RSS

Monthly Archives: December 2014

‘Normal’.

So I’m going to write about something completely irrelevant to Christmas on this Eve of Christmas Eve. This post is inspired by a thread in an expats group on Facebook, of all things.. I suppose it still is a sensitive thing for me, living in this country. It’s not about ‘fitting in’. It’s about wanting different things.

Anyway.


normal
ˈnɔːm(ə)l/Submit
adjective
1.conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
“it’s quite normal for puppies to bolt their food”
synonyms: usual, standard, typical, stock, common, ordinary, customary, conventional, habitual, accustomed, expected, wonted, everyday, regular, routine, day-to-day, daily, established, settled, set, fixed, traditional, quotidian, prevailing More
antonyms: unusual, abnormal
(of a person) free from physical or mental disorders.
“until her accident Louise had been a perfectly normal little girl”
synonyms: sane, in one’s right mind, right in the head, of sound mind, in possession of all one’s faculties, able to think/reason clearly, lucid, rational, coherent, balanced, well balanced; More
2.technical(of a line, ray, or other linear feature) intersecting a given line or surface at right angles.
“a single plane of symmetry with a diad axis normal to it”
3.MEDICINE
(of a salt solution) containing the same salt concentration as the blood.
“dilute the stock solution with sterile water or normal saline”
CHEMISTRYdated
(of a solution) containing one gram-equivalent of solute per litre.
4.GEOLOGY
denoting a fault or faulting in which a relative downward movement occurred in the strata situated on the upper side of the fault plane.

noun
noun: normal; plural noun: normals
1.the usual, typical, or expected state or condition.
“her temperature was above normal”
informal
a person who is conventional or healthy.
2.technical
a line at right angles to a given line or surface.
“the view is along the normal to the surface” (Source just plain Google, I think?)


Too many years in Holland have completely changed what ‘normal’ means for me. Before, it was just a vague term, with not much judgement in it.

Then I came to Holland. (I refuse to say ‘the Netherlands’ simply because I can.). Country of ‘doe maar normaal dan doe je al gek genoeg’ (translates to ‘act normal, then you’ll be acting crazy enough). A few other bloggers have also explained this utterly important Dutch cultural norm:
Stuff Dutch People Like
Dutch Language Blog
Lily in Holland.

‘Normal’ is the thing to be over here. Being ‘niet normaal'(not normal) is highly frowned upon, and may leave you shunned until you’ve normalised yourself. Coming from a place of diversity, and a place where it’s completely OK to want to stand out in a good way… this was a hard one to get used to. ‘Normal’ seems to be what white Dutchmen have in common, mostly. It’s this very stringent moral code and behavioural code. Do not dare deviate.

I’ve drawn this simple logic conclusion: if the entire nation has to try so hard to ‘act normal’, it’s safe to assume they’re not normal. Perhaps it’s a ‘fake-it-till-you-make-it’ kind of thing?

See, I ran into a problem pretty quickly. While the exact boundaries of ‘normal’ sometimes still are a mystery to me, I’ve learned one thing: I am not ‘normaal’. And I pretty much suck at acting it. I keep on failing this integration exam.

  • I am not ‘normaal’ because I am from South-Africa. I didn’t bother to point out that, if normalcy is defined as where most of the majority fits in, South-Africans outnumber Dutchmen 3:1 so that may change who is defined as ‘normal’.
  • I am not ‘normaal’ because of the ADHD thing. Formally this may be true, but I’m lost as to why it has to be such an issue. I’d rather suffer from ADHD than this thing called ‘normalcy’, to be honest, because ‘normalcy’ seems to be more limiting.
  • I am not ‘normaal’ because my build has been described as somewhat ‘exotic’ by a Dutchwoman when I mentioned altering my bikini top to prevent it from falling down. Cool. Exotic sounds interesting. I’ll take exotic. Not what springs into my mind when I think of me, but still.
  • I am not ‘normaal’ because I know how to use shoe polish. Yeah, there’s this thing about Dutch women’s shoes… I have a pair of worn down flat boots which I save for when I need to appear well integrated in order to save my life.
  • I am not ‘normaal’ because I’m lactose intolerant, just like the majority of adults in the world, apparently. I’ve been at organised ‘luxury’ lunches (bread with more than just cheese on it, and three types of milk to choose from) where I had to bother kitchen staff for a glass of water because, well, three types of milk is still milk.
  • I am not ‘normaal’ because I don’t aim for ‘just sufficient’, or, because I’m a woman, I am not a perfectionist. I like to give 100% and see how far I can get.
  • I am ‘not normaal’ because I don’t want to control every small aspect in my life. That terrifies people.
  • I am, mostly, ‘niet normaal’ because I don’t fit in the box. I think the owner of these mental boxes really is missing out on life. Sadly, not fitting in the box makes it harder for me.

