Banishing Normal

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2017 at 6:44 pm

Last October, I was informed the bookstore I worked in for 21 years was going to close. I’d lose my job in April. This was the first in a line of incidents that crushed my sense of what was normal.

Then my mother’s pre-cancerous condition became serious enough that her doctors recommended chemotherapy and a blood marrow transplant. This would involve months of treatment with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Dad would come up with her and be her full-time caregiver during this time. Seeing my mom treated for cancer, sporting a tube that had been surgically embedded in her chest for easy blood sampling and infusion, was the next jolt to my sense of normalcy.

When Dad had to leave Seattle to return home to the drier climate of Nevada so his bronchial infection could heal, I became Mom’s full-time caregiver. My apartment wasn’t suitable for her stay. It was a four-floor walk-up without an elevator and wasn’t close enough to the clinic. I moved into a one-bedroom apartment with Mom in housing set up for SCCA’s patients. I moved out of home, just another couple miles away from normal.

Mom got better and she went back to Nevada, too. I went back to work during the final month before the store closed. At this point, the building looked more like an abandoned two-story garage than a bookstore. It was emptied of books and only full of echoes. This shouldn’t be the normal state of any bookstore.

Now, I’m unemployed for the first time in my adult life. What used to be my normal life has completely vanished in less than a year.

Upon reflection of the difference between my life then and my life now, I realize I don’t want to have a normal life ever again.

Ten years into my twenty-one-year bookstore career, I realized it was time for me to leave, but I didn’t. I was comfortable. I had a routine. I was being paid well enough that I didn’t have to struggle to survive. I wanted to do more than survive, but I was afraid to risk what I had in order to strive for what I truly wanted.

While I recognize that routines can help us become more efficient in meeting our personal goals, I don’t ever again want to mistake the routine for the goal. Routines are tools that help us achieve the goal. The goal is a fully engaged life, not one stumbled through.

I don’t ever want to mistake comfort for success. I don’t ever again want to become hypnotized by sameness. I want to be fully conscious of what is in front of me, what is within me, and what is holding me back.

While I was afraid of being my mother’s caregiver, doing so forced me to face my limitations. I had to become better than I was accustomed to being. I had to create better habits and be more honest with myself and others about what needed to be done if I and those around me were going to live healthier lives. So, from now on, I want to face the challenges of my life head on, realizing that at the end of my limitations begins new knowledge and wisdom.

I am choosing to live as a writer, whatever that means, wherever that takes me. I don’t know the path, and that excites me, but I know whatever comes, I will face it consciously, graciously, gratefully, and with more fear of settling for a normal life than of experiencing the unknown.

  1. Derek,
    I was there. But you describe it so perfectly. I was numb at the time, so it’s nice to have this reflection to visit. Now, finding myself in a very similar circumstance, your words reverberate. Goodbye to that place. My mom had cancer too (And recovered too!) We are lucky and Parents are weird. Reading your note by a raging bonfire atm. I appreciate what you’ve done. Miss you and love you.

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