Note from Josh on comments: In the comments, debate is welcome, criticism is fine, but personal attacks will be deleted.
I am the most normal person I know. You might be tempted to argue, but bear with me.
Recently, a friend wrote to me and asked some questions. She mentioned several people she knows who can’t get over their limitations. Being the kind person that she is, she is trying to help them expand those limitations and improve themselves.
Here’s what she said:
“Josh, these are the sorts of reactions I get when I tell them about your situation” ( I personally I wouldn’t be the first person that I would point these people to, just so we’re clear)
After telling people about me, here are some of the reactions she received:
- Well, he’s extraordinary and I’m not
- Good for him but I just can’t do things that hard
- He must be one of those people who don’t let limitations stop them
- Well, but he must just be one of those people who loves a challenge, never gives up, prides himself on getting through the pain, kind of like the people in the Special Olympics
- He must be someone who thrives on adversity
- He probably loves to fight
By the time I finished the email I was shaking. I was shaking and I was thinking Are you kidding me? What a bunch of garbage. How did we get so good at lying to ourselves?
I was at the dentist again this morning. I’ll give you a clue as to what I was not thinking. I was not thinking:
- Wow I love a good challenge
- This really hurts, and because I’m the kind of person who thrives on adversity, there’s nowhere I’d rather be
- I sure do love to fight
- You know who’s extraordinary? Me!
- I have no limitations
I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking: this sucks. I hate that I’m here again. Why do things have to be so hard? Why can’t I just go to work today like a normal person and be bored and happy instead of in this dentist’s chair?
I make things look easy and I smile because I’d disintegrate if I didn’t. This occasionally leads people to believe that it isn’t hard. But there’ s a big difference between something looking easy and feeling easy.
For the record
I do not love challenges.
I hate pain.
I don’t like a good fight and I am a completely ordinary person, because that is all that anyone is: a normal person with endless potential.
It is when we start telling ourselves that we can’t do things that we become abnormal. It is not normal to lie, and when we pretend we can’t reach our potential–that we can’t do anything to improve our situation–we become liars. We become abnormal.
At one point in your life we each believed that we could make progress no matter what. We were right. If we are no longer those people, we can become so again.
Constant frustration without bitterness
There are things in my life that I despise and I am constantly frustrated by my (current) inability to overcome them. Most of the time I can’t control my body. And because the mind and body are linked, I often have a hard time controlling my mind as well.
But we all deal with hard things. My problems are not worse than anyone else’s.
My situation is often miserable, but the way I deal with it has nothing to do with being extraordinary and everything to do with being what I’m supposed to be: normal.
Miserable or not, I’m not bitter about any of it, because that would be useless. I won’t waste time wishing things were different, because they’re not different. I won’t waste time with wishful thinking, period. Because time is the only limiting factor to my progress. Yours too.
And while I hate the lows of pain and the frustration, I love the highs of progress, curiosity and improvement more. That’s why I chase them. Not to prove anything. Not to inspire or distract myself from my situation. Because I love them and progress is our birthright. Maybe even our obligation.
Everything can become a habit. Nothing is more insidious than the habit of knee-jerk complaining and pretending that other people just have “something” that we don’t. Something that makes them love/enjoy/seek pain and adversity and heartbreak and sorrow and dentists and frustration and I could go on all day but now I’m starting to shake again.
The people who refuse to get beaten down are the ones who don’t lie to themselves. They don’t say “I can’t” because that means pretending that there’s no choice.
Nobody has the right to hold someone else up as an example of why they can’t change themselves and their situation.
If we wouldn’t lie to someone else, we have no business lying to ourselves.
Here’s to being normal.
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