For a long time now I’ve had issues with the word “normal”. I believe it is one of the most misused and misunderstood words out there. Webster’s dictionary describes normal as: “according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle; conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern; occurring naturally or relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development”.
I’m at the point where I believe that I should define this word for myself as the definitions given above and in other dictionaries are a bit hard for me to accept when I look around and base it on what I see happening around me.
The whole issue of disability is one where that word totally confuses or contradicts itself based on actuality. This same word has caused persons to look upon those with all different kinds of disabilities and label them unfairly and unjustly, based on their experience, dictionary definition and/or what others have told them it means.
My biggest issue with the word is the comparison of the “normal” as opposed to “abnormal” and even moreso, who makes the call for the particular characterisation. That last part is what I believe to be the determining factor behind the labelling; and not only who makes the call but what the call is based on.
The other issue for me is that those who are called “not normal” or “abnormal” many times accomplish more than those who are defined as normal. Now that in itself isn’t normal. I think that’s the problem with labelling. It’s inconsistent, filled with inaccuracies and if and when the object to which the label is attached changes, is there a retraction of the initial definition?
There are many people who were given a less-than-normal label based on studies, the medical fraternity and even society but went on to not only make a meaningful contribution to society but begs the question of what one is able to achieve when “diagnosed” as being not normal. I just want to briefly look at a couple of things which define people and celebrate those who have gone on to show us the true meaning of the word while tearing holes in stereotypes.
Let’s start with Autism. Autism is described as “a variable developmental disorder that appears by age three and is characterized by impairment of the ability to form normal social relationships, by impairment of the ability to communicate with others, and by stereotyped behaviour patterns”.
I’m willing to bet that many of us know or know of someone who is autistic. I believe this is one of the more popular ones yet the one which has shown that persons who are diagnosed with this are a truly brilliant breed.
While many will argue and rightly so, that autism is based on a pretty broad spectrum, there are many who are diagnosed with this who are very sociable and who have done amazing things like write books, compose brilliant musical pieces and paint masterpieces.
While all of these things are likened to being normal, I believe that the persons associated with this feat should be credited with at the very least, “high acts of normalcy”. Albert Einstein, Hans Christian Anderson, Emily Dickinson, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Michelangelo are some of the more notable persons who were diagnosed with this but there are many others who are too numerous to mention.
The other one is physical disabilities. This comes in all forms. However, in the interest of space I’ll just speak on those who are wheelchair users. When we think of people doing extraordinary things we don’t think of wheelchair users as those who can accomplish anything physical because of their obvious restrictions.
I’ve however lived to see these said users dance and do so in amazing ways, even incorporating those non-wheelchair users into their routine showing the amount of balance, strength and dexterity with which they’re capable of. To watch them is an awesome experience and if you’re really good, you’re like our very own Patrick Forde who can get out of said wheelchair and glide all across the stage without the use of legs!
I’ve also seen them climb mountains and sky dive. Again, you can argue that technology has allowed us to make things which were once impossible become possible, but you would then have to say that those people executing these feats must possess something beyond their physical limitations to accomplish what can only be termed as “beyond normal”.
I really want us to rethink how we use the word, because when you really give it thought, there are many things which persons should not be able to perform based on how they’ve been labelled or what they’ve been labelled as. Everyday people all over the world are breaking barriers and proving that the word “normal” is somewhat abnormal in its definition.
Probably the most amazing thing about these people who aren’t defined as normal is that they are just living their lives as they see fit, doing what they love and not even giving a thought to how the world views them.
If you take away anything from this article, take away this. Don’t let anyone define you. All that you can be is already on the inside, given by God and waiting for expression. When you rid yourself of external opinions and voices, it’s then that you free yourself to become your own greatest masterpiece!