what really is normal?

Apparently, after a successful NaBloPoMo, one doesn’t post for two weeks. Or maybe that is just me…

I realized this morning that I spend so much of my time wondering what “normal” is. Unfortunately, this is something I have done my entire life. I guess when I get down to it, it’s because I’m a very emotional, sensitive person and I feel things very deeply. So a lot of the time, I think to myself, Is feeling like this normal? Do other people feel this way, or is it just me?

My life is good: My life is filled with extreme love and joy. But like I said, I feel things very strongly. This is great when I feel Mr. O’s love or if I’m playing with Wolverine or spending time with my friends. This isn’t so great when I feel tension between myself and someone else or work/school gets stressful or when I’m sorting through my grandmother’s belongings, since she now lives in a nursing home. Times like this I really feel the tension or the sadness.

And I guess the question I’m asking is, when it comes to emotions, what is normal? Do I just sit an experience all these emotions, or do I do something? And what is there to do?

I watched The Green Mile last night and loved the movie. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone if you’ve never watched it, so let’s just say that at some point someone in the movie was 108 years old and mentioned how they’ve outlived all the people in their life. It got me thinking about my memere (grandmother).

In three weeks my memere will be 101 years old. Up until about 4 months ago, she lived in her own apartment with minor assistance. But at that point, my memere needed a great amount of assistance, and the only option was a nursing home. I like the place she is in. It is small, clean, and her roommate is quite funny. But the whole situation can get a little overwhelming at times. Like now, when I’m cleaning out her apartment with my father. Sorting through her stuff- deciding what is worthy of being kept, who will get what, what do toss and what to donate (does anyone need an alarm clock?) isn’t that easy. Much of her stuff can go. I don’t need a hundred pamphlets from the 80’s when my dad started a business. I don’t need twenty rosaries. I don’t need her very pretty dishes or silverware because I already own too much. But I hate throwing it away (we’re donating quite a bit, but you get my point). I feel like it is just erasing a part of her from my life.

The funny thing was, it didn’t catch up to me until last night. I cleaned away, tossed the trash, wrapped up the dishes, etc to be donated. And then last night, when the movie was over and Mr. O and I were starting to fall asleep, I just felt so utterly sad about it all. My chin was quivering before I even could say “I miss my memere.” I spent so much of my life in her apartment, watching soap operas, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, cartoons, etc. Every Saturday morning when I woke up, I would go there for Pop Tarts and KoolAid rather than head down to my own kitchen. I was lucky to never really have babysitters; my memere watched us. I understand I should be lucky that my she is still alive. But it feels like I’m mourning her.

Is that normal? Part of me feels like “normal” humans wouldn’t feel this way. I mean, I’m assuming “normal” humans would get sad if they had to sort through a love one’s belongings, but I think they would maybe take it “better” than I am and just go about their day, appreciate that she is still alive. Don’t get me wrong I am happy she is alive, but I just feel bad that almost all her friends and family have passed away. I feel bad that she is in a nursing home. I feel bad that there is so little she remembers. Is she happy? I don’t know. I just want her to be happy.

In the past few years, I’ve come to understand that “normal” doesn’t really exist. We all have to figure out what our own baseline is. No one can figure that out for us; we have to do that on our own. We can’t compare ourselves to anyone else either, because things affect us all differently. I understand this, but when I’m feeling low, it still makes me wonder… is this normal?


  1. Holly says:

    When I did NaBloPoMo (unsuccessfully!) I think I took a month off blogging. Having to think of something to post every day made my brain tired. I think it’s “normal” to feel highs and lows – and to express our emotions differently, at different times. My grandma is still alive – still in her own house – but most of my relatives are pushing her to move into a senior’s apartment or nursing home, so lately she’s been “downsizing”. Last time I was home she gave me bags of her old clothes, boxes of pictures, ornaments, etc. – it made me really upset, like maybe that’s the last time I’m ever going to see her, you know? I felt like I was mourning her but she’s still alive. Not sure if that’s “normal” – but if two of us have experienced it, maybe we can call it that?

    • erin says:

      There is defintiely power in numbers Holly! I know it is a part of life, and we all have to go through it, but it’s just hard. It’s good to know someone else out there understands.

    • Sarah says:

      I feel like im always the one telling u that ur feelings are normal to me lol and im gonna again….i cant imagine feeling any different in the very difficult situation u were in at Memere’s. Yes, your are very lucky to still have her in ur life but a big change has occurred, one that has taken her out of your life in the way she was for so long. Jims Gram has started giving stuff away- shes still healthy and living at home but is almost (or is?) 80 and feels its time to let go of some of her stuff…even that simple act is emotional. My Memere’s been gone for years and your blog still brought my to tears with emotions of missing her…altho that in part could be the hormones 🙂 LOVE YOU! & ur Memere 🙂

      • erin says:

        SARAH! YOU READ MY BLOG??? Awww 🙂 I know, I know, but I need you in my life to keep me sane and convince me these thoughts aren’t “abnormal”. Its like my brain knows things are normal and it is okay to feel the way I do….but then my heart/emotions aren’t sure… I love you too! and I will pass your love to my memere

  2. Angela Noelle says:

    I fully agree with you–there is no such thing as “normal”. I think everyone copes with life in their own way, and as long as you don’t feel like your emotions are inhibiting you, then you’re probably fine! But I think that if I were charged with going through all of my memere’s belongings, I would also feel incredibly emotional about it. I’ve only had to do this after my other grandmother passed, and that was hard enough. I actually think it might be more difficult to do it while your loved one is still alive because the responsibility to determine what is important might be a bit stronger when that person is still alive. Big hugs to you–I’m sure you’re a huge help to your dad!

    • erin says:

      I know deep down I’m “fine” but sometimes it feels like the emotions are all too much. I don’t know. I’ve always told people that I’d much rather experience these highs and lows rather than have little to no emotions on things. It’s good to FEEL. Thanks for the hug. I know my dad appreciates the help, and it has got to be done. 🙂

      Oh, one great thing about cleaning out her place was finding her wedding photos! My granparents were born in 1910 and 1911, but they didn’t get married until they were 41 and 40!!! I didn’t even know she had wedding photos, and I am so very happy to have seen them. There is this great photograph of her with a handmirror and brush looking into her vanity mirror before the wedding, so I made sure to keep that handmirror and comb (and we still have the vanity)….. so I am ABSOLUTELY going to do a copycat photo when I get married…. and then maybe I can frame them side by side.

  3. San says:

    Hi Erin,
    you commented on my blog a few weeks ago and I finally wanted to return the favor and come check out your blog and boy, this blog post just touched me so, so much. Mainly, because I constantly ask myself if certain feeling are normal and after reading this, I feel like maybe we all have feelings that we think nobody else feels, but in the end, we’re all feeling them, just hiding them out of embarrassment or insecurity?

    I definitely know where you’re coming from with your Grandma. I tend to cling to the past a little bit too long and know those feelings of sadness about something that is no longer….

    • erin says:

      Thanks for checking me out. I enjoyed your blog, and I’m glad we “found” each other… ha that sounds so corny.
      I totally agree. I think we all feel a little alone at times…. like what we experience is not normal etc… I think that is why it is so important for us all to share our “abnormalities” so that the rest of us will know there is someone out there who is experiencign the same thing.

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