Do Better December 10th 2014 When You’re Not Normal

10 Dec

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I knew early in my life I wasn’t like everyone else. From an early age in school, every teacher told my parents how bright I was but how I lacked focus. In the second grade, the teacher told my parents two things; first, that I was doing poorly in school because I would help everyone else finish their work which didn’t leave enough time for me to finish mine and second, I was too eager to learn. The combination of the two prompted my parent to move to an area with a better rated school district, which was the best and worst of scenarios for me. I got a clean slate and school and was blessed with a teacher who embraced my love of learning and challenged me to give my academics my best shot. Also, because I didn’t know anyone, I was doing my own work and feeling good about it. It was also the first time I had a bully in my life, someone who told me I was ugly and looked like a bird; someone who made fun of my newly acquired glasses and my intelligence and who let me know in no uncertain terms that I didn’t measure up in the girl department. Being a trusting child, I believed he was right. I was smart and athletic, not necessarily qualities prized in females.

At home, my parents never talked about me being pretty; at least that I can remember. I was praised for being smart and for being able to catch and throw a ball. I was praised for being kind and for being compliant. When I was a teenager, I had to shop in the women’s department because I had a curvy figure in the era of Twiggy. My measurements were 36-22-35, and I thought I was fat. My mom had to alter all of my pants to accommodate my figure. At the time, rather than feeling good about my very small waist, I could only focus on the fact that my thighs and hips must be too big to fit in “regular” clothes.

In school, I was doing well, mostly. I could ace almost any test. I could crank out homework. What I struggled with was any long term project that was assigned. I always seemed to wait until the last minute to try to do it and would turn in poor quality work. My teachers told me they knew I could do better. My parents told me the same. It took until I had children of my own to realize that I couldn’t do better at the time because we had no term for ADHD. We had no idea what Executive Function was. No one knew that my inability to use my time wisely was the result of how my brain worked and not laziness. It amazes me now that I could get all A’s and one C because I failed a long term project, usually in history, one of my favorite subjects. It baffled everyone and left them shaking their heads and wondering about my ability to succeed in life.

College and my first marriage made all of my differences even more apparent. I marveled at students who went to the library every day between and right after classes so they could go to bed at night before 11pm. I saw cute girls with cute guys and longed for someone to see me as beautiful. I wanted to be normal, but I knew I wasn’t. At some point in college, though, I started to feel good about myself. I started to like who I was. I still didn’t feel beautiful, but for the first time, I felt competent and strong. I didn’t do things the way others did, and I didn’t do them as well as others did, but I did good work. I did work I was proud of doing. I found my voice in writing. I found my strength in talking with my professors, and I found a group of friends who were as nontraditional as I was who seemed to like me for who I really was rather than who I was supposed to be. It was glorious until they all graduated a year before me, and I was faced with getting through my senior year without them. It was amazing how, when my support disappeared, so did my confidence; not all at once but just a little bit at a time. I think it’s what allowed me to start dating my first husband even though I think I always knew we weren’t meant for each other. He was the only person I dated in high school and since no one in college seemed to be interested in me, he seemed like the logical choice. Don’t get me wrong. I cared for him and even loved him, and I believe he loved me, but sometimes love really isn’t enough.

There were a few good things about my first marriage. We liked each other a lot, but it became apparent very early, that I did not measure up to what he wanted in a wife. He couldn’t understand how I could spend an entire morning cleaning and not get it done. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t lose ten pounds so I would be prettier. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t have a job that paid more since my education cost so much more than his. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t love me and after several years of off again, on again dating, I started to believe he was right about things. I tried working for myself and although I purchased a franchise and had the second highest volume of any franchisee in the country I was not making any money. I now know that the system wasn’t designed for me to make profit for the first two to three years, but at that time I was only one year in. I worked full time, cooked dinner every night, went to his softball games and did my best to keep house, but never kept the house as well as his mother or mine, who just happened to be stay at home moms. I did what I could to lose weight. I switched to diet drinks. I watched what I ate very carefully. I lost ten pounds and after a party we had one night, he remarked about how good one of my friends looked because he could see she had lost some weight. It was at that moment, when he couldn’t even see the effort I made that I knew I would never be good enough and our marriage was over. I left a few weeks later and began to rebuild.

