How many times have you been called crazy?
For Anna, my young (aren’t they all?) heroine, the “crazy” definition is beginning to swirl. Teachers are beginning to suspect, peers are beginning to whisper, her mother is beginning to get worried. As I usually do, I caught myself thinking about her late last night, on into the morning and throughout most of the afternoon. This was a change. Normally, the character in this book that has been my guiding force, and the most real to me, has been Ash. Ash is the reason everyone thinks Anna is crazy. That aside, as this isn’t a synopsis, I started wondering about the definition of crazy. Words are interpreted differently for each person, depending on one’s unique life experiences, education, etc, and sometimes it’s hard to find objectivity. This is why I like the dictionary, because it provides me a black and white definition. Usually, its definition clarifies a word’s meaning for me, kind of like I often find myself caught off guard and blinded by the beauty of the sunshine after I’ve been in the house too long.
Anyway, back to the point…
I was particularly intrigued by the dictionary’s definition of the word “crazy.” Here it is:
1. senseless, impractical, totally unsound, a crazy scheme,
2. intensely enthusiastic, passionately excited; He was crazy about baseball
3. unusual, bizarre, singular
4. wonderful, excellent
5. weak, infirm, sickly
6. having an unusual, unexpected quality, behavior, result, pattern, etc
an unpredictable, non-conforming person
Isn’t all that interesting?
It was so interesting to me that before I knew it, an article was taking shape in my head. You see, lots of people have called me crazy, throughout my life: some of them jokingly, some of them only half-kidding, some of them in sort of reflective sense of genuine wonder. Sometimes the one who’s been voicing the accusation the loudest has indeed been Tiffini. But, when I’ve uttered the accusation at myself, the only descriptive word I could find to explain the word “crazy” was “not quite right.” One of the tricks I learned in psychology was to put my beliefs about myself to the test: emotion, we all know, isn’t quite logical but most of our beliefs can be tested. For instance, if you think you’re ugly, ask people you know to complete a survey that asks them to define what *is* beautiful (this is why I did it, but I suppose you could always alter the survey so that it asks them to name “unattractive” features, too). Be as specific as possible with the questions on the survey: you might ask, for instance, “do you think oval or square or heart-shaped faces are prettier?” “Do you think brown or blue or green eyes are more attractive?” “How much does it matter what someone wears, in regards to how attractive they appear?” You get the point. After you have the surveys back, examine them. You’ll either find one or two things to be true but, at any rate, you’ll find that your “I’m ugly” self-criticism is false. Another experiment for this self-delusion is to stand naked in front of a mirror and try to name everything that is WRONG with you, starting with your hair and ending with your toe-nails. What, for instance, is wrong with your ears? Your nose? Your neck? Your shoulders? etc. What you’ll find is that while you may be able to list some attributes of your body that you are not fond of, there will also be numerous body parts which are — gasp, miracle of miracles, perfectly fine.
Whenever I have a consistent negative thought about myself that I cannot seem to get to go away, I usually try to test it. This takes energy and time but, out of the dozens of times I’ve attempted such works, I’ve only proved my worst fears true twice. So….about this crazy business (I’m sure you’re already convinced I am crazy!)…
The first definition of the word is “senseless, impractical, totally unsound.” Hmm. How many times do I do something “senseless,” or “impractical?” On impulse, I started trying to think about recent behaviors of mine but then my wonderful character Ash interrupted my thoughts with a simple question: “According to who?” he asked. I paused, mid-thought, and started tracking backwards. How would I objectively classify any behavior as “senseless, impractical, totally unsound?” Open up the dictionary again, and this is what I found: senseless means “lacking mental comprehension or reason; stupid or foolish” while the definition of impractical is “lacking sense” (isn’t that funny?)
Again, I ask myself: According to who?
Who decides if something is “stupid or foolish”? Who decides if a certain action or behavior is “impractical”? The initial answer I thought of, besides God, was society. Upon the heels of that thought was, “How would they know?”
Now, bear with me here while I ramble a bit.
I get that we have been shaped, at least in part, by society. I mean, if you start watching enough TV, you’ll start comparing your life and your definition of normality to what is presented to you as normal (though I find this fascinating as most of us would readily and easily admit that the place where those shows are produced and created, Hollywood, is about as far from ‘normal’ as the East is from the West). Whether we particularly want to admit it or not, the truth is, our brains have been conditioned by the sounds, by the celebrities, by the advertisements, by our friends (who are part of society) to think and act a particular way. Today, if someone ran stark naked into the middle of a downtown street and started dancing, I’d wager all of us would call that individual was either drunk or crazy and would immediately attempt to arrest and ascertain his intellect. Despite how I have no particular desire to witness such a scene, nor do I want to impart such a memory onto anyone else, particularly any children, I must confess that to call that individual crazy mights me nervous. You see, I can remember someone else who once danced naked in front of a group of people: David in the Bible.
Was David crazy? Personally, I’ve always just believed that he was “passionately excited” — isn’t it funny how that is also one of the definitions of the word “crazy” which we associate with negative connotations? Frankly, I admire David and I think he was probably quite bright; the only person whose opinion mattered to him was God’s. He wasn’t sick, he wasn’t mentally deranged, he wasn’t “crazy” — he was just impassioned. I would not complain if I were to be compared to David; indeed, I’d probably call it a compliment. Along these lines, another definition of the word “crazy” was wonderful, did you catch that? Is it always “wonderful” to be “passionately excited?” I understand that there are people who do very bad things in a very excited manner—-but maybe the more apt word to describe those people would be “ill.” David was not ill.
