What is Normal?

Having begun to emerge from my usual post-chemo yukkiness, I have been asking myself, what is normal? What is the normality to which most of us, consciously or otherwise, aspire? My ‘normal’ would probably be extremely boring to anyone half my age, especially as it is increasingly couched in negative terms: not to feel sick, not to feel tired, not to be struggling to breathe. But even as I tap out those words, I realise I am missing something. I cannot spend half my life thinking that ‘normality’ is something other than what I am experiencing. I could, of course, call it ‘the new normal’, but that is a bit of sophistry. The truth is, life embraces all sorts of experiences, good and bad, welcome and unwelcome. They make us what we are, and because we can only live in the present (we remember the past, we dream of the future, but we cannot live in them) they constitute the normality, the everyday reality, of our existence.

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Consolation or Comfort. It was a very popular devotion in the Spanish Netherlands of the seventeenth century, and it is one I have always liked. To console, to comfort, to give strength to another is the work of the Holy Spirit; but I wonder whether we often advert to the fact that it is also a work performed within us by that same Spirit. Our Lady’s life on earth was, in many ways, typical of a Palestinian Jewish woman of her time. Her ‘normal’ was just as unexciting as our own. The things we might think of as high points, the Annunciation, for example, must have been disconcerting, alarming even; but the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and gave her the strength to bear them.

Today, let us give thanks for the unexciting normality of our lives, with all their ups and downs, confident that we have Mary’s prayers and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us through.


25 thoughts on “What is Normal?”

  1. The antidote to ‘not to feel sick, not to feel tired, not to be struggling to breathe.’ might be ‘I feel’, ‘I breathe’ both of which are normal but exciting too in their own way. Watching the new developments in Cardiff for brain scanning this week begins to show us the complexity of our brain and just what it takes to feel or breath. Amazing! God’s handiwork.
    God bless you Sister Catherine.

  2. I suspect that normal is different for each of us.

    My normal is to be at home, secure with spouse and pets and enjoying their company. Sometimes, joined by family and friends. Anything outside this bubble is normalish, such as today, joining Morning prayer in Church with the ministry team, than attending Art Club, which will hopefully challenge my lack of creativity, but will also allow interaction with the disparate group of people who come. Some are needy in different ways, as I suspect that I am also. Together for three hours, we become a community with a common purpose to work together, to laugh and joke together and to share our lives, hopes and aspirations together. This evening, I will participate in a small group study of Dr Rowan William’s book, “Being a Disciple’, which so far, has proven challenging.

    Tomorrow, my normal will vary to Cleaning the Church, Holy Communion and social time together afterwards. Later, I will be part of our Table Tennis Club again a social activity with an edge of competitive banter as we join in with a different group of people who come to that activity.

    On Friday, on a notional day off, I I will bring people to our Parish Coffee morning and engage with others as things arise – followed by lunch with my lovely spouse, a tradition established when I retired, while she still works.

    So, normal is variable, albeit a bit predictable. It’s the unpredicatableness of the normalish activities that I relish for the opportunities they present to meet with people who are not in my normal orbit, but who quickly become friends and partners in God’s mission

  3. What is normal? Having you praying for us miserable sinners every day, filling us with His grace and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Too many of us take you for granted without realising how you are struggling just to survive let alone be there for all of us. Praying ✝ for your recovery and for alleviation of your suffering. God bless, peace and love be with you now and forever, xx.

  4. Hello. I understand exactly what you are saying, having endured this yukkiness. I am now through, but am left blind and in a wheelchair, unable to walk, with no feeling in my hands and feet, and breathing problems. This is it, now! I have also discovered that you cannot live in the past, much as you grieve over its loss, or in the future, but only in the present moment. So much grief though. Thank you for your words, and may God bless you aways.

    • My dear take courage GOD allows the suffering offer it up fir souls who need help and GOD will bless you ..heavens not too far away ..suffering g brings us closer to GOD

      • Thank you. What worries me about what you have said is that someone who is really suffering, who is experiencing tremendous pain that cannot be alleviated, is actually so bound up in the experience that he or she cannot see things as you do. The will to ‘offer it up’ may be there in moments when the suffering is lesss intense, but at the time, I doubt it. I would not want to add to anyone’s burdens by suggesting that the inability to be able to offer up something or to see God’s hand in it is in any way a failure. Sometimes we attribute to God suffering that we ought to work to eradicate. I don’t doubt that you are able to respond in the way you have indicated, but not everyone is. That is why when we pray for the sick what we are being asked to do is to pray the prayer that the sick themselves are unable to.

  5. I am constantly amazed at our ability and willingness to accept a “new normal.” I’ve been a critical care nurse for over 30 years, these last 10 in a Neuro ICU and what I witness is both beautiful and tragic; often both in the same room.
    I’ve not heard before of Our Lady of Consolation/Comfort, but I’ve felt her presence often. I can only pray that others feel her, also. Illness is a very lonely road to travel and requires much from us.

  6. Thank you for your comforting words and reminder of Our a Lady’s of Consolation and Comfort Feast Day. I needed to be reminded this morning of Our Lady and the works of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

  7. Sister thank you for all your wonderful thoughts and meditations and above all for your prayers. I was diagnosed in February with MGUS (too much protein in the blood and especially in Bone Marrow). Miracles occur and last month I met with Consultant Haematologist to find out that my last Blood test showed that I am Normal and have been discharged. God is Great and I thank all who were praying for me

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