“You Got the Part!”

When I was just married, I was known to spend hours in a galactic tailspin in the supermarket. I felt as if I had been launched into an unknown universe, punctuated with beckoning aisles, lurking black holes waiting to suck me into the vortex of indecision.

I hated all the choice.

I second guessed every item I picked up. I browsed for far too long, lingering on inconsequential decisions which I imbued with intense hues of vibrant importance.

Fusilli or rigatoni?

Barlotti or garbanzo?

1% or 2?

I studied packages and boxes and cans looking for answers- as if I was scouring dusty volumes of ancient poetry searching for wisdom. Instead I was confronted with confusion and long lists of ingredients – a litany of preseravites that would never know how to protect me. I wanted to be a confident shopper. I wanted to be focused and intentional. With a meal planner. And a talent for cooking. And a special intuition which would guide me to the just ripe fruit and the organic cashews spiced with chili and mint.

But I usually left Sainsburys an hour and half later, burdened with two or three bags of ready cooked meals, a few apples, a punishing headache and a depression that weighed down upon me like a heavy dark cloak.

I remember glancing around the parking lot at other women, balancing babies and full shopping trolleys. Getting on with it. Coping. And I thought to myself. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be normal??

I had been asking myself that question since I was a kindergartener with big glasses, skirting the fringes of groups. It was one I continued to ask myself as a teenager – an English girl in an American high school fidgeting to fit in. It would be a question I would ask myself as a new mother struggling to breast feed a baby who had other interests in mind. But when I was 25 and recently married, I was simply trying to decipher how to be a wife. I knew how to write poetry and lose myself in a book and develop black and white prints in a handmade dark room. I knew how I wanted to love and how I wanted to be loved.

I knew how to be a dreamer. A walker. A hand holder. A sister. A daughter.

But how to be wife stumped me. I wasn’t looking exactly to fit into a traditional mold, but I was looking to begin providing something I felt should come with the territory. Nourishment. Clarity. If I couldn’t manage in the supermarket how was I going to navigate this new grown-up role? The role I had auditioned for and then readily accepted the part?

The truth is – life allows us to play hundreds of different roles, but often we don’t meet our own unrealistic expectations informed by a myriad of influences, so we end up asking ourselves where did we go wrong? We end up feeling like we have been miscast in our own stories….

We hang onto the word ‘normal’ like it is a lifeline, when in actuality it can be a noose with the power to suck the breath out of us. Let’s re-imagine normal with a million different definitions. Every flavor on the shelf. Every taste imaginable.

18 years have passed since those first supermarket space travels. Do I still compare myself to my fantasy of others? I do. But I realize now – it is just a fantasy, and one that only comes to life when I give it oxygen. Those same women in that parking lot all those years ago might well have had their own fantasies about me – carefree, with a light load and long blonde hair.

Little did they know.

We’re all playing parts and wondering if the rest of the cast have a better handle on their lines.

I’d like to believe it’s never too late to re-write the script….

Write about he roles you play or the ones you would like to play or the ones you have grappled with. Do you struggle with comparing yourself to others? Use the word ‘normal’ as a springboard and jump…

Share your findings in the comments!

7 Responses to ““You Got the Part!””

  1. sophie james
    July 30, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    Normal means many things. To me, it means an attempt to hide something. To make all things somehow equal, to conform, to somehow wash yourself of any deviancy. It is a judgement. Abnormal is too. Normal is suppression. Giving up ‘normal’ is a huge relief. It’s as if you are finally surrendering to to the futility of eternal comparisons. The pointless effort of fitting in. It’s like the word ‘civilian’ and ‘fine.’ I want it to be a comedy word, a satirical word, which is where it belongs.

    “Photo op with the normals and the normalistas!” Quote from HBO show Veep.

    • Rory Green
      July 31, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

      ‘Normal is suppression’… great quote, Sophie! Thank you for your thoughts, always welcomed and appreciated!

