Leaving Normal


Here’s the thing my girlfriends…. I think neuroses gets diffused in every generation… just a little bit. Yes, perhaps I might be just a bit neurotic. Those of you reading this who do in fact KNOW me have now just spit out your morning coffee all over your computer screen and are now chocking quietly while you mop up the mess.

Yes I know this is no real shocker… the fact that I feel the need to WRITE about this in fact confirms my diagnosis. I really do believe that 40 is the decade for self-awareness so, hey, bring on the knowledge….

But here’s the interesting thing about MY neuroses. I’m WAAAAY less neurotic than my ancestors. Hah!

Allow me to explain….

My grandmother (may she rest) grew up in an age where you kept three currencies in your wallet along with your passport at all times. You stocked your freezer with enough food to last at least 1 month solid. You bought pickled and canned goods by the case. WHY? Well in case there was another war for God’s sake! There was a level of social, political and economic fear that purveyed her generation so much so that I do believe it gave birth to what we now know to be modern day neuroses.

Fast forward one generation and you have my mother…. A beautiful woman who kept mints, a sewing kit, an unending supply of Kleenex and a small pharmacy in her handbag. My mother’s generation considered their pocket books to be the embodiment of “In Case of Emergency” in a leather handbag. My mother keeps a full set of the yellow pages in the glove compartment of her car. I kid you not. She has a case of water in her trunk at all times. Her car breaks down and she can rehydrate for months AND order take-out from anywhere.

Me? My purse is my accessory- for my outfit AND for my life. My handbag changes daily depending on the mood or the movement. I don’t own a car and therefore I don’t own a glove-compartment (or a set of yellow pages for that matter). I can’t keep mints in my bag without eating them all in a single sitting and as for extra currency? I am the woman who spends all her money at the duty-free before departing whatever country I am in order to “use up the extra cash”.

But lately I have noticed the odd occasion where I am worrying more than usual. Such experiences have made me wonder if I’m becoming a bit more neurotic…. I had always thought myself to be relatively care free in this department.

Of course if your foremothers were the kind of people who would make boy scout troop leader look completely disorganized- you undoubtedly come off looking like you are as neurotic as Gandhi. (Hint- Gandhi? Not neurotic. Gandhi = Prince of Peace)

I remember the joke in medical school…. In your first year of medical school you are convinced you have all of the diseases you are studying. By the time you graduate you are still suffering from these same diseases, but you no longer care that you have them.

I suppose as a doctor- seeing all that life can offer in its unexpected ways- I have to be a little neurotic. That and I had some pretty good neurotic role models in my life.

So I thought …. How neurotic am I? Is the fact that I’m worrying about such a thing automatically put in the running? Is there a test I can take, (perhaps Cosmo has one) that would help quantify such concerns? If so…. What would such a test look like…?

1. Do you have an earthquake kit?
2. Are there mints in your purse?
3. Do you carry a supply of band-aids with you at all times?
4. Do you have a phone book in your glove compartment?
5. Is Woody Allen your cinematic hero?
6. Do you make airline reservations at least 3 weeks in advance?
7. Are you aware at all times of you bank balance?
8. How many AIRMILES do you have? Quick… right now…. Off the top of your head?
9. Do you use a credit card specifically to collect the points?

Full disclosure? I have an earthquake kit in my house and two band aids in my purse. I live on a fault line and my husband who is IMPOSSIBLE to buy gifts for wanted one- it became a very sweet joke/birthday gift. It is also a fabulous and funny story to tell at parties. The band-aids? I wear four inch heals at all times and on occasion they have been known to chafe. I keep these band-aids in a lovely Prada pouchette in my bag and so it makes them less anxious.

As for Woody Allen? I confess… LOVE his movies. What’s not to love? Paris, New York and the quirky/crazy girl is the star of the show. “Bullets over Broadway” and the “Manhattan Murder Mystery” are regularly quoted in my home. “Don’t Speak”. Nuff said.

I can’t (or rather I chose not to) plan my life more than 4-5 days in advance. My bank balance is like the number on my bathroom scale- subject to change at a moment’s notice. As for AIRMILE? I have a bunch. I fly a lot. Credit cards should be used to collect joy first and foremost… the points are a happy side-effect to the spending.

There… I score 2.5/9 on the scale. My mother? She’s a solid 8/9 or a clear sweep if you only count “Annie Hall” and “The Purple Rose of Cairo”.

It turns out that there are in fact REAL scales to measure and diagnose neuroticism. There are three main questionnaires officially used to diagnose neuroticism. I have not officially taken any of them…. Ignorance is bliss.

Furthermore a study published in 1996 in Science magazine found an association between neuroses and a specific gene regulating serotonin production (a neurotransmitter) in the brain.

Further studies since then have confirmed a genetic association between neuroses and have also shown variation in PET scans and MRI’s in patients with neuroses.

So there… it’s not just a learned behaviour necessarily. Then why is it that my so called neuroses is being watered down across the generations? Could this be a genetic effect like with so many other traits…. The family gene pools shuffles the dice and the numbers come up differently? Or could this be that environmentally my generation needs less mints in their purse to cope with the world.

My formothers gave me a lot of their good gifts in the world… a sense of self and the knowledge that a woman could do whatever she wanted if she had the right brains a little bit of moxy. From them I learned the power of a woman who’s not afraid to speak her mind, and even less afraid to have her own opinion.

As for the power of a good pencil skirt and pumps to go with it? I picked that little lesson up all on my own….

And here I sit neurotic or not or maybe just a bit and postulate and all the while the world turns on. I will continue to look forward to Woody Allen’s next project and hope that I never need the earthquake kit in my front hall closet. 2.5/9 is not bad…. And so the world turns on.

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