Wednesday, January 11, 2012


OK, for a few days I've been pondering how 'normal' my life is--how calm, non-reactive, smooth sailing, like that.

I grew up with parents that loved me profoundly...oh, there were issues: I was the only child of two people who (unlike today) didn't think they'd have a baby. Mom was 39 and Dad was 41. Today people do that, but in 1947, it didn't happen. So I had issues of 'smothering' and being raised in a bubble and stuff like that. But they never hit me (unless you count the time my father threw a piece of kindling at me...I used that for months whenever I wanted something....)

I was spoiled rotten, if the truth be known, not only by my parents but by aunts and uncles and a mess of cousins (youngest of 15 on my mother's side, much youngest of 5 on my father's side) and most of the people around me in our little town of Anawalt (pop. 350) because I was Virgil and Cleo's son.

I also look back at my life and think that nothing much bad ever happened to me. I feel very, very normal.

But then there is this: I changed urologists a year or so ago and when I went to my first appointment with the new doctor, I had this long form to fill out. One question was about "surgeries" and since he was my urologist now I put down my prostatectomy (spell check gives me no reasonable replacement for that so that's what you get--they jerked out my prostate gland and I had 6 weeks of radiation in 2004 or so).

Since it was warm and I had short sleeves on, the doctor pointed to the two foot long scars on my left forearm and said, "what was that about?"

"Oh, I forgot," I told him, "I broke both bones in three pieces each in a car accident."

"That might be considered 'surgery'", he said. "Anything else you forgot about surgeries?"

"Ah..." I said, "well I did have surgery on my elbow and a hernia repaired and, well, there was that emergency appendectomy at the Millennium (I missed a great party!) and, gosh, both eyes have had cataracts removed...."

He looked at me like Kurt Vonnegut might have looked at me--my urologist is a dead ringer for Kurt Vonnegut--and said, "all that, because of my medical training, I might consider surgery."

Today I heard a show on NPR about the virtue of forgetting. How being able to forget useless stuff gives you more space in your brain for useful stuff and how being able to forget bad, traumatic stuff is good for mental health.

So, my being 'normal' is a function of my ability to forget bad things.

Imagine that.

Maybe my cousins sexually abused me and my uncles beat me and my grandmother locked me in a closet, but I simply forgot and think about my childhood as idyllic and 'normal'.

And maybe not.

Maybe I've just blessed as hell (or heaven) and my life has been pretty much more normal than I expected or deserved and I'm simply blessed ('lucky' in non-religious language). Maybe so.

But, because I think of myself as so 'normal', I tend to think of everyone I encounter as 'normal' too. I used to, when I was Rector of St. John's, run into a lot of abnormal, strange and crazy people from the street. But, when I talked to them, they seemed 'normal' to me.

It's not a bad affliction--assuming everyone is 'normal'...and makes for some fascinating conversation.

Ponder how 'normal' you are. See how that turns out....

(A weird side-effect of being 'normal' is to assume you are also 'the norm'. So my extremely progressive, left-wing religious and political opinions, for me, seem 'normal'. I'm genuinely astonished when anyone disagrees with me. I almost never get defensive or mad...I'm just amused to find out anyone could disagree with 'the Norm' that I am....)

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.