The first three definitions of “crazy” — “impractical, unsound, senseless; bizarre, strange, singular; and an unexpected quality, pattern, response, etc” — are all a result of what society thinks is normal. If everyone else danced naked in the streets, it wouldn’t be called “crazy” it would simply be known as a nudist colony, the members of which we may find odd but not “crazy.” The other definition states that it’s “wonderful” and “passionately excited.” How can something be bizarre and wonderful at the same time?
I do lots of things that are “bizarre.” My house is rarely quiet but we’re loud doing abnormal things—-like transforming the upstairs into a jungle or trying to see which of the three of us can paint our entire bodies the brightest color or acting out books we’ve read, complete with costumes and make-up. To me, it’s all a matter of having mind engaging games and recognizing the importance of pretend play. To the exterminator who once came and caught us all dressed up like clowns, I’m sure I seem a bit off. When I worked with neglected and abused kids, I didn’t do things the way most of the other volunteers did. Did that mean I was creative or crazy — or were the words synonyms? What is the harm in doing things in a bizarre fashion? And here it is — the real reason this is a worthy question at all: if it’s other people who determine what “crazy” is — why does it matter? Why is the opinion of a group of nameless, faceless individuals known as “society” more important than our own opinion?
I think of a teenage girl who stood on the receiving end of a bullet in school one day and who died because she would not say she did not believe in God. Was she crazy? She gave up her life for a belief; we called her heroic. What is the difference then in heroism and craziness? To me, it all seems too close of a gray line—an action society may deem crazy now may, in a year or a month or different circumstance, be called heroic. It seems exhausting work to me, then, to try and stay within the bounds of “normality.” What I have discovered is that the cost of normality is, often, friends. I have almost none, and I know why. In school, I chose to write rather than communicate or socialize. I went to my Junior prom with my sister and one of her friends; I did not attend my Senior prom at all. I never went to pep rallies, I never went to a birthday party. I wasn’t invited, either. I wasn’t invited because they thought I was weird or “crazy.”
This used to secretly hurt my feelings because the only thing I have ever truly wanted, besides the love of a non-existent father, was to be normal. I cannot remember ever feeling normal. Frankly, I don’t even know what “normal” is. I have my ideals but I have them knowing that they are ideals and so by their very definition cannot actually ever be. I have a secret fear and intimidation of other women because I know I’m usually nothing like them, and it scares me. What really scares me, sometimes, though, are my own thoughts because I know they’re complicated and often differ from what would be called “normal.”
But then I stop.
And I remind myself that the one who is setting the parameters for “normal” shouldn’t be society. I do care what others think of me but only in the sense that I don’t want to negatively affect them. In other words, I’m always conscious of the fact that any one of my behaviors, no matter how small, could truly do something powerful to another human being—good or bad. For that reason, and because, also, I often find myself wanting to be accepted, I usually moderate my behavior to conform to society’s normal range. I try, in other words, to keep the crazy in. :).
But I do so reminding myself that the only opinion that really matters to me is God’s. And He had a friend named David who danced naked in the streets. He also had a friend who built an ark, claiming to his friends and neighbors that there was going to be a flood, even though he lived in a part of the world that had never seen a flood. Those people were called crazy only at the time—not in hindsight when generations after they died could see that they were following the voice of reason, they were following God. You see, faith almost never knows where it is being led, but it trusts nonetheless in the One doing the leading. Maybe I’m not normal. Maybe I don’t think like most people. Maybe I do things a little unorthodox. Maybe I am “crazy.” Still, half of the definition of the very accusation is “passionately excited” and I fail to see what could be wrong with living life passionately, even if what you’re passionate about fails to comply with the way society operates or thinks. Maybe I am crazy. But I fail to see how that matters if I am a child of God. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe we all are. Yet, in my heart, I know that even if it is just I who is crazy, I need to remind myself that that is okay and that the only person who can rightfully call me that is God—and He won’t do so as long as I live by the Bible and keep the relationship I have with Him strong and true.
Some of the most troublesome issues I have stem from non-traditional thoughts. Joe once told me that I could ask “anybody in the world” whether they believed the same thing I do regarding certain issues and I’d be told “no.” Hm. My question, then, is: how many people does it take to make an opinion fact? Just because ten, twelve, twenty, twenty thousand say it isn’t so—-does that then X out my opinion, or belief? There were only twelve who believed in Jesus enough to follow Him to all the places they did while He walked this earth. Were those twelve men crazy?
Tonight, once I finish this article, I’ll write more in my book and delve deeper in the lives of my characters, fictional characters whom I deeply love. I’ll see their stories and their conversations and their dreams come to life beneath the point of a blue Bic pen. Then, later, I’ll try to sleep and what will bring me comfort during the dark will be the image of Ash (who has won the war, by the way) winking at me as he often does at night. Perhaps Aria, from my last book “Faith”, will join Ash. What a team they would make. Their stories and their presence help keep me grounded in times of darkness. Finally, when my eyes have had enough and are forced to close, at least for awhile, I’ll hold my palm open towards the ceiling and I’ll whisper a prayer that goes like this, “Dear Father, it is nighttime again. Please hold my hand. I love you. In Jesus name, Amen.” Moments later, I will feel an unexplained (particularly in my igloo of a house) heat settle in my palm and peace will cover my heart as it is secured, once again, with the knowledge that God’s hand holds mine.