  2. Michele
    July 30, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    This post rings so true for me. I feel miscast in my own life every single day but I don’t know who does the casting. Maybe single, divorced mother of one IS the role I’m supposed to be playing but I can’t help but look at successful people as though THEY got my role. Intellectually, I know that we can switch roles but well, that takes a lot of effort, now doesn’t it? Thank you for your post. It really spoke to me.

    • Rory Green
      July 31, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

      Thanks for your response, Michele. Yes – it takes effort! And sometimes happens without us realizing because we decide to make small changes. It’s painful when we imagine everyone else as ‘successful’ but don’t value our own strengths. Keep writing – it will help you to crystallise your feelings. Hope to see you here again!

  3. Frahnseen
    July 31, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    Natalie recall time……………..
    We end up feeling like we have been miscast in our own stories….
    We’re all playing parts and wondering if the rest of the cast have a better handle on their lines.
    Boy oh boy do these resonate deep within me. I was talking with a friend Tuesday in the meeting room of the Yarbrough Public Library about our lives and how we just don’t seem to fit at times try as we may and how we are alike in these deficiencies – our social insecurities. Being at parties and wondering if I’ve talked too much, or talked too much about myself or babbled on about something inconsequential and boring and should’ve asked others more about themselves and maybe I pissed them off because I wouldn’t be part of a picture that would be emailed out and would start my insecurities raging again about how much I’d lost from my surgeries; my smile and voice and feeling a whole person inside. Where did that feeling go? And then we just laughed with each other and reveled in our commonalities. We both try to be social and we know that it’s a necessity of our lives but we fight it just the same at times and want to stay at home curled up with a book and shut the rest of the world outside our locked doors and unplugged telephones. Yes, and we do think everyone else has it wired. We are the only ones feeling cast out and still knowing that this feeling isn’t fact, simply toxic thoughts inside our heads. And then you put your thoughts of your overwhelming shopping indecision and panic as if there is a test as you walk out the door and MY world enlarges. Yes! Yes! You understand! You are my people. You got MY part. Ahhh…………….. I can go to sleep with comfort now. Goodnight Rory.

    Frahnseen

    • Rory Green
      July 31, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

      Francine – thank you always for the gift of your words and for letting me know that my words have an echo. With love and gratitude…

  4. Jenn P.
    August 4, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    I think it’s difficult and ultimately foolish for us to apply the word ‘normal’ as a general qualifier to human life experience. So much of life is relative and the choices we each make reflect our highly individual life stories, which are filled with myriad unique details and are always fluid and changing, even when we trick ourselves into thinking they are not. Thirteen years ago I was desperately unhappy in a constantly turbulent marriage and the most logical step for me to take was to leave it, but I was afraid to make a change because of how I would appear on the outside: a young divorced woman whose marriage failed when all of my friends were (apparently) happily married. I could not reconcile my acute awareness of what I needed to do to be happy with the abstract idea of ‘normal’ I was clinging to: being a well-educated, upwardly mobile young married woman with a beautiful baby girl. So strange now to think that the outward appearance of ‘normalcy’ mattered more to me than taking care of the inner suffering I felt. But one of the turning points in my thinking – literally a change in my perspective – came when one of my oldest friends said to me, “You know, Jenn, you can order ‘off the menu’ in life. Not everything you need and want is on the menu. Don’t limit yourself to standards and expectations that don’t connect with what you really need and want right now.” It was a beautiful metaphor that is central to my life all these years later. Why should someone or something else get to decide what is ‘normal’ for me? No one else knows what it’s like to have my exact feelings and my exact life experiences. No one else knows what it’s like to live inside of my skin. My ‘normal’ is made up of my own unique life, regardless of how it measures up to some disembodied, abstract set of criteria determined by … who? what? And why do those criteria matter anyway? Of course, it’s not always easy to be this defiant against expectations and standards and images enshrined by traditions and popular culture. I’ve not fully put that demon to rest, the one that sometimes looks longingly at other people’s lives and momentarily tells me that I’ve failed to reach some established standards of ‘normalcy’ for a 44-year-old woman. But that demon is getting smaller and less vocal as I’ve learned how to confidently order ‘off the menu’ in the interest of having a healthy, happy life that is 100% ‘normal’ for me.

Leave a Reply