Abigail Norman


Abby Normal

Abby's Story:

People keep telling me, “Tell your story! Write your memoirs!” and I always think, “Who cares about a twenty something who left home at 12, got emancipated at 16,  slept on every couch in town and her car, worked two jobs yet managed to graduate with high honors and be accepted into two of the most prestigious colleges in the country, became a member of a professional repertory theater company at 18, designs and directs theater programs for children and has a beta fish named Warren Beatty?”

Who would care about that? Well, apparently everyone I've ever met.

The abridge version is this: first of all, I wasn't even supposed to be born. My mother was a devote anorexic who was supposed to be too sick to conceive, let alone bring a baby to term. But she did! 

She almost died in the process, but I survived and was unharmed, excluding the fact that I inherited my father's stocky bone structure.

A year and a half later, she defied the odds by having a second child and suddenly I had a baby brother. He ended up with an Autism diagnosis and my mother ended up spending six hours a day vomiting up all her hopes and dreams in the bathroom. I spent long afternoons in my room pretending I was Meryl Streep (a hobby I have yet to give up).

Around the time that I started my period the abuse in the household (anorexic mother starves only daughter in an attempt to give her the perfect life and make her immune to all of life's cruelties) had escalated into something I suddenly perceived as being very wrong. So I left.

I'm not sure how I had the gumption at 12 to just walk out but I did.   I then started a eight year long journey into the hearts and homes of other people. 

First, there was my schizophrenic grandmother who read my thoughts and had a nasty habit of listening to all my phone conversations.

Then there was my science teacher from high school and her family who were delightful, but I lived on a mattress in an alcove by the stairs (via Harry Potter) and soon realized that I was slowly gathering a reputation as a home wrecker when their daughter entered her rebellious stage.

I lived with a friend who was in a drug ring and had a boyfriend who raped her. I lived at an inn where I worked alone one summer when the boss went to Canada to visit her ill son and walked in one day to find a friend of mine building a pipe bomb in the kitchen.

I lived in a car for a while, a Ford named Harrison who I still drive as I write this. I lived with an eccentric former actress who smoked cigarettes like Elizabeth Taylor, liked fine wine and screamed bloody murder at me if I forgot to wipe down the shower. 

Then, when I went to college in New York City where I had a nervous breakdown after a year and a half. I survived and found myself an apartment that soon got too cold to live in during the winter months so I stayed with friends. I found another apartment which was beautiful but the landlord got a better offer and kicked me out after only  two months.

Then, I met a guy who, at present, appears (perhaps naively) to be my future husband.We got an apartment and our enthusiastic but nervous landlords (two gay millionaires who ended up feeling too much like parents) evicted us after two months.  Continued at right...

WOW Gal Abby Norman

 photograph by Scott Anthony Smith

So, after years and years of searching for a home, I was suddenly struck with  the realization that home wasn't a place, it was a person.

Ian, my plucky paramour, is home to me. His parents, who are as sweet and thoughtful as they are hilariously neurotic, are my home for now.

Back on our feet and moving forward we have an apartment together far enough away that I had to find a new job, a new grocery store, anew favorite coffee spot, a new post box to receive my Oprah Magazine subscription each month, and a new life. 

Except what I've realized throughout all of this that you never get a new life. I have the same life I've always had, alternately chaotic and awe inspiring. The rejuvenation enters with the people you meet.

After I got emancipated I gave inspirational speeches and privately counseled students at my high school. I've only ever wanted to help. I wanted to help my mother but she was too far gone. I wanted to help my brother, but I understood with Autism. I wanted to give back to the people who helped me but I was too afraid of rejection. Giving to myself though? Hadn't considered it. Giving to those around me to the country, to the world? Now that still felt more comfortable.

My name is Abby Norman, nickname, Abby Normal for the irony, "Dear Abby" to my close friends who always seek my wisdom.

In the last year I've come a very long way in terms of empowerment. I'm still with the boyfriend I mentioned before and our relationship is healing. Although I don't need a man to define me and make me feel confident, the way that he supports me and the peace he brings me has been invaluable in my search for my own inner calm and "true self."

We've moved back to his home town and we both work jobs that aren't our long term career goals but that help us pay the bills and keep us involved in our community; something that always gives us joy and a sense of greater purpose.

Ian has helped me to establish a much healthier relationship with my family and although I'm still tempted to try to "save" them.  I do a much better job of separating the threads of everyone's problems that are beyond my control. 

It's also helped me to be working and I feel lucky that I am in this economy.  Accomplishing tasks, no matter how mundane, has always helped me build confidence. I have worked hard to establish a healthy routine, complete with good food, time spent outside and with friends, and plenty of sleep!

I worked with a homeopath and began addressing some of my chronic pain. In doing so I  became more in tune with my body than ever before and with that listening has come information that has made me incredibly sad. I know that while I can't change my past, I don't have to be a victim of it.

I do have an awfully lot of good things in my life, and though there's a sense of "treading water" periodically, I feel more at home with myself now than ever before. 

It's been the hardest work I'll probably ever do in my life--and at times I wish there was a handbook on how to be happy with yourself--but all I can say is this: You change your life, and the lives of others with love. Without that you will never feel the satisfying weight of your accomplishments or feel the warmth of your success. *

I am twenty years old and I'm just trying to figure out who I am and what I have to give. Thanks for listening.


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