“Normal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away from.” ~Jodie Foster
I attended a book club discussion today where we talked about a book that I dearly love: Carolyn Heilbrun’s The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty. This is the second time I’ve read this book, and in some ways I found this reading even more fascinating because I now know more about what the years following the publication of this book brought for the author.
Much of what I find so delightful about this book is that there are so many ways that I am much like the author. There are many things she describes coming to understand about herself that are things I could have written from my own personal experience. Many of these would qualify as being a bit eccentric, so I am always delighted to know that I am not alone in them.
It quickly become obvious as we talked that others of the group did not share my feelings. In fact, many of the participants actively disliked her. Several of them spent much of the meeting trying to diagnose what was “wrong” with her that would cause her to be as she describes herself in the book. Having identified so strongly with her, I found it interesting to be in the position of hearing the very characteristics I shared with her described as negatives, issues, and problems.
My reaction to this?
I found it fascinating! There’s a time when I could have been terribly upset, with hurt feelings and an abundance of self-loathing running through my head. I’m sure it helped that none of the women in this group are close friends, so their opinions don’t matter all that much to me, but I didn’t even for a moment head down the path of self-hatred. I was just fascinated to hear people express (indirectly, of course) how they view people like me.
I appear to be even less normal than I thought … and I’m ok with that. It left me without the slightest desire to try to reform myself to be more “normal.” I just came away with a little better understanding of why people might find me so hard to understand and, ironically enough, a better appreciation for who I am.
It’s clear that no one in that group is likely to want me as a good friend, but I still have the encouragement of knowing that Carolyn was well-loved, so there must be people out there somewhere who will appreciate me as I am—eccentricities and all. I have a couple of those people in my life already. Over time, I’m sure I’ll find more.
In the meantime, it feels really good to appreciate me no matter what anyone else may think.
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