A Final Thought: That Just Ain’t Normal


By Mitch Allen

My regular monthly column did not appear in the July 16 edition of Mimi. The bean counters decided we needed to cut costs by eliminating some unpaid content, thereby reducing page counts and printing costs. I did not object. I welcomed a month when I didn’t have to rip out a piece of my soul and put it in 258,000 mailboxes.

A few readers noticed my absence and wrote to Mimi to express their concern. Was I okay? Had I met with an untimely demise? Had I succumbed to the novel coronavirus? It was flattering to be missed, but I also felt guilty for causing unwarranted worry.

No, I’m fine. As Twain said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

That said, I am some 18 months away from my 60th birthday and I’m beginning to take stock of my life. Am I where I thought I should be at this evening hour? What shall I do with the rest of my days? Does it matter?

Last week, as the pages of the calendar turned to August (which in Northeast Ohio signifies the beginning of fall), I developed a list of various facets of life that might matter to a relatively privileged human, with the idea that I would evaluate my satisfaction with each area and develop a goal. Here’s the list:

  • Love/Romance
  • Family
  • Friendships
  • Home
  • Job/Career
  • Finances
  • Volunteering/Philanthropy
  • Travel/Leisure
  • Sports/Hobbies
  • Educational Growth
  • Spiritual Growth
  • Primary Vehicle
  • Fashion
  • Toys

“Fashion,” by the way, includes things like hair, clothing and jewelry, while “Toys” includes motorcycles, jet skis and golf clubs. Frankly, I’ve gotten over toys. I no longer think I need a cabin cruiser on Lake Erie to be happy (but I’d gladly borrow yours).

The goals I developed for each category were disappointingly “normal”—little more than a list of well-worn New Year’s resolutions, such as losing weight, saving money, exercising more, drinking less, and cleaning the garage.

You may think that cleaning the garage is a weekend goal, not a life goal, but not in my case. It took a lifetime to accumulate all that stuff—including half-empty bottles of antifreeze and brake fluid from the Clinton administration, and my grandfather’s hand tools from the Herbert Hoover era—and it will take a lifetime to clean them out.

I am still apologizing to myself that the goals I set were not more lofty. I mean, no one gets a Wikipedia page because they saved a little more money each month and exercised three days a week. I’d prefer my obituary reveal a greater achievement than “He cut back on red meat,” though that is no small thing.

Apparently, I don’t like “normal.” A Jungian analyst once told me that I repress my own “normalness,” which is why I cannot tolerate pasta sauce from a jar and instead have to make homemade marinara with fresh garlic and basil, ancho chiles, and certified San Marzano tomatoes. “Everything has to be a big production for you,” my wife says.

It gets worse. When my daughters were in elementary school I made a papier-mâché dinosaur in our garage. It stood seven feet tall and 12 feet long. One morning while working on it with the garage door halfway open, I heard our newspaper carrier say to his ride-along companion, “See, I told you there was a dinosaur in that garage!” The beast lived a brief life in the lobby of the girls’ school until it finally died, not from an asteroid strike on the Yucatán Peninsula, but from poor construction.

More recently, I built a tall wooden gate leading into our backyard featuring a handle that is actually a heavy aluminum toilet paper roll holder sculpted by Akron artist Don Drumm because, well, a traditional gate handle that is not a toilet paper roll holder will just not do for me.

So, I’m rethinking the “normal” life goals I created. Instead of walking 10,000 steps a day, I may write 1,000 words toward a novel; instead of starting a diet, I may start a new business that benefits the world in some way. It’s not too late to do big things.

I’m not dead yet.


Categories: Smart Living