The woman who was abnormal

Here lies Mama G who was not normal.  That would be an apt and complimentary epitaph.  I’ve been accused of being ‘abnormal’ more times than I care to remember and not by just one person.  My ultra tradition Chinese family has always regarded me as the black sheep, the rebel, the one ‘tainted’ by the western culture and values.  They used to joke that I was found under a tree which explains why I don’t fit in.

My ex often claimed I was mad, paranoid and over-emotional.  When his parents and I didn’t get on, I was the problem and so it would be better if I didn’t come.  He used to say I was not normal because I was way too kind to strangers.  Well, I thought, if being kind is abnormal then I’ll leave you to be normal. 

The other day I brought my trolley along for lunch with a friend as I wanted to buy 10kg of dog food afterwards in Tai Po Market.  He told me there was something seriously wrong with me, as I could hardly feed myself and put a roof over my head.  I replied that I liked being mad, what are you going to do about it and if I was insane why are you having lunch with me?  An old lady passing by laughed because it is my perogative to be ‘mad’ and of course that like ‘truth’ is also open to interpretation.  Like the saying goes, ‘one man’s poison is another’s pleasure.’   The cleverest most creative people all tend to be a tad eccentric or hyper; Stephen Fry is a classic example as were many of the comics who tended to be depressives such as Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers.

Why are people so quick to label, judge and attempt to define us, try us what we are and what we should and shouldn’t do, say or be.  Kids who are exuberant are too quickly pigeon holed as hyperactive and medicated with Ritalin.  Why can’t we just be us and it’s ok.  Why are we always measured, assessed, tested, examined from a very early age and unless you are a genius you will always be found wanting, because there will always be someone else better, faster, smarter, more beautiful, fitter and so go.

Recently I don’t know if it is a blessing or a curse but family and friends seem to have come out of the woodworks to advise me on how to live my life, how to improve myself by pointing out what my faults are.  Though well meaning I am not sure I welcome this unsolicited advice.  Some of what they pointed out were brutal and I am not sure if that was necessary.  For example one old friend I hadn’t seen for almost 20 years told me in no uncertain terms that cancer recurrence, divorce, the death of an aged parent were things that happened all the time and the implication was I shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it.  These events are all ‘normal’ and maybe it is because I’m not that I can’t accept them and feel sorry for myself.  That in fact I was wallowing and that it wasn’t fair on my daughter, as she is looking to me to set a good example on how to overcome adversity.

I’ll give hm the benefit of the doubt and put it down to him doling out tough love to force me to move on.  But he definitely is not cut out for the diplomatic service or public relations.

Just because to suffer is fundamental to the human condition doesn’t negate the pain I experienced.  Neither does the fact that many others are in the same boat.  In the same way that telling me there are others worse off than me when I was undergoing chemo on my own feeling like death warmed up and bald offered no comfort except a feeling of irritation and rage.  ‘Think of the starving children of Africa!’  Ok and how does that help their plight or mine?  Their suffering doesn’t take away mine and vice versa; the two has nothing to do with each other. 

Yes everybody’s mum and dad will get old and eventually die.  This is indisputable but it doesn’t mean we are not terribly sad at the loss.  Is it actually abnormal to have emotions, to feel?  Is it an illness, a disease that needs curing?

I’d rather be not normal, imperfect, surrounded by all my flaws, faults, eccentricities and issues but still be me.  It has taken me over half a century to be finally comfortable in my own skin and nothing and no one is going to change that.


About cho wan yau

Teacher by day poet/writer by night. Words have been my first love and will be my last. As a child I locked myself into the toilet devouring books which transported me to distant lands. Poetry shared penned from 2009-2010 in a titanic struggle to stay sane at Heartbreak Hotel. Please check it out on Any comments or feedback welcome. Why not share your story with me, because we all have one, don't we?

Posted on December 5, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Right on, Mama G; I know what you mean!

    Possibly my least favourite response of all time to my distress is, “Life’s not fair.” This is especially true when the speaker doesn’t add “get used to it”, because then there is not even a bright side, upside, or lesson to be learned — it is simply a statement of hopelessness.

    To me, what that person is saying to me is, “Give up on life.” Another thing that’s shocking about this is that I often heard this said to small children.

    What I would rather hear, and what I offer to you, is “It’s okay to feel,” “It’s okay to cry,” and “You are completely warranted to feel how you feel based on what’s happened.”

    I personally think that some people are simply unskilled in empathy; they might not even be helped by the sort of things they are saying if the situation were reversed. Generally, I think they are just trying to fix you based on how they feel at that moment, which is not the same way you feel. Nonetheless, I feel like I’ve finally learned to sometimes be able to ignore the “life’s not fair” people.

    I’m happy to hear that you’re comfortable in your own skin. 🙂

  2. Thanks for your supportive comment and taking the time. Hope you are well and happy in your own skin too.

  3. Hi-

    I think your friend doesn’t understand grief all that well. It takes whatever time it takes to grieve. Also, I think that what you’re saying also applies to our writing. We have to be who we are. Each one of us is unique.
    This Sunday I am offering on Amazon Kindle a free copy of my book Mourning Has Broken, which is about grief. So if you have a chance (and have a kindle or know someone who has one) you might find it helpful.
    Don’t let anybody tell you how to feel. Sometimes when I was angry or sad my mother would tell me that I shouldn’t feel that way. That would even make me more angry. It was the way I felt at the time. We must honor our feelings and as the great Persian poet Rumi said, Welcome them.
    Be who you are. Who else can you be?

    • Thanks Carol for your supportive comment. I wrote him an email to say that I was deeply hurt by his words and explained why. He apologised. I didn’t want pity nor sympathy; what I needed was to be heard. He didn’t need to understand, how could he, he hasn’t had cancer himself, he is still married with his family intact and he has no money worries.

      His attitude brought back painful memories of how my ex was; he dismissed and invalidated how I felt and my opinions and concerns all the time. Even worse he would always put me down in public and private. I put up with it for years because I didn’t realise this is a form of domestic abuse, except it isn’t physical but just if not more damaging. I put up with it because I loved him deeply and mistakenly believed he did too. Though I was extremely unhappy and this turned into clinical depression which I fought on and off throughout the marriage, I couldn’t put my finger on why or who was the cause. The irony is he pulled the plug in the end and he did me a massive favour but it took me years to realise. I guess I am a very slow learner but better late than never. I am finding myself and voice again. Like you say, who else can we be? My ex said at the end he was throwing in the towel because all these years he was waiting for me to change, quite into what I have no idea, but it was clear now that I never would so … And he compared our relationship toi a balance sheet, he felt what he was getting out was far less than what he was putting in… Mmm the opposite was true, he was very emotionally unavailable and the last few years invested very little into the marriage.

      Thanks for caring and listening. Cho Wan

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