I have this theory that you make your own normal. Everything that you do, no matter how wacky and odd it seems to everyone else, is pretty standard in your life. And naturally it follows that whatever everyone else does is just plain weird.
My theory was once again proved true during a recent trip to the whopping metropolis of downtown Cleveland, where my husband and I met some friends and enjoyed a concert. Truthfully, I was a little excited to have this destination, because it’s not often that I step foot into a world of concrete with a plethora of shops and restaurants at every turn. (Some people might argue that Cleveland doesn’t have that many options, but those people have never lived in a small town in rural Ohio.) Visiting a city like this gives me a feeling of comfortable anonymity and the ability to step out of my usual self, to test the waters of a life I don’t normally lead knowing that I will be back home in a matter of hours.
The evening was lovely. We walked from our friend’s downtown apartment to dinner and the show, and out for a late night pizza before retiring for the night. Walking everywhere is definitely a perk of living in an urban area, and it was so late when we got home that we just went to bed.
I woke up in the morning at my own rhythm. There were no children to jump on my face, no dogs to nip at my hands, and no cardinals flying into my windows. I couldn’t hear the rooster that lives down the street from my house, and with the small window in the bedroom, I couldn’t even catch a glimpse of sunlight.
“Let’s get moving,” I said to my husband, wondering if he also felt like we were in a cave in the middle of a foreign land where no birds sing and no light shines. “I need some fresh air.”
We quickly dressed and headed down the apartment building’s elevator and I marveled at how life must be, always feeling like you’re living in a hotel. In my mind, no normal person would ever want to have one exit door and then ride a stuffy elevator just to step foot outside. These people, I thought, must be crazy.
When the elevator stopped, all I could think of was how I needed something. I needed fresh air, the feel of a breeze blowing through the trees. I needed a bird, a flower, a patch of dirt. I needed these things like I couldn’t imagine, and there wasn’t a trace of any of them anywhere. Sure, if I looked hard enough I could find them. The sunshine peeked over the tops of buildings, and a few ornamental trees dotted the streets along with the pigeons. But it just didn’t seem real to me, so unnatural. So unnormal. So weird.
We drove home early and I watched the concrete jungle disappear in the rearview mirror. Upon arriving at home, my dear husband saw the look in my suffering eyesw and promptly brought me back to life by building a small campfire in our backyard. He handed me a cup of coffee and there I sat, listening to the crackle of flames, the song of the cardinals, and watching a chipmunk snitch a quick drink from the birdbath. Maple seeds floated down with the sunlight and I took in a huge breath and then a sigh of relief.
Our friends from the city could never handle the peace of the woods, the quiet life of the country. To them, the smell of downtown and the scuff of cement is normal. It’s home. But to me it’s just painfully unnatural, to the point where I couldn’t be happier that I am weird, in my normal sort of way, where I can open a door and step outside to a sea of green and feel dirt between my toes whenever I want.