Twenty plus years later I’m still rebuilding, not just from my first marriage, but from that and all that came before it. I’ve found out a lot in the past two decades. I’ve found out that while some people are desperately trying to hang on to the beauty of their youth, I embrace the beauty of mature wisdom. While others are spending money on creams and treatments to prevent wrinkles, I’m spending money on books and experiences that allow growth. I’ve made peace with not being the pretty girl because pretty fades and then inner beauty is allowed to shine through. Body confidence is replaced by spiritual confidence, not that your way is any better than anyone else’s but that your way is the best way to move through life for you. I’ve found out that my distracted nature has a name and most call it ADHD. I can choose to be defined by it, to use it as an excuse or to use it as a launching place of understanding my natural tendencies and accepting myself as I am. I choose the latter most of the time and rejoice in my ability to switch gears very quickly, to hold people in much higher esteem than tasks and to live joyfully and see life not as a glass half full or half empty, but as a vessel to have a lot of fun. Finally, I’ve found out that so much of life is a choice and that we can choose to accept others’ beliefs or we can forge our own in granite and steel. We can take up a gauntlet to defend what we believe and be like the mighty oak that is immovable but sometimes gets knocked over or we can be like the willow which appears to only float with the breeze but has roots much deeper than anyone can see. I choose to be the willow because it gives me the opportunity to learn from everyone, to constantly expand my understanding of the Universe and to love more widely and more deeply than I could otherwise. Perhaps the greatest thing I’ve found is myself; my sometimes messy, sometimes scattered, sometimes needy self. I’m not perfect, as the world has told me my entire life. I do not possess the physical beauty that the media has portrayed my whole life, but I am me, as authentic as I can be in every moment, as loving as I can be in every moment and still eager to learn as much as I can in every moment to become an even better version of myself. It doesn’t hurt either that the second time I got married, the man I married sees my inner and outer beauty much better than I do and shares his insights on the matter when I need them most. So for today, if you’re not feeling normal, embrace it fully. Know that you were created for a reason and maybe that reason is to be something other than normal. You know, Einstein wasn’t normal. Margaret Thatcher wasn’t normal. Mother Teresa wasn’t normal. No one who ever made a big impact on anything was normal, and maybe that’s the point. Maybe instead of teaching everyone how to be like everyone else, our calling is to teach each other how to be truly ourselves so that we can bring our unique gifts to the world and make it a better place.

Today, give that a try. Stop trying to be normal, whatever you think that may be. Be extraordinarily you and have fun doing it. Some people clean in solitude and quiet because that’s what they think they’re supposed to do. I clean with music and dancing because it lightens the mood and makes an unpleasant task more fun. Some people write at a desk because that’s what they learned to do. I write all over the place because changing the scenery helps me to change my perspective. Some people eat the same foods every day that they grew up with because they’re afraid to try something they might not like. We have found out in our home that no one likes goat cheese, my youngest child doesn’t mind chicken liver and leftovers are sometimes a great alternative to a dinner gone wrong. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some music to turn on and some dancing through life to do. If you like to dance, join me and we’ll have a party. If you don’t, move through today in your own unique way and create joy in your own way. Leave normal in the dust. Embrace being you. Thanks for being you and have a great day.


3 Responses to “Do Better December 10th 2014 When You’re Not Normal”

  1. Chris Toy Seal December 10, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    Love this Karen. Lots of good advise. If I could only remember. LOL

    • karenbemmes December 11, 2014 at 1:35 am #

      Sometimes we teach that which we most need to learn Chris. Thanks you for reading.


  1. Do Better December 10th 2014 When You’re Not Normal | karenbemmes aka Better Living Daily - December 10, 2014

    […] Do Better December 10th 2014 When You’re Not Normal. […]

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