I love to live in denial. Not deliberately of course, but it just tends to sneak in around the edges.
The most recent smack upside my head: my ex sent me an email to let me know that he was dating again.
I sat, staring stupidly at my computer, trying to register the polite words on the screen, “I don’t know how to come out and say it, so I guess I’ll just tell you: I’m dating again.”
The flood of unexpected feelings was fast and hot. I felt punched in the chest. I was angry, hurt, abandoned, cast off. Alone.
As the feelings engulfed me, I surprised myself by crying over my keyboard. The strange little (and not unkind) thought surfaced, “Well, I guess you weren’t quite as over that as you thought, were you.”
Denial of reality can be exposed at any moment (like keyboard crying), but sometimes it takes a long time for us to recognize the truth.
My ex had told me for years that he didn’t know if he wanted children. But despite his words, I was convinced that there would come a day when—in a heady rush of emotions—he would sweep me in his arms and replace, “I don’t know” with an inevitable and giddy, “Yes.”
I wanted so badly for him to want children that it simply didn’t occur to me that I could be wrong. It took me six whole years to hear the truth. When I finally faced up to reality, it required deep humility. I had to accept that I had been arrogant for years, viewing my situation through the rose-colored filter of well-intentioned hope.
Reality checks are extremely uncomfortable. Suddenly, the way we view the world, and the way that the world actually is, collide. Perception and reality square off, and, friends—reality will always win. Sure, we can shove it down, push it underwater, or cover it with blankies, but ultimately reality is our benevolent and relentless teacher.
Let’s be clear: we’re going to get delusional. It’s human nature, and fuck it, sometimes it can also be kind of fun. But let’s be aware that we’re delusional, and stay open to checking our facts. We can hear him or her when s/he says, “I live with my mother,” or “I’m not ready to commit,” or “I don’t want kids.” This way, we can be in reality, rather than attempting the Herculean magic trick of making reality into What-We-Just-Really-Reeeeeeeeelly-Want.
See what you see. Hear what you hear. Dare to see all the signs: good, bad, ugly, divine. Let’s put on our grown up pants, take a deep breath, and stare reality in her fierce and loving face.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s also our first step to getting out of the fairytale—and getting onto the path of what we really want.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photos: Knock Out Photographs/Flickr