Fri 9 Dec 2005
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This time, when I arrived at Carlisle House, I found Mark instantly, and after a few pregnant moments of me wracking my brain for his name, we started talking a little about how our respective weeks went. After a smoke break he came back in and we went back into the Recovery room and played pool (they moved the table). We played a quick game, and he won so I subbed out and a man named Van played against Mark next. When Mark won again he went out for another smoke break, so I decided to walk around. I met a woman named Martha and we talked about how cold it had gotten overnight. Then I went over to the Christmas tree they were setting up and talked a little with another woman, Kathy, who had made the angel on the top of the tree. I helped Peanut, one of the more prominent members at the House, put up a garland, and then I helped her open up a tub of popcorn. After that I sat down at the arts and crafts table with Kathy and started painting a sun catcher shaped like a moon with stars around it. I found out after talking with her for a good fifteen minutes or so that she had just had her gallbladder removed, and was still healing from the surgery, which was on November 3rd. Martha sat down with us and started telling us about her childhood, and how she had gotten sent to an institution for not doing as she was told, acting out in school and at home, and not taking her pills. She said that she didn’t like her pills so they sent her away, but that it was her fault nonetheless. Peanut joined us for a while, chatting about nieces and nephews and children and the like. Then they went outside for a cigarette, and a woman named Peggy sat down next to me. She told me that I looked like some of her family members. She then told me about her trip to Broadway with her mother, and then by that time Kathy and Martha were back. At this point a girl, who looked to be about my age and did not provide me with her name upon sitting down with us at the table, started talking. She had a lovely, bubbly personality, and talked about her family members at great length, and her days in high school, and her personal and familial medical history as spurred on by talk of Martha’s childhood and Kathy’s surgery. In this conversation, the topic of normalcy was brought up, at which point numerous people all throughout the House spun into joyous reverie about the subjectiveness, uselessness, and practical imperfection of application of the idea of normalcy. It eventually was worked into a unanimous fervor or rejection for the idea, and climaxed with resounding cries of “Yeah! What is normal anyway!” Upon the completion of my sun chime, and other small talk about memory and where we all hailed from, my partners informed me it was time to go, so I said my good-byes and went home.
Like last time, I enjoyed myself while I was at the House. The people there are real; the subtext is non-existent. The atmosphere this time was much more relaxed and jovial than last time, I would assume because there wasn’t any meeting and they were starting to catch some of the Holiday Spirit after putting up their Christmas tree and doing some decorating. For a reason I have yet to discern, perhaps it was just the atmosphere, I was getting the slightest case of euphoria while I was doing the arts and crafts, laughing and getting slightly dizzy and joking around with the people there. The entire mood was just overwhelmingly uplifting. One of the most joyous moments, and by far one of the most memorable, was when the entire House burst out into choruses of “Yeah, what is normal!” It was as if they were challenging society, taunting everyone they’d ever met, to dare them to say something negative. It was impossible to not be in a good mood. Overall, this visit was much better than the first. There were more people there this time, and for some reason everybody seemed more social, so the conversation was plentiful and pleasant. I was feeling definitively more positive and energized when I left in comparison to when I arrived.
At the point in my visit when the “What is normal!” cries broke out I was too overcome initially by the joy and simultaneous beauty of the moment to analyze it, but when I reflected upon it later I was reminded of “Extraordinary Bodies” when Garland Thomson asserts, “Moreover, such culturally generated and perpetuated standards as “beauty,” “independence,” “fitness,” “competence,” and “normalcy” exclude and disable many human bodies while validating and affirming others” (Garland Thomson 7). I began to think heavily on the matter, and the true gravity of the statement set in. By my view of what I would like normal to actually be, these people fit. They were kind, pleasant, happy, real. There wasn’t any of the usual sneaking social deviousness that many of the people I have encountered throughout my life had. They were purely, simply, pleasant and happy that we were sitting where we were, doing what we were, having a conversation together. The common socially understood idea of “normal” does not apply to this group of people, however I would rather have them be considered the archetype for normalcy based on their actions than a majority of people I have met who fit the current definition.