DENIAL

Occasionally within some of the blogs I’ve written, I’ve toyed fleetingly with the concept of Denial. Several times I mentioned it in relation to my personal state of health; more recently in connection with the current political climate.

However, I recently recognized that I am not alone in this condition; suddenly it appeared important to me personally to spend some thoughtful moments (usually when driving long distances) probing into the condition, perhaps to help me overcome its negative consequences.

I think that what triggered this urgency was reading a beautifully written blog by one of my favorite informal writers, in which she listed a plethora of situations causing her to retreat from the continual erosion of what should be rational existence, into a smaller world where her focus on the Natural World and Faith provide sanctuary. Wars, political upheavals both overseas and here at home, inequality rampant throughout the economic situation, new diseases —– a veritable smorgasbord of nastiness throwing a cloak of confusion and intolerance over an easier pathway of living. By retreating from that world, she can find temporary solace of her own design, denying for the moment those other intrusions.

For me, the aging process has provided opportunities galore for denial, those things which keep popping up which I have earlier referred to as “The tarnish on the Golden Years”, and which seem almost universal among my peer group. Several of my friends, a bit younger and only in their 60’s, began playing a game called “pickleball”, sort of a variation of badminton and paddle tennis. They are learning that there are things which they no longer can or should do; three of them are on what the NFL refers to as “injured reserve” and it is questionable how capably any of them can return to the sport anytime soon, if at all. And, more importantly, it significantly interferes with their normal daily golf game. But I don’t think that the reality has actually yet set in.

I keep trying to do things which I’ve done before, and about which I may have at least a comfortable knowledge. I can no longer shoot baskets, being unable to do much of anything above my head due to my oft-described spinal conditions. Yet I bought a new basketball, thinking that perhaps someday soon I’ll be able to use it. Beyond that, I do daily physical therapy focusing primarily on the neuropathic problems in the feet and legs, but I still have my tennis racket and think I’m still able to do it. Even as I have trouble walking a straight line, or any major distance. Yes, I can walk nine holes carrying my golf clubs, but since I no longer hit the ball very far, I get to stop quite frequently and rest for my next shot. And play the forward tees.

I used to relish long distance road travel, and still plan sometimes-elaborate trips. Most recently, I decided that as long as I was having to go to a physiatrist 400 miles south of here, I might as well go on further south visiting friends in Pueblo, Colorado; Edgewood, New Mexico; Prescott and Phoenix, Arizona. I got as far as Pueblo and suddenly realized it would be driving long distances for six out of the next seven days, something that once would not have even occurred as a concern. And recent twinges in my hands and fingers await a couple of nerve conduction tests, making such driving more of an ordeal than a pleasure. Again, I am denying the reality of the situation. Add to that, I still plan how I can use all those frequent flier miles for a big trip, like Australia, New Zealand, Europe. But I probably can’t.

I have documented some of my volunteer activities at major golf tournaments. This year, after a particularly grueling air travel followed by a full weekend of activities watching my grandsons play baseball, basketball, and one of them compete in a swim meet, I did not realize how fatigued I had become until after the first lengthy day at the golf tournament. I began to get heart palpitations, benign in nature but unsettling. Apparently, I get these from extreme fatigue or dehydration; I was unable to complete the rest of my volunteer assignment. Knowing that the same thing had happened last September at another tournament, I should by now know better, but I didn’t. Denial.

Lesser examples occur frequently at restaurants. At one time in my life, I could eat as many as five hamburgers at my favorite Kansas City drive-in; now, I have trouble getting through one although I sometimes will forget, and order two. Even the Senior menu is usually more than I can handle. My mom used to say, “your eyes are bigger than your stomach” when I was overly zealous in the food arena; I’m still doing that but on a greatly reduced scale. Buffets are a waste of money, but I still go to them.

So, in brief here are two kinds of denial; one in which the individual continues to deny the permanent deterioration of his physical state, and attempts unsuccessfully to pursue activities with which he is long familiar, and find satisfaction. The product of this is usually continued frustration and all of its companions, especially depression.

In the other example, and one which we share with many of our “brothers and sisters”, we withdraw from the normal involvements with “The Real World” and establish a personal niche in which, while showcasing ignorance of that “outer world”, one can find contentment and comfort. Some of the happiest folks I know have rarely, if ever, been out of our local area; as a result their level of interest in anything beyond is extremely limited, and quite naturally avoids the concerns and anxieties which many of us have from our “wealth of experience”. Most of this is centered around relationships rather than physical activity.

Of course, there are some things which I wish I could deny. The specter of Donald Trump possibly becoming President shakes my world to the base, and intrudes into my thoughts on a daily basis. And more so, it is difficult to understand how so many folks have emerged to be his flock. I can only believe that I, along with my professional colleagues, have failed as educators for the important things in life.

Maybe I’ll spiritually join that other writer, and seek sanctuary in nature and faith.

Always Be Happy      To Our Youth

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