by Elise Seyfried
I live in a perpetual state of denial about almost everything. Just one example: I haven’t been to the dentist in (ahem) several years because I know my gums are receding. He will tell me that, and then I will have to do something about them, which will wind up being terribly painful both to mouth and pocketbook. Instead, I brush often but verrry gingerly and try to smile in a way that does not betray a set of gums that is going out like the tide.
Similarly, I make a point of avoiding medical professionals in general. Whenever I accompany one of our five children to the doctor, I don’t touch any of the dog-eared issues of Yachting World and Highlights for Children lying around the waiting room. I just know they have recently been handled by sick people, such as the guy three chairs over who has been coughing up a lung for 15 minutes. Of course, I wouldn’t dream of getting a flu shot, but I somehow feel that keeping my hands off the People magazines will preserve my health.
I deny the irrefutable fact that I have regained the 20 pounds I lost when I started taking the antidepressant Wellbutrin nine years ago. Those size zero dresses and pants still occupy much of my closet, though, because I refuse to believe that I will never (ever) weigh 105 pounds again. I deny that I am getting older by dyeing my hair (that’ll fool ‘em!) and, in lieu of pricey anti-aging creams, I just look in the mirror without wearing my eyeglasses, which immediately erases my wrinkles.
By the way, for many years I denied that my vision was getting worse, and even now, the specs remain in their case for the most part. I compensate for that by getting rides to my every nighttime destination if at all possible. When I do this, I feel like a 90-year-old, but at least the roads are safer without me squinting and swerving down the highways and byways.
I hate winter weather (which makes Philadelphia, of course, a choice place of residence). I therefore wear shorts and flip flops until the first snowfall, willing the temperature to climb back into the Swell 70s again. This crazy meteorological year, I have actually been dressed appropriately in my summery duds, even in December. Normally, though, this denial of the arctic chill has been known to make me ill. And when I do get sick, I never take any cold remedies, even as my nose runs like the proverbial faucet. “I’m fine!” I insist, through miserable sore throats and raging fevers. “Just — achoo! — fine!”
Around the house, I refused to believe there was anything wrong with the refrigerator until the meat in it almost started to cook itself. I didn’t admit that the chimney was in desperate need of repair until bricks began falling into the yard. When company comes, I light every candle in the house and don’t let myself think about the dust bunnies that would surely be revealed with the flip of a switch.
At work, my computer is definitely in its dotage. Every time I turn it on, I can almost hear it creaking and moaning, so it’s only a matter of time before I boot up and see the dreaded “blue screen of death” (the sure sign that the computer has crashed). But while I know my PC will go kaput any day now, I stubbornly refuse to back up my files. At risk are months and months of church work, as well as freelance articles, photos, etc. Like a really bad gambler, I am betting that all will magically be preserved with no effort on my part. Looking around my office, I pretend the teetering stacks of books and CDs make me look “busy and productive.” If I allowed myself to feel shame about the immense amount of clutter on and around my desk, I might have to clean up, and we can’t have that!
In short, I deny more things than an accused criminal on the witness stand. Reality, as the saying goes, bites. So why face it until you absolutely have to? Mine is a dream world where gums heal themselves, fallen bricks hop back onto chimneys, and laptops never break. You’re welcome to join me!
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children. She can be contacted through www.eliseseyfried.com.