Denial

It’s such a comfortable place to live. I know from personal experience. I spent a good part of my life living in denial. I think that to some point, we all live in denial. We conveniently ignore the not so great bits of life – the state of our climate, how our meat is slaughtered, and who made our clothes.

We don’t really like people who push us out of our comfort zone. Our comfortable little space of denial. We start to feel a little indignant when someone tries. We squirm a little. Change isn’t something we humans enjoy very much, especially when it means changing our behaviors or confronting a tough issue.

Sometimes, when we are forced to confront a problem, we diminish that problem. We hear about child labor being used to make the shirts we wear, and we quickly find a way to make that problem seem like a less of a problem. We tell ourselves that well, there really isn’t much we can do, is there? We can shop at the right places and hope those companies are honest and good. And really, is it our fault if a company uses child labor? You’re the innocent in this, of course. 
There. Problem solved. Remove yourself from the equation, carefully putting aside all blame. Wash your hands of the issue.

I saw my therapist last week, and we talked a bit about denial, and why people choose to stay in denial, even when it’s hurting others.

For example. You meet a man. He’s sweet, and kind, and steadfast. You are one hundred percent sure he’s the man for you. You marry, settle down, and have a child together.
You love this man. He’s nothing but amazing to you. You feel like soulmates, and you seem to know each other so well. You’re aware he’s human, and sometimes humans fail, but your husband is just too good of a person to do anything really bad. Too upright. Not that kind of guy. 

One day the police show up at your door. You’ve been married for a while now, and you have a great house. Your child is excelling in school, and your financial needs are being met. In fact, your family might even take a vacation in the Caribbean that year! The police standing at your doorstep are an unwelcome surprise.

The police sit you down, and tell you that your husband has been collecting and distributing child pornography.

Right then and there, you feel your world fall apart. It can’t be true. Your husband? The sweet guy who cried while you were in labor? The man who woke up early and worked hard every day to provide for his family? The same man that bought you a beautiful ring for your anniversary is also a..pedophile?

It can’t be true. Is it? You think about it in the weeks that come. You spend hours going from blindingly angry to sure that he must have been framed. You wonder – did he touch your child? You’re a wreck. A mess, wondering how could this person that you thought you knew, do something so terrible?

You visit your husband in jail. He tells you it was an accident – he just came across it on a  porn site. He looks so innocent, so sad. He cries. He tells you he misses you, and how this is all a misunderstanding, and that he’ll be home soon.

You’re now sure it was a mistake. You sleep next to this man every night. You smiled to yourself when you heard him singing in the shower. He’s just so sweet, so right, so normal. He can’t be a monster. You refuse to believe it. Everyone else just misunderstood. They’re liars, out to get you and your family. They want nothing more than to destroy the life you’ve built.

So, rather than admit the fact that your husband can be completely human, completely normal, and a predator, you decide to build your own reality.

Denial. Because if you didn’t even know the man you married, who are you? What does this say about your judgment? Your values? What about the family you two had spent decades building? What will people think?

Denial is simple. It’s easy. It provides a way out of your mess. Rather than admit that there is something wrong, you diminish. You dismiss. You ignore. The denial is so concrete in your brain, that you become almost angry when anyone dare to tell you you’re wrong.

By choosing denial, life can go back to normal for you. You have your house, your kid, and your money. All is right. All is in its place. You do what the rest of us do. We go about our daily lives. We smile, because we’re happy. Nothing is wrong.

You can go to the super market and buy bacon without a second thought. The curtain has closed – all you see is a clean package containing layered meat. You don’t need to shield your eyes about what was going on behind the scenes, and you very easily ignore the quickly pooling blood. Just step over it. Smile.

 

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on growth and some ramblings

For a good portion of my life, I was pro life. I was pro life because everyone I knew was pro life. It was a blind belief. There was no other option.  I saw the pictures of aborted fetuses and thought that only a monster could do something like that. All women who sought abortions were painted as god hating sluts who had their baby sucked out of them while they laughed – or something like that.

There was never a thought as to why someone would choose abortion. There was this pervasive thought that everyone experienced the same life we (fellow pro life people) did, therefore they had the same opportunities. There was no thought given to different life experiences or thought patterns.

