Denial is everywhere.  No, it isn’t.  See what I mean?  Remember the joke that goes, “Denial is not just a river in Egypt?”  Budda-bing!  Denial is big business.  New-Thought entrepreneurs promote workshops with optimistic titles like, “Unhitching the Yoke of Denial: Unfettered Freedom as the New You.”

My talent in using denial as a blindness newcomer took two forms.  First, I denied losing my eyesight.  That didn’t last.  Walking into door jambs blew my cover.  Second, I denied needing to compensate for poor eyesight.  I stubbornly held out for the miracle of restored or, at least, stabilized vision.  That lasted until I fell into a pothole while my white cane nestled in my briefcase.  Shame and pride prevented honesty and the result was denial that led to six weeks on crutches.

Denial is the unwelcome guest.  I do not wish it in my resume.  It springs, fully formed, from bad news.  Shock and trauma precede it, legitimize it.  Denial grows seductive. It is self-denying and self-fulfilling.  Asserting myself free from it is its own proof. 

Having denounced and indicted denial, I must now turn 180 degrees and admit that I need its services.  Denial protects me from taking on too much too soon.  It is the emotional equivalent of the physical state of shock.  Neither mind nor body can assimilate catastrophe in a single dose.  “I can’t believe this is happening,” need not be viewed solely as pathological; it is a vital reaction in the service of survival.

Since I’m stuck with denial, I can only try to grow in spite of it.  Recognize and moderate it.  Maybe the best I can hope for is to accept that denial is normal and necessary.  To accept denial is to accept my humanness.  What a concept!  Denial and acceptance in the same breath.  New-thought entrepreneurs would be proud.   

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6 Responses to Denial

  1. Jenny T says:

    Hi Jeff, One of my favorite movies is “Shadow Lands” which details the courtship of the author C. S. Lewis and his American wife. One of my favorite lines in the movie is, “we read to know we’re not alone.” Thank you for sharing your world and your words with all of us. Indeed, denial is both an offensive and defensive tool. So, when I’m making three or four trips around my local mall with Blazer to get him some exercise, because the weather has been so horrible, I’ll pretend that people are staring at us because we’re both so good looking. Thanks for always making my day brighter. Jenny and her wonderful guidedog Blazer

  2. jenknox says:

    I’ve never thought of denial being like shock, but it is. You got me thinking about it, and it really offers the same sort of safety, and both denial and shock are fleeting. I’ve spent my life denying many things about myself. Often writing allows me to confront or figure out truths before I am really ready to believe them in my day-to-day life. I wonder if you feel the same.

    Great stopping by your blog today, Jeff. I looked you up because I’ll be in Vermont in a few days for the VSC residency. I look forward to meeting you in person. – Jen Knox

  3. bethfinke says:

    Oh, my, you must be getting excited, Jeff – you leave for your residency in Vermont this Sunday! Jen’s note above gives me an opportunity to tell you my own good news: thanks to you, I, too, received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship to attend the Vermont Studio Center! I’ll head there march 31 and will be publishing a post all about this on my own blog soon. Thought I’d let you know ahead of time by telling you in a comment here on”Jalapeños in the Oatmeal.” if you hadn’t told me about this fabulous opportunity I may have never known it existed. THANK YOU, Jeff, (and that THANK YOU is in all caps!)
    Safe travels this Sunday, and can’t wait to hear all about it. Will you be blogging from there?

  4. William says:

    Jeff and all limited sighters reading this… I just stumbled on this site today for the first time. I have retinitis pigmentosa and I’m really pissed off about it. I was diagnosed about 15 years ago. My eyesight is getting worse. I gave up driving 6 months ago. I have a beautiful and loving wife (Catherine) — I’m thankful and lucky for her. But I want to see and drive. I want to drive her to dinner. I got the white can about 3 months ago. I hate it. I won’t use it. Last week I didn’t want to get out of bed and I didn’t work. Yesterday I filed a claim for short-term disability until I get my head together. I’ve missed enough steps and hit enough trashcans and missed handshakes and faces enough times to last a lifetime, and I can’t take it anymore! I thought about taking that cane and beating the hell out of one of those trashcans in the hallways at work, but you will never catch me dead at work with a cane. So that won’t happen. Here’s what I know: I don’t do the “going blind thing” very well. I want to drive and see faces and movies at the theater. Everything is too dark or too bright. I want to always see Catherine’s face. I don’t find peace. I’m not a cartwheel kind of guy, but I’ve been happy most of my life I think, and I know how to belly laugh. I’m afraid of going any blinder than I already am. I have meltdowns too often. I have to find something bigger than myself. But I have no idea what that is.

    • Jeff Flodin says:

      Dear Jenny, Jen, Beth and William,

      Thank you, as always, Jenny, for continuing to share your wonderful experiences and insights.

      Jen, I’m in Vermont, sitting in the writers office next to yours, and I’m going to walk next door and say thanks so much, in person.

      Beth, such great news that you will be coming to Vermont too. You and Whitney will love it. Yes, I’ll be blogging from here – look for one soon. I’ll talk to you more when I get back home to Chicago.

      And William, I am so glad you have found the Jalapenos blog. I hope you read and comment all the time. You write very well. You express your feelings powerfully. Do you know the cartoonist and writer John Callahan? Or the great book called “Cockeyed: A Memoir” by Ryan Knighton? Callahan has rage; Knighton has humor. They’ve both helped me. Hope to hear from you again.

      • William says:

        Thank you Jeff for your kind words. I’ve read all your blogs now, and I read some of the stuff by Callahan and Knighton online. Your writing and their writing, it helps some.
        Of course my eyesight is still crap. I just sit, not part of anything that counts, just sitting, not by my doing, but because RP isn’t done screwing me yet. I’ve been sitting for days, except when I’m laying in bed, mostly not sleeping and wishing I could sleep and dream that I don’t have RP. Tomorrow I’m going for a walk with my wife. I won’t take my cane. You know how I hate my cane. But I’m not a complete killjoy. Two nights ago I dreamed our house was invaded by robbers and I was the hero and chased them away. My vision was pretty good in my dream. It was a good dream. And I wasn’t sitting.

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