The ending of one year and the beginning of the next seems to be the time everyone evaluates where they are in this world. It’s just a fortunate and natural (I believe) thought process. And for many years, my goal was always to inch closer to that elusive “N” word: N-O-R-M-A-L.

For me, the feeling that always seems to surface during these forays into “me-land” is Guilt. As a Wife, Mother and Grandmother, I can ALWAYS find areas where some of my actions and words were lacking. Now, before we go on, let me just say this isn’t a “tell all” or an unburdening of juicy sins. Frankly, I’ve grown through and out of many of the behaviors we all perform on our way to maturity. For several years, I have been diligently working at becoming that person I always wanted to be.

My intention is to reach out to those of you who may think you’re the only person to have ideas of not being “normal” and may be overwhelmed with the idea of fixing everything that’s wrong in your (and others’) life. Over the years, I have discovered that we are all much more alike than different. Just making that statement is already a burden lifted–the burden WE put on ourselves when we compare our insides to other people’s outsides.

God has graced me with a “thorn in my flesh”; a condition that will probably never be removed and that requires deliberate, daily attention. When I first accepted that I was an alcoholic, I felt sorry for myself and actually needed to grieve the loss of the idea of a “normal” life for myself. And I do believe that the fact that I have this is a grace thing. Simply because it has forced me to think differently about myself and the idea of normal. Over time, I’ve picked up a few tools that consistently help me with this transformation.

One of the tools I have learned to use is exchanging words that I’ve always used with words that express what is closer to reality. And the word NORMAL was the first casualty. Instead of striving for ‘normalcy’, I now strive for “healthy”. Not just physically healthy, but I consider what is the best choice for my mental/emotional/spiritual health. It might not look like your choice.

Another example of using word exchange has helped me with ACCEPTING others, I often need to exchange the word “but” with the word “and”. For example: “I love him but he is a liar.” vs “I love him AND he is a liar.”. Try it now with your own situation. This exchange does two things for you: 1) it helps you accept him for who he is today, which is healthy for you in any relationship, and 2) it gives you permission to continue to love someone who “everybody else” says is a loser. We love who we love. That’s OUR business. How we live with it is a topic for another day.

As for me, this one tool of choosing to think about things based in reality and not fantasy was my first real step into good mental health. I am surprised at the way my life continually changes just because I’ve been willing to concede that my ideas and my way of thinking just Might be a little bit off kilter.

How about you? Are you willing to think differently about Normal?