And when your idea of Normal is someone else’s idea of extraordinary, you inspire, you start to shift what’s possible, and you elevate the kind of person you are, and thus the kind of life you are going to lead.
And when your Normal is extraordinary, just imagine what your Exceptional could be.
A few months ago I pulled a muscle in my back after working on my straddle press to a handstand and doing hindu pushups afterwards. As far as injuries go, a pulled muscle isn’t exactly serious. It can be, as I would learn that time, very painful though. It hurt for several days, and the night before the fourth day I had to sleep in a semi-reclined position on the couch because it was already affecting the way I breathed. Heck, changing position or otherwise engaging my core in even the slightest of efforts hurt. So I got a chest x-ray the next day just to be sure it wasn’t anything serious (I figured it was a pulled muscle but I wanted to be sure), then went to see my doctor. He took a look at the x-ray, felt around that spot on my back and told me it was indeed a pulled muscle, and that he felt a particularly hard knot on my back. I explained I’d been working out and – well, this was roughly how the conversation went:
Me: Well, last time I worked out hard was last Tuesday
Doc: What was your workout last Tuesday?
Doc: What!? You can do that?
Me: Yup, and I also did hindu pushups.
Doc: What!? You can do that?
Me: But y’know I’m relieved. It’s a good thing I got the x-ray and called you, because I was beginning to worry that maybe I’d fractured my back or something after practicing throwing last Saturday (NOTE: I had attended an intro course for Pencak Silat that Saturday. And yes, I am well aware that had I actually fractured my back I wouldn’t have been able to move, much less workout afterwards, but I have a rather active imagination that sometimes works against me.)
Doc: What did you throw?
Me: Oh we threw each other…
I’m sharing this story because it made me think about the difference between what I think is normal and what others may think is normal. Most 34-year-olds I know do not include handstands and tumbling moves in their workouts. I don’t even know a lot of 34-year-olds who workout on a regular basis. And yet, this is exactly what I do. This is normal for me. It ain’t normal for other people, though – not in my experience anyway. Which is why although I found my doctor’s reaction funny enough to share online, I wasn’t really surprised. He must have thought I was either crazy or freaking awesome – or both – for having such, erm, physical physical activities.
What’s funny is in the circles I frequent, there are people who can make me look like a wimp, both in terms of physical ability and in terms of bad-assery (is that even a word?). Granted, I am neither a professional fighter nor am I a professional traceur, but I can say with confidence that I am no weakling. Call me a wimp and I’ll probably just grin and say with confidence, “care to test that hypothesis of yours?” And yet I personally know people in my Kali class who could literally mop the floor with me then have a beer and a cigarette afterwards if they felt like it – hell, who could do all three at the same time. I have a guy in my Aikido class who can pop off several clapping pushups without even breathing hard. The same guy is so flexible he makes me look stiff – and I make everyone else in the dojo look stiff! I know people who do CrossFit, and people who, like me, cross-train in different martial arts. I have a niece who dead-lifts and does diamond pushups. I can’t even do a single diamond pushup. What is normal for them is not normal, and in some cases not even possible, for me.
When I look back at my youth though, and what was normal for me then…
What was normal for me in my early twenties was to go to bed at 1. Going to bed at 11 was early. Normal fun for me was getting drunk, high, or preferably both. It meant going out not just on weekends but also on the days before and after weekends. Normal was finishing a pack of cigarettes and contemplating opening another. It was smoking a joint and getting the munchies. Normal was being just under 200 pounds and trying to hide in really baggy clothes that were also, well – let’s just say I didn’t so much dress up as much as just put on the most comfortable pieces of cloth that I could grab. Being a chain-smoking, booze-guzzling, pothead and couch potato was normal. Gasping for breath going up a flight of stairs? Normal.
These days? I sometimes look back at my old normal in disbelief. “That was normal?” If I stay up until 10, that’s freaking late for me. Normal for me is waking up at 6 to make breakfast, then working out before everyone else wakes up, and then sitting down to breakfast. Normal fun for me is staying home to play with my kids, and having the occasional beer or glass of red wine with my wife after we have put the children to bed. Normal is training parkour and freerunning, and looking up parkour and freerunning tutorial videos on YouTube in my spare time. Normal is yoga on recovery days. Normal is having sore muscles after a hard workout. It is going to martial arts class once a week. It is popping off one-arm cartwheels and rolling on concrete. It is being able to do things that I could not have done in my twenties or even in my teens.
This is my new normal. And you know what? I’m keeping it for as long as I can. Until it’s time for another normal.
I guess, if there is anything I’d like for my readers to take away from all this, it’s that what is normal for you can change. If you choose it. What is your normal? What would you like to be the new normal?
Photo source: author’s Pinterest
This post was inspired by the article “Elevate Your Normal” by Khaled Allen (that’s where I got the quote at the top). Check out the rest of his article, hell, the rest of his blog, if you want to be inspired.