February 19th, 2001

self portrait

How weird is normal

I received today one of those whacks the universe sends out to remind you that your normal isn't really. I think we all get into a groove in our lives and begin to see that groove as normal. I'm not weird, after all, not particularly special. I bet this kind of thing happens to lots of people.

Then again, I bet few people consciously consider the idea of arriving home after a typical day's work to find their partner has died. (Mine hasn't, btw, and certainly I don't expect her to any time soon.) It's just not something that is part of their normal. But my sweetie has several chronic illnesses. So it certainly wouldn't surprise me to arrive home and find she'd succumb to one or more of them. I've got this whole mental list of people to call and arrangements to make.

Not to imply that I wouldn't be shocked and saddened. That I wouldn't mourn. It's more like I'd be doing those things again, I've thought of them often enough. They'd still hurt, but this mental preparation would allow me to actually do the things I needed to through the hurt.

I'm often a bit perturbed when people tell me they admire me for sticking with my sweetie through her degenerating health. We're not married, but I would have thought that "through sickness and health" would still mean something. I guess my normal doesn't have a person's physical condition as a primary factor in my relationship with them.

So I'm heading home early to make sure my sweetie is OK. She had a fall but says she's OK. Our friend, a massage therapist, is heading over to work on her and she has many resources and skills of her own to help ease her pain. I'm mostly for moral support, but she'll feel better knowing I'm around to handle little things like letting the dog out and answering the phone.

That's my world...my normal.
self portrait

Communities

I can't point to a seminal event that shaped this, but one of my core values is loyalty. For me, loyalty is about belonging to a group. It could be a group of friends, a church, a social organization, a city, a military organization, a nation. Whatever groups one belongs to, part of that belonging is loyalty. To dedicate one's self to a thing bigger than one's self is, for me, one of the highest expressions of human culture.

My family undoubtedly taught me a lot about loyalty. I also learned a lot when I got to college. The most memorable examples for me are more recent and rise from those communities of friends I've joined. Both the science fiction fan community and the gaming community have become mine and earned my loyalty. This has everything to do with the members of that community and the lengths that they have dedicated themselves to each other and to those that will follow them.

I know, without a doubt, that I could pick up the phone right now, and within three phone calls have someone on their way to my house to help with whatever emergency presented itself. I can visit any major city in the United States, Canada and several European nations and at least have dinner with a friend of a friend, if not get a place to crash for the extent of my visit. I would do similarly for those that contacted me. It has been this way for fans for decades and will continue to be so for years yet to come.

In the daily grind of the get-ahead-at-all-costs world I'm surrounded by, this notion seems a bit out of place. The idea of helping not for any direct benefit, but because one recognizes the self in the other is nearly lost.

When I feel like an isolated example, I read something like this tribute to a lost friend and realize that there are others out there. That honestly, many people do care about others and don't ask "What's in it for me?" And I am made glad. I didn't know Leyla Harrison. Quite honestly, I probably still wouldn't if she hadn't died. I'm glad, however, that she had friends. That, within her circle, she gave and was given.

I think that speaks well of all of us.