Normal? - By Linda Burk

The card showed a plaid penguin among her black and white friends. The quote:” Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting. “ 

It was good for a laugh and then I wondered what is normal? Is it something to which I should aspire?  In the past two years my paradigms have shifted. Before leaving my house, I no longer care what I am wearing, but I carefully choose a mask from the basket. Should I wear the blue one, or the one with dogs, or perhaps the black one? None of them keep my glasses from fogging, so I stagger along hoping I don’t trip over the uneven sidewalk. As I walk, I suddenly spy people walking towards me! Like a nutty squirrel, I scurry onto the street, risking life and limb as cars whiz by.  Perhaps it is wise to keep some distance when I see an unknown person talking to himself and gesturing wildly. I wonder if he is normal. It takes a few seconds to determine if he has earbuds or not. 

Living alone for the first time, I do question if I am normal. I have started to yell at the television when I hear one more person say” I have my rights”. I talk to my plants. The African violets must understand English as they continue to thrive. And I eat when I am hungry even if it is not the normal mealtime of breakfast, lunch, or dinner or normal food. Mmm, Mmm, cold pizza in the morning, but I draw the line at warm beer (as the song goes).  When someone comes to the door, I no longer welcome them with open arms. I carefully open the door an inch or two so they can slide a package through the opening. And then I rush to the sink to spend at least twenty seconds washing my hands while inanely singing Happy Birthday twice to no one in particular. 

I longingly look toward my favorite Thai restaurant remembering the large group of friends sharing food and stories before heading off to a music concert at Reed College without the need to pull out my ID and the vax record.  Will this ever be normal again? 

I have decided that I don’t always have to strive to be normal. I just must figure out how far I can stray from the parameters. 


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