Months ago, I was sitting in a booth across the table from Michael chowing down on some scrambled eggs when he said to me, “You seem like you’ve got this down. How do you act like a normal person?”
I bristled at the phrasing and probably said something to the effect of, “I’m hardly what anyone would consider normal, Michael.”
A lifetime of psychiatric diagnoses which have included depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – inattentive type tend to disqualify me from claiming the word “normal” as one of my adjectives.
Nonetheless, the question stayed with me long after breakfast had ended. I found it rolling around my head as I went about my daily life. I found it popping up in my daily journal entries. Clearly, it was something that needed to be explored further.
I don’t claim any definitive answers, but there are a few things that I know to be true.
One, the word “normal” is a descriptor of a person is a bunch of bullshit. There’s no such thing as a “normal person”. The whole notion that there is such a fantastical human being who is functional in every socially acceptable way is just something that your inner critic constructs to make you feel like an abject failure. It’s bullshit. Let it go and realize the only thing that’s real is who you are in the here and now, and you’re awesome.
Two, your inner critic is an asshole who delights in your misery, hates change and wants you to fail at everything. Your job is to tell that jerk to pipe the fuck down. Your inner critic will never be happy no matter what you do, so you’ve got to make a decision and tell that sucker to shut up.
Real example from my life… I look in the mirror and my inner critic, whom I call Sheila, says to me, “Ughhh… How can you leave the house without any makeup on? You’re such a pathetic excuse for a woman.”
I don’t really love wearing makeup because I’m the sort of person who forgets I’m wearing it and then does something like get all teary-eyed over an Adele song or decide to rub my eyelid and gets black shit all over my hand, so most of the time I ignore her and then she proceeds to point out every woman on the train, in the office, on the street who’s wearing makeup and gives me the whole, “See? You’re the only one failing at this.”
But every now and then, I listen to her and paint my face and the minute it’s all on Sheila’s shrilling in my head, “What the hell is wrong with you?! You look like a $2 hooker! Do you want to get raped? You know what… I think you should go get brutally raped and murdered and die for putting that on your face.”
Can’t make the bitch happy. You’ve got to recognize her when she’s talking to you and you gotta ignore her.
Three, be mindful of your system resources and shut down shit you don’t need. Okay… so it’s a computer metaphor, I’m a geek. What do you want from me? So, everything you do requires time and energy to accomplish… whether that’s going to work, hanging out with your friends, practicing guitar, masturbating, taking out the garbage, obsessively refreshing Facebook… Even actively resisting doing anything at all takes time and energy.
When you’re stuck in that rut where you can’t get anything accomplished, it’s usually because you’ve got a whole bunch of crap going on that’s bogging down your system and making it difficult to get anything done. Figure out what that shit is and stop doing it, and start doing those productive things instead.
Which brings us to point number four, you’ve actually got to… you know… do shit. So you want to write a novel? Get writing. You want to record an album? Start a band. You want to stop stressing so much? Go to a yoga class or hell, just sit on your pillow and pay attention to your breath for five minutes. You can talk all you want about the things you want to do, but you’re actually got to do them… and keep doing them.
It’s not going to make you normal… Not by a long shot. But you know what? You just might feel better about shit in the end.