The Denial of Deniable Denial

Those who offer prescriptions about how to live, righteous, generous fuckers like me, should follow that old advice to the physician about healing thyself.  It’s easy enough to sit in a chair and opine, bolstering your case with easily found internet artifacts, harder by far to get out off that chair and take needed action[1].

If you write or speak proficiently, it’s not that hard to craft a story that makes it sound like your head is not firmly planted in your own ass.   Given the right motivation we can usually convince anybody of anything by telling the right, reasonable story the right way.  That convincing, of course, includes ourselves and the foundational stories we live by.

I think about this deniable denial today, as I hesitate once again to fully join Sekhnet in her heroic cleaning/reorganizing marathon to empty the ground floor, ahead of the imminent arrival of contractors, hopefully, before the rest of the dining room ceiling collapses.  

In fact, I’m going to keep this very short, finish my coffee, and get down there into the basement, brush aside her contention that there’s nothing I can do to help right now and leap into action.   It’s not that I haven’t helped, I have, but I’ve done less than I could have, debilitated by brooding and my, eh, important work here.

A few quick examples, and a few more sips of coffee and I’m gone, down to move things around, wrap them in plastic, carry them to safety in huge stacks in the basement.    At least make another large pot of sauce out of the dozens of delicious tomatoes, picked the last few days and beginning to attract countless tiny flittering fans who also love their delicious sweetness.

My last post suggested that thinking your way through difficult feelings is the way to go.   Fine, and I believe it, particularly compared to the blind rule of emotion, a rule that never takes reason into consideration while a great amount of energy is consumed repressing difficult emotions.  There are times when an important piece of knowledge really does change your feelings about the thing in question.  The devilish detail about feelings is that they are fucking feelings, very sensitive little things they are, and you can’t reason with them the way you can with ideas.  Also, feelings can’t be wrong, even if they don’t make any sense.

In theory, confronted with something troubling, you can set out all the predictable outcomes of an idea to make it better and discuss ways to avoid the worst.   They call some version of this the “marketplace of ideas”.  According to this theory, ideas come to market, are picked over, the bad items are left to eventually rot (and presumably become fodder for animals being raised for slaughter) and the good ideas are put into everyone’s basket and taken home to enlighten the little ones.  [2]

We live in denial (as I am now, doing this, ahem, important work instead of getting down to the asbestos rich cellar to somehow help Sekhnet pick through 70 years of debris, or at least follow her directions about what else I can do), almost all of us, on some matter or another.  We can all point to examples of things we are not in denial about, difficult things we take by the horns and wrestle to the ground.   These examples suffice to demonstrate that we are not in denial, though there are other things we deniably deny we are in denial about.   Deniability is the key, no?

My mother, a wonderful, bright woman with a great sense of humor, liked to insist, from time to time, that she was very well-adjusted.   She would go down a list of the many vices she didn’t have.   Hard to dispute that she wasn’t an alcoholic, a smoker, a child abuser, a racist, a cheat, a liar, on down the list.  She’d concede that she could lose some weight, that was true.   She’d give you that one.

“She’s a hundred pounds overweight!” my sister always pointed out to me after one of these moral lectures from our otherwise morally upright mother.   Nowadays my sister recites a similar list, she’s at the perfect weight, her blood pressure and cholesterol are perfect, she walks miles every day, she doesn’t smoke, take drugs, gamble, have any other obvious vices.  

You know what I’m sayin’ here?

I don’t know why I have this undeniable aversion to cleaning.   I will clean a bathroom floor, a toilet, a sink, dishes, the stovetