While I have never really grown up, I have learned to behave in public.
Sometimes all I want is to be normal. I just want to look around and pretend this unusual, unconventional, anomalous life of mine is the same normal I see in others. I want to be able to ignore the belief I am somehow different.
Maybe I am anachronistic, or out of step in space and time. Maybe I really should have been born in an earlier time instead of now. Perhaps that I embrace technology is merely a survival skill used to justify an abnormal life in what is perceived as a normal world. If I can just fit in, if I can project an air that all is right, if I can only convince myself the color of the sky in my world is really the same blue others see, then the ruse can continue.
From an early age we are conditioned to dismiss with eccentricities. It is just easier for society if we all just fit in. We are taught to do as we are expected, to conform, to be that round peg that easily slides into the round hole. But what does it mean if you have perfected the illusion of normalcy yet retained certain idiosyncrasies?
Maybe when I look at people and think, "Well they must be normal," they have just perfected certain of the same techniques as have I. Maybe they have cloaked their own eccentricities in a similar attempt to project that air of normalcy which keeps society orderly and civilized. Maybe we all suffer from the same self lies and deceit. But perhaps it's just a lie I tell myself.
In reality, I merely fake normalcy. The struggle continues. After all, I wouldn't want anybody to see my weaknesses, my human frailties. To project an air I am self-assured and absolute in my thinking, without coming across as presumptuous or too bold is the magic balance I strive to maintain.
It's probably best to keep the outrageously off-key thoughts I REALLY have to myself.
I've had to work hard all of my life. Many things haven't come easily to me it seems. I have spent many day ends exhausted yet reflective. I've always told myself things will get better, easier, more normal. Then the next day arrives and brings me yet another hurdle I must clear, another puzzle to solve, another day to feign normalcy.
People depend on me. I don't want to let them down. I really don't want them to know my life is just a millisecond away from falling into the abyss of chaos and self loathing. So while understanding I have this perfectly ridiculous life going on here, I project normal, self-assured, solid. All the time, I thirst to be normal, sort of like you.
Metaphor is a common tool of the writer. Metaphorical words are just as the Greeks imply, "transfer," or "carry over." What is it that must be carried over? An image!
The metaphor is both the image carried over to help us understand a thought, AND the bridge upon which it is carried. A visual metaphor is merely the consequence of analyzing the relationship between formal structure and the subject matter.
The deck of the bridge to where we are is paved with the stones that are life's challenges. The path across them leaves a clear image of where we've been, and what we've done. In addition to the bridge as a symbol, it is also a metaphor. Could the bridge be a metaphor inside a metaphor?
In my idealized world, as I walk across that bridge which spans the gap between what I was, and what I hope to become, certain realizations come to me. The baggage, the extraneous items, the hurt, the guilt and all those things unpleasant lie behind, on the far side of the turbid river which carries life experiences. Each step, each paving stone atop the deck of that bridge is a lesson, a step towards the fulfillment I seek. Tentative steps at first have become bolder. I have widened my stride and quickened my step across that span which bridges the gap between creativity and rational thought.
That idealized panorama I glimpse on the other side is bigger, bolder, and brighter than from whence I've come; it drives, motivates and beckons. I look down, and then back and notice the texture of the pavers on the bridge. The pavers on the side from where I started are barely worn at all. Towards the middle they are well worn.
Many times I've tried to step off the far end of that bridge into the panacea of perfection, only to pause and retreat. The retreat is back to the middle and the allure of what is comfortable and predictable. While I can see the beauty of what lies on the far side, certain human frailties snatch me back to the middle of that bridge. This has happened so many times, there is a well worn course across the pavers, eroded by my own steps and hesitation.
One day I will stride with confidence and will not retreat. One day I will decide I will not stumble, I will not falter, and I will step off that bridge to the other side and be normal, just like you.
Until next time--
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In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.