What’s your belief of ‘normal’, and how is it affecting your life in the twenty-first century?

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Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine.”~ Whoopi Goldberg

What’s your definition of normal?

Mine’s been changing, and will continue to, in the light of differing perceptions and realities.

I recently commented on a fellow coaches facebook page that I’d left my ‘normal’ life in Gisborne, New Zealand, to live on a narrowboat on the waterways of England. She, quite rightly, challenged me as to what I classed as a ‘normal life’, and that she’d imagine many live-aboard narrowboaters would consider their lives to be ‘normal’.

As humans we can be quick to judge others and the way they live their lives, especially if it’s far removed from our reality.

This got me thinking once again about that six-letter supposedly innocuous word that we often bandy about thoughtlessly …

‘Normal’ birth

For 26 years of my life I had the privilege of working as a midwife, supporting and empowering women to grow, birth and nurture their babies.

Midwives are known as ‘wise women’ in France (Sage Femme), and are considered in most western countries as the ‘experts’ in normal birth. I’m not good with the word ‘expert’ – a colleague once suggested that an ‘ex’ is a has been, and a ‘(s)pert’ is a drip under pressure! I’ve also changed my perspective on what a ‘normal birth’ is many times. If the surgical birth rate (aka Caesarean section) is an astounding 50 to 80% in some countries, then that inevitably becomes their ‘normal’ birth. Of course there’s lots of evidence to suggest that this will in turn cause other complications, but this isn’t the place to debate that.

During my midwifery training, we were told ‘normal’ birth should theoretically encompass around 75% of all deliveries.  This was described as one where there are no interventions, where the woman spontaneously begins labour (prompted we believe by the baby in some way), her womb contracts and relaxes periodically and the baby slowly descends the birth canal until she/he puts so much pressure on the bag of fluid cushioning her/him that it breaks, washes the passage and emerges into the world through it’s mother’s spontaneous pushing. The only pain relief is the woman’s natural endorphins which work magically. The lights are dim; noise and any interaction with the woman is kept to an essential minimum.

In reality (sadly I feel), this scenario is a rare event – and I challenge anyone who watches the TV programme ‘One born every minute’ to inform me when they ever saw this miracle, or anything similar, portrayed.

We’ve had to invent a new word for this rare occurrence – ‘physiological’ or ‘natural’ birth. The new ‘normal’, is whatever occurs most frequently, as a dictionary definition of normal is ‘usual and typical, what you would expect, the normal state or condition.’

‘Normal’ children

Continuing on the theme of birth and babies, what do you believe is a ‘normal’ child? Due to the increasing availability of termination of pregnancy for anything not within the parameters of ‘normal’, many people, possibly under the pressure of society and their peers and family, opt to have every test available to check whether there is any ‘risk’ of their baby not being ‘normal’. Even if this in itself risks miscarrying a ‘normal’ baby.

Having Down syndrome is like being born normal. I am just like you and you are just like me. We are all born in different ways, that is the way I can describe it. I have a normal life.”~ Chris Burke

‘Normal’ life

Changing the subject (which I’m aware can be emotive), whilst continuing with the theme (!), I recently had the opportunity to view and appreciate the artwork of L.S.Lowry in Salford Quays, Manchester.

His ‘normal’ life was different to most people in the twentieth century. He lived at home with his parents until they respectively died, then spent the remainder of his 88 years living alone. He’d never been abroad, hardly travelled from his home town, spent all his working life in the same job as a rent collector – pursuing his passion for painting only in the evenings – and it’s believed he never had a relationship with a woman (or a man I hasten to add!).

He craved feedback about his artwork from his mother, but it was never forthcoming. Before he died, he questioned what his life had been about and whether ‘he’ had brought any value to the world. His collection of around 4,000 works showcase his indescribable talent and has brought pleasure to millions of people – yet he questioned whether his life had any purpose.

I wonder what changes he would’ve made to his ‘normal’ life, had there been a life coach around to support and inspire him; encouraging him to believe he was amazing and didn’t need anyone else to tell him so?

In the two years I’ve been coaching clients, I’ve been in awe at times of the changes people have made to their personal beliefs around what they can and can’t do with their lives.  They’ve been (mostly) strong enough and ready to take the time to look inside, reflect on where they’ve been, what unhelpful patterns they’ve been repeating, what’s been stopping them from changing and stepping out of their comfort zone – even when it’s been anything BUT comfortable – and taking action towards where they want to be. Their future ‘normal’.

Thoughts on ‘normal’ to consider

  1. What’s normal to one person isn’t necessarily what’s normal for someone else.
  2. It’s okay, and probably empowering, to change your perception of normal from time-to-time.
  3. If you try and hold on to what you believe is normal, you may be limiting the opportunities available to you.

I’d be interested to hear what your ‘normal’ is, and how often you’re open to this changing – or if you resist moving out of your comfort zone at all costs to retain your ‘usual’ life.

Consider what the reasons could be for wanting to remain ‘the same’.

What fears does change bring up for you and why?

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