Tag Archives: redefining normal

Come on, grab your paper bag of granulated sugar and your metal spoon and let’s stand in my kitchen so you can force feed me the keys to happiness, tell me I’m doing it all wrong.

I am the girl who smiles at you from across the hallway, head bent toward the floor, cheeks pink from the cold air outside and the red flush running through my veins. I am the girl who knows sorry better than “so what?”, who knows not what she apologizes for, who does not take a second step into the deep abyss of trouble without a battery-operated flashlight and a group of equally-terrified best friends.

I am the girl who once believed a smile would be enough. But it is not.


Tea drinkers might tell you they’re addicted to caffeine. They probably won’t say it’s the warmth from inside that spreads to their toes on an unseasonable October afternoon. They probably won’t tell you it’s the sound of a clinking spoon against a handspun ceramic mug. They probably won’t tell you it’s the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.

Because a spoonful of sugar is not so sweet.

For weeks, I’ve felt like someone is shoving a spoonful of sugar into my mouth and making me swallow it. Like he or she is grabbing hold of me, duct-tapping my butt to the swivel chair in front of my desk, and demanding I read accounts of girls who struggled with something and overcame it, who said “no thank you” when it came to what they wanted because to say yes would be a sin.

And I spent one, two, seventeen years going to church every Sunday. I ran away for the same reason I’m feeling sick to my stomach now: I felt overwhelmed, almost nauseated, by the intensity of it all. By the idea that I had to be perfect always always always. Stand on the tips of my toes and reach upward and hope I might be better tomorrow because today I am still imperfect.

Today, I am still imperfect. Tomorrow, too, I’ll rise from my bed and begin the two-week trek to the end of this semester. I’ll screw up, get mad, spend money when I shouldn’t. I’ll eat dessert and lounge on the couch all afternoon and let the people in my life do the same without feeling like it all comes back to God.

Let it come back to Him. Let it. Let me here you tell me something about why I’ve felt like I’ve been through the ringer these last four years. Come on, grab your paper bag of granulated sugar and your metal spoon and let’s stand in my kitchen so you can force feed me the keys to happiness, tell me I’m doing it all wrong, that I’m being punished for not stretching myself thin.

Victoria wrote a post two weeks ago that I just got around to reading, and I could not stop scanning the page in awe. She has guts. She laid it out for anyone willing to listen. And I just wanted to thank her.

For what?

Reminding me that there is no perfect Christian. That I’m allowed to sleep at night. To live with myself. To drink my tea sweetened. To cross the line that so many have told me, again and again, I should be ashamed for crossing. I am not. I cannot be.

I’ll do what is right by me and I’ll vow to never shove a scoop of religion down someone’s throat. Because the only way to steer me from it is to push a plateful in front of me and make me eat every last morsel Matilda style. 

[Photo credit]

And girl, you're going so far.

Just to be clear, I am 16 or 17 here. Not 13. I may've burned all those photos.

Dear thirteen-year-old Me,

Thursday night I knocked on Brooke’s door and just started crying. And not the wiping-a-few-stray-tears-away kind, either. I’m talking full-on can’t speak crying.

Some things, my dear, will never change.

Brooke told me something pretty radical, something I still don’t quite believe, to make me feel better. She said I’d been through a lot more than most of the girls in this town. Like the two standing outside my neighbor’s house Saturday night, shrieking, the green strobe lights pulsating into our street.

She told me that and I shook my head, because of course it wasn’t true. The more I see of the world, the more the scale tips toward heartbreak. There’s just a sea full of brokenness rolling between Us and Them.

Kellie’s challenge made me think of the thirteen-year-old girl locked deep inside of me, still reeling from the pain she put herself through.

I know you’re awkward. And I mean, everyone says that when they’re thirteen, but it’s about sixteen times truer for you. I don’t know how you got out of bed at six in the morning and watched Fresh Prince reruns with syrup-drowned waffles and didn’t just want to go comatose.

By then, though, you’d already sworn off school for once. You figured you might as well go back again. I know. I understand.

You lied about a lot of things. I know you didn’t want to, but you felt like you had to. And that’s true for a lot of us, but sooner or later the truth has to free you. I think, eventually, you learned that. You lied about things that, seven years later, you cannot even dare to speak out loud. That’s how ashamed you are.

You lied about things you’re unable to write about; and that’s a big deal, because let me tell you that all your little stunts, all your little mishaps will find themselves again on the page. Even the ones that ended you in hospital beds. Even the ones that threatened, at times, to yank your bedcovers off you and take you right from this earth.

Don’t lie so much for so long, OK?

It’ll be eight years in December, but I can still see you standing barefoot on that cold blue tile floor, sure that something bad was about to happen. You didn’t know it already happened. You didn’t know that it could take three days to find the right kind of tears for a funeral you never anticipated. You didn’t know how to heal.

And so you gave up. It wasn’t your first funeral, nor was it your last, but you had seen enough.

Now, you look at death and see it backwards, each person falling closer and closer to birth. 57, 40, 17. You pray it starts going back up again. You pray your next funeral might not be for a 3-year-old, but a 98-year-old.

Mostly, you pray life at thirteen is more complicated than life at twenty-two. Guess what? It’s not.

But you’re fine. Obviously, you’re more than fine. You still laugh nine out of ten days and you still look more or less the same. You still know how to hold your chin up, even if those other girls in town don’t.

And girl, you’re going so far. You don’t even know it yet, but you are.

This world, your life, your mind is a magical place.

Your future self

Pleas to Please: Weaving Words into Wishes

If there is one lesson I’m grateful I never learned, it’s that loving what someone else wants you to love won’t make your fall any more graceful.

In fact, I’m sure you’ll end up with not two scraped knees, but three or four.

Three or four broken hearts will try to teach to you turn to Pleas to Please the ones who wish you’d weave your words into what they want.

girls spinning around

via weheartit.com

They’ll take you and break you, scoop you up in fractured arms and spin you around on a wild rollercoaster ride and honey, you won’t be able to separate the weave of colors passing before your eyes.

It’ll look like magic, enveloping you from the very first moment you make someone smile and begin to lose a part of your own happiness like a drop of glitter from your sparkly sneakers on the crackled sidewalk steps leading to a house you never loved.

But trust me when I say it isn’t. Trust me when I say those pleas that you can do better, be better, love better next time won’t do you or them any good.

It’ll end the way it’s bound to: with you wishing and wishing to be better and them raising the bar each time before you’re able to climb high enough to tumble over it onto the other side.

That’s the side where all the glimmer and lights, the sparkly shoes and the bright watercolor images you saw while you were too busy letting someone else spin you around, will come tumbling backward farther and farther from the grasp of your tiny little hands.

It seems only natural to run, to jump as high as you can and hope you might land on that other side. Oh that grass, it looks pristinely green. Like someone took a watering can and set it on that grass for a whole month.

But once you’re there, you’ll see it’s fake.

You’ll remember the wishes and wants and walls you built for yourself and how different they are from the wishes and wants you were told you wanted to get where you are now. A place you don’t even recognize.

Maybe you’ll be on a cliff, which feels almighty and powerful at first, but then you’ll stand strong and fierce and want so badly to be in the valley, a nonconformist among followers, the only one not sipping the Koolaid.

I’m not saying everything you do has to be unique. What is unique anyway, but an oversaturated word in the English language that’s meant to encompass anything and everything so that the word itself is not unique? The word itself is nothing special.

Keep yourself special. Fight for what you want, what words and wishes you’ve got bottled up inside your head.

What pleas you dare to let escape your broken lips to please the one and only one who ever mattered.

I think you know who I’m talking about.

You'll want Normal back like that pair of sneakers you gave to Goodwill last summer.

I never thought being “normal” would have its setbacks.

Actually, I probably always thought the idea of normal existed out there, floating around in space like a satellite you can’t quite pin down as it circles you. But that’s what it’s become in this world.

nor·mal – the common, the mundane, the ideal

Since when do we strive to be normal? Since when do we sit down in front of a television set and pray we might see ourselves reflecting back on that screen?

It’s easy, isn’t it?

Hoping, wishing, praying you’ll see some small part of your little sister in that sitcom you watch every Thursday night at 8 p.m.

Isn’t that why you watch? To think that some part of your life, albeit small, is right here in this world for the rest of society to giggle at on their own sofas, wrapped up tight under blankets?

I’m afraid, deathly afraid, that it is.

See, I’m a writer. And my life’s always fallen on the bad side of normal. The boring side of normal.

I’d have to invent a whole life out of thin air if I ever wanted to write a memoir of my childhood.

Some kids sat in closets where the sun couldn’t scald their too-pale skin. They hid from ruthless parents and step-parents in cupboards beneath basement staircases. They holed up inside their rooms with the video game soundtrack turned up loud enough to block out a screaming match in the kitchen.

But for me, there was no screaming match, no basement hideaway, no video game console at all. There was just a little girl, too messy to fit into the gender role the world cut out for her, walking a tightrope between Absolutely Normal and Utterly Bizarre.

And oh how I wanted to fall on the latter side of that line.

I’d write introspective comments in my diary when I was thirteen, trying to understand the harshness of the world. I’d look back on being bullied in fourth grade and pray it might shape me into someone worth loving for all her flaws.

Please, dear God, anything to write about when I’m old and gray. Give me some ailments. A bad back, a troubled childhood, a spellbinding experience in the forest behind my house.

I wish someone would shake me and tell me this: there will be plenty of moments, when you’re older, when you’ll pray so hard your head hurts. You’ll want Normal back like that pair of sneakers you gave to Goodwill last summer. You’ll want it back like the last bite of the ice cream cone you threw in the trash can.

There will be so many moments for you to feel real and to hurt and to scribble down in that journal of yours. So many raw experiences to tear through that healthy human heart and make it beat twice as fast on any given Sunday morning when you’re dressed up for a funeral.

Don’t you dare, little girl, think you’ve got nothing to write about. It’ll come.

Oh, it’ll come in floods some day.