Growing up, I knew of a few women who had chosen abortion. They were spoken about in hushed tones, with disdain – even hate. They were painted as selfish, ignorant women who slept around. Thinking back, I feel a large amount of shame for not stepping outside of my box for a second. For not trying to see things from someone else’s perspective. The ignorance and hate that surrounded the topic was all consuming. These women, who had told their stories in confidence, were mocked, derided, and ostracized.

I grew up a little bit when I left home.

I discovered that I had been living in a tiny, ignorance filled box. I saw other’s lives, and their choices, and the reason behind their choices. I learned that the world is a big, big place, and not everything was as black and white as I had been told.

I had access to a wealth of knowledge now. I could look up anything, read anything, and talk to anyone who was willing to speak to me. I listened and learned their reasons for why they believed what they did.

I felt like (to borrow a popular Christianese phrase) the scales had fallen from my eyes. I felt cheated, yes. Angry, even, at the wealth of knowledge that had been kept from me. I delved into science and research. I read everything about philosophy I could get my hands on. Some things I discarded as unnecessary, or just plain silly. Other things I kept. Some others I’m still mulling over. I learned how to apply logic and reasoning to situations. I was raised to ignore logic because it was “worldly”. I was told to deny facts and evidence because they were “from Satan” and only there to lead me astray.

I think the biggest thing I discovered was that the world is not out to get me. The world is not out to dictate my thoughts and feelings. There are no tricks. There are no devils hiding behind every door. I was raised to live in fear. Fear of losing my religious rights -even though the doomsday predictions never came true, and Christianity remains the most catered to religion in the US.

I learned that I cannot force my religious beliefs on others, no matter what my beliefs are. 

Growing up, I was surrounded by people who bemoaned the state of our nation. People who claimed that their religious rights were being trampled on – while they thought it was perfectly find to tell others how to live their lives. 

The judgment and the self righteousness was such an ugly thing I carried. We were special. We were different. We were “chosen.” We weren’t like those sinners, aborting their babies and choosing to leave god behind.

This otherness, this “we’re special” attitude was toxic. We separated ourselves and declared our reality the true and only reality.  That reality was and still is full of hate and ignorance.

I think we all want to be special. We want something more. We need something more – why else are we here? We need some big purpose. You can see it in our movies and books. There is a special one, the chosen one, the one better and more important than the rest. Destined for something better than everyone else.

I had to step down from my imaginary pedestal as Special, and Best, and Chosen, and admit that on the cosmic scale, I am just a tiny speck.

“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” -Carl Sagan

I also learned that I still have value. I didn’t need an imaginary god to tell me I had value, or that I needed him to find value. Me, that tiny speck was, as far as we knew, one of just 7 billion specks in a vast, immeasurable universe.
I developed a deep love for space – the universe as a whole. I would watch space documentaries and weep. Everything in me -down to my bones, was created in the belly of some ancient star. A star that exploded and spread across empty space, to one day make up me.

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.” -Carl Sagan

One morning, not long after I left home, I stood in front of the mirror and looked into my eyes and said,

“You are not sinful.
There is nothing wrong with you.
You were not born corrupt.
You are not in need of saving.
You are not dirty.
You were lied to, and these are the truth:
You are whole. 
You are pure, from the moment of birth until now.
You have intrinsic value, and no one can ever, ever take that from you.”

This is my mantra. I’ve said it to myself many times since then, and every time I believe it more and more. I am able to discard the brainwashing and conditioning from my youth and revel in my beauty and importance that exists without a god.

Sometimes I get so excited at the opportunities I have. I feel like a child, with a wide open world in front of me. I don’t have to live in fear, I can choose to live in love, and life, and truth. I can be accepting of others even if we’re not the same. I don’t have to cut myself off from The Others. The Sinners. I can listen to a Christian friend, or a Muslim friend, and stay firm in my beliefs, because they are not threatened.  I no longer have to shut myself off in fear of being “led astray”, because we are all one. We are all doing our best.

I feel much more connected to the world. I love the planet I live on. I want to preserve it and give something for future generations to enjoy. The depth of a blue sky, the sharp, earthy smell of a forest after a rain. The white capped waves as they throw themselves onto the shore.

It makes me emotional, honestly.

I’ve been standing at the edge of the water
‘Long as I can remember, never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try
Every turn I take, every trail I track
Every path I make, every road leads back
To the place I know, where I can not go
Though I long to be
See the line where the sky meets the sea it calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know, if I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go

-Alessia Cara

baby