Over the years, I’ve tried to ‘act normal’. It only made me very unhappy.

The harder I try to conceptionalise this ‘normaal’ thing, the more I end up defining it like this:

Terrifying, isn’t it? That’s the mental image associated with ‘normal’ for me now. It’s not that far off. The norm ‘normal’, and the negative response you get from being ‘niet normaal’ is destructive to creativity, to love, passion, to diversity and many things that makes humans wonderful. Especially when combined with the ‘headiness’ often seen in Northern Europe, where the mind is glorified. A crying child will hear ‘act normal’ snapped at it by it’s mother.

It seems like ‘niet normaal’ is the worst thing for a Dutchman. This, also, is an easy way to ‘integrate’ by the way. Instead if calling something appaling, or horrible, just call it ‘niet normaal’. Understanding this helps me to supress my initial ‘so what?’ thoughts when someone comes to me with something they consider ‘niet normaal’.
“It’s been going on for weeks! ‘Dit is toch niet normaal?’
My thought: not normal? So what… oh wait, you mean you’ve spent the last weeks being terrified that it somehow is outside of your concept of normal and it’s unbearable? I see that everything really HAS to be normal for you, even though I don’t understand why’.
“I’ll have a look at it, see what we can do.”

There is nothing wrong with normal, in the end, but everything wrong with using ‘normal’ as tool to judge.

I think the obsession with ‘normal’ is the love child of Calvinism and today’s secularism, in which ‘good and bad’ are perhaps a Christian thing, hence not accepted in a society which believes everyone should decide for themselves what their values in life are. Normal is the collective average,I think. ‘Niet normaal’ is the new ‘you’re going to hell’. You can be whoever you are, as long as you don’t stand out. As long as you’re ‘normal’, as long as you’re average. You can be whoever you are, as long as you’re exactly the same as everyone else.

I have a problem with that, and not only because I’ll never meet those standards of normalcy.

For the record, I don’t care if I’m technically abnormal or not. I’m fine as I am.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 23, 2014 in I believe, Rant

 

Tags: , , , , ,

My first holiday season as ‘The Mrs’…

My first holiday season as ‘The Mrs’…

Right, so not formally married.

But for some experiences it really doesn’t matter if my name is Miss Darling or Mrs Handsome. Really.

We’ve been living together for 2 months now, and while some things are a mess, other things are going quite all right. The mess being everywhere in the house where I’ve been.

The Season to be Jolly has some challenges for me in general, but I can manage.

Having a man in the picture like this brings it’s own challenges. Some I’ve had to deal with last year, some I’m only experiencing this year.

I think I’m not the only woman facing this problem.

My family is celebrating a pretty traditional Christmas, with presents and church but without the sun, pool and possible braai. Too cold for that! But I really really miss my summer Christmases. TDH’s family is celebrating some cross between Sinterklaas and New Years this year; the concept being basically a ‘secret santa’ with a teasing surprise on New Years Eve. Not quite sure how that developed.

We don’t have any decorations up, except for cards. I couldn’t make my mind up about the tree until now, and I’m not getting a tree 4 days before Christmas. I feel bad for a tree that had to grow 20 years just to dry out in my living room, and since someone pointed out the landfill fake trees create that’s not really an option either. I had a potted tree 2 years ago, managed to allow it to survive through August before it died. I’m thinking a smaller potted tree again. At least it has a chance, you know?

Oh. Cards. Still need to write those.

Holiday season as ‘the Mrs’ consists -and will probably continue to consist- of the following type of scenarios:

The Wish List
He doesn’t know what he wants. I don’t know what he wants because his favourite activities consist of playing tennis, reading free downloads on his e-reader and playing on his computer. TDH is more Spanish than Dutch in the end, except for his love of cheap and/or free things. The ideal gift for him would probably be the gift of not wanting or needing anything and/or being Superman. Kind of hard to wrap that, you know? He also still has a few unused vouchers. (I think we counted the total value to a few hundred euro’s)

Over the past year and a half, Christmas/New Klaas and his birthday invariably had me in the interesting position of my family asking me what he wants, his family asking me what he wants AND having to figure out what to give him myself.

This year he finally succumbed and has a wish list! This really helped when the second round of messages, e-mails and phone calls came in to ask if I’ve figured out what he wants yet.

My advice for other Mrs would actually be to keep track of his wishes throughout the year because men don’t know what they want if you ask them.

The idea of gift-giving is, after all, to pamper the others.

The Making of Plans
Is this one of those automatic female roles you get as a woman? Just curious!
See, I’m not good at making plans. I don’t know what my tomorrow brings, usually. My concept of time has 3 times: now, and now now and incomprehensibly far in the future. South-Africans will understand. Now now is a special kind of not now.

Yet, I find myself being the one approached about the holiday plans.

Uh…

I don’t know. Will get back to you later.

Shucks. It’s the 20th of December and ‘Incomprehensibly far in the future’ has suddenly dropped into ‘now now’ or even ‘now!’.

Luckily I’ve learned to write things down in a planner, so there are a few things I can look up in order to give an answer to those hard questions!

IMG_4434

Shopping

And then, once we have established the wish lists, it’s time to go shopping. TDH wants to do it ‘together’.

Not sure how that works. He was present, true, and he did the clicking and typing for one of the online orders, after I had to think of the text and such. And he helped pick one other gift, while another wasn’t available when we went. Effectively. I’m not complaining, just evaluating. Without me, I think everyone would be getting vouchers.

So I bought our gifts, went shopping with my mum for his gift from them, and just now got phoned by my sister trying to buy him a gift. And the Christmas cards, but that was my idea anyway.

All in all I’m not mad or frustrated, just amused.

Can’t say I’m doing ‘nothing’ you know?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 20, 2014 in ADHD and relationships, Dear Diary

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Update on the school situation

I haven’t posted much about it lately, and what I have posted was mainly very emotional and very frustrated.

Long story short:
I have been placed into a group that started half a year later, so basically, I’m already finishing half a year later than planned originally. This brings me on an education duration of just under 10 years, post secondary school. Given that it takes 9 years if everything goes smoothly…. taking 9 months longer doesn’t matter that much I suppose. The difference between the old group, the one I couldn’t manage studying in, and this one is enormous. It makes me a bit angry still: had I been placed in a different group to begin with, things would have been different. Had this been an option over half a year ago, when I told the mentors this wasn’t working for me, things would have been different.
But they are what they are now, and I’m just relieved that I am now in a position where I can actually learn something. I no longer have to go to extremes to read a bunch of text I can’t focus on, or sit through 3-hour sessions and receive a negative evaluation because I didn’t respond enthusiastically to a discussion about some detail after 2,5 hours of being unable to focus any more. The pace is a lot higher, and there is a lot less emphasis on theoretical details… and a lot more emphasis on what we’re going to do with this. What makes the difference, you may ask… Well… the students.
I do still find uni days long… It’s still too much interaction with a chair. I don’t think that will change. But it’s better now.

I’ve also switched to a different practice and a different preceptor. It’s different. Nothing personal towards the previous one, to be honest, I know she tried and I tried and we kept on missing each other’s point and we kept on confusing each other… It just really didn’t work, and that was horribly stressful. New place is bigger, more organised, and just different. I now have a male preceptor, who was hand-picked for me because he is very experienced as a preceptor. He is. Just not sure what that says about me.

The whole situation has had more of an impact on me than I’d like, and I’m still working on regaining my confidence and de-stressing. Small things freak me out, (small things were the problem last time!)… I worry a lot more, find myself more anxious than I normally am. Of course, some things latched onto some of my ‘issues’, and I have to deal with that too. Not fun. But I’ll be OK in the end.

I’ll also see how it goes with training now.

And guess what? They even have a pic of the doctor set I used to have as a kid on the internet!

 

Tags: , , ,