Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Normal" people creep me out

Yesterday I attended a scrapbooking workshop. My main goal was to use some of the tools I'm too cheap to buy that are provided so I could finish my RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG scrapbook. My fellow attendees appeared to be normal. And by normal, I mean the types of women who marry when the time is right, not necessarily because of any mutual affection, and who have 2.3 children, or whatever the average is nowadays. "Normal" women join the PTA, bake pies for church raffles and go on cruises not because it fuels any kind of passion for them but because that's the picture someone painted for them and they're striving to be that perfect woman who has it all together because these are the goals they have assumed that they made for themselves. "Normal" women take no interest in conversation but will monologue endlessly about gift receipts and baby showers and supposed dreary weather. It's creepy.

Don't get me wrong, I find MANY women in this world interesting. And some of them happen to be married, some are PTA members, some bake pies, scrapbook, and various activities that bring domestic tranquility. It's the automatons who stare blankly when you ask them questions about their lives or about things that stir passions... those are the ones that I find disturbing.

I tried unsuccessfully to engage in conversation with the Mrs. Normal who sat across from me. After introducing myself and asking what she was working on, she appeared eager for me to become invisible. I could be misreading her no-eye-contact, "don't cheat off my paper" head down body language, so I may be judging harshly.

Anyway, shortly after that I received a phone call from my mom informing me that my aunt had just been diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time. (Horrible news, that turned out to be incorrect. That's a different story altogether.) Mom asked if I would be willing to go with her to Guttenberg to visit my aunt and uncle. Since it seemed the supportive thing to do, I agreed to leave the (not free) workshop several hours early. When I informed the workshop hostess that I would be leaving early, I told her why. (Don't get scared now, this is where it gets REALLY creepy!) Her first question, "Oh, where do they live in Guttenberg?"

What???? I just said that my aunt has CANCER. And you're asking me about Guttenberg? It stunned me. Now, I get that talking openly about cancer is still a relatively new and foreign concept for some people and that it causes discomfort. So I'm not completely incapable of understanding an attempt to change the subject quickly. But forgive me for being completely baffled by an immediate glossing over my attempt to share. Weird. No? Creepy. No? I think so.

Clearly someone needs to let go of her harsh opinion of others in this scenario. And I'm working on it. But it's going to be a while. If I can find something in any of these women that indicates something other than "normal" that will make it easier. I'll keep an eye out.

After all that, Mom and I headed to Guttenberg, an hour drive from Monticello. When we arrived, it appeared that no one was home, so Mom called her brother. They were in Dubuque. That's when I found out that Mom hadn't confirmed our visit with them. Grr!

She asked him about what she had heard from her sister via their other brother about the latest cancer diagnosis. Not true. She has her upcoming re-constructive surgery from her mastectomy that followed her recent and second bout with breast cancer. Good news. But double-Grr! Where did this misunderstanding come from and could we have avoided a LOT of angst?

So, my lessons for the day? Go straight to the source to confirm bad news before making your next move. Try harder to look past the "normal " in others. And if you don't find evidence of passion or willingness to engage in conversation, decide if the trade-off is worth it.

Actually, there might be another lesson for me. I have always considered myself to be talented at finding silver linings. I resisted doing so while "in the moment" yesterday. If one truly looks at life as a journey, this extremely brief side-trip could be more inspirational. Instead of sadly looking on as I see people being creepily normal, I should stir up my own enthusiasm and at least attempt to ignite passion in the people around me, even in "normal" activities like a scrapbook workshop. And instead of taking a day to get over the aggravation over the miscommunication, I could have celebrated with Mom.

So, I guess this is me turning a new silver-lined cloud and looking for the best reaction to a bad (or just normal) situation SOONER!