day, that moment, either of our own volition or because of an outside force, we realized we could no longer be normal anymore.
Normal is not necessarily synonymous with good, or with healthy. Normal is simply the reality to which we become accustomed. Indeed, complacency can be the most treacherous of enemies, slinking into our minds and hearts, lying to us, telling us this is all we deserve, that our obligations to others take precedence over our own.
Giving up on us should never be normal.
Yes, it is unfortunate my friend’s hopes and dreams for her family life were thwarted. Unrealized. Yes, it is unfortunate her children do not have happy parents living together in one house. Yes, it is unfortunate her days attempting to do it all are trying, harried, and lonely. Undeniably, she has been dealt a difficult hand. Anyone who is divorced has been dealt that same hand, even if by their own actions they dealt it to themselves.
But if floating through a life that falls short, is only just good enough, and is merely okay is the standard for normal, then I opt for abnormal any day. That my friend or I could ever miss such normalcy is more than unfortunate. It is deadly. What I describe, what I recall, is not living.
Following my separation, what an onlooker would call normal has slowly returned to my life, even as I remained unaware, or doubted it could ever be possible. It is a new normal, though, and a better one.
A few feet away I watch my daughter on this beautiful Sunday morning in Spring. My 13 year-old announced she would cook breakfast. The sweet smell of pancakes fills our kitchen. I am in awe. She is growing up so quickly, turning into an adult right before my eyes. When I fed her breakfast in her high chair what seems like only yesterday, once upon a time as a young married woman, this was not the home life I thought I would have or could ever enjoy. But I do. And on a morning like this I know we, my friend included, will all be okay.
Our new life is simple. It is pure. It is bright. Today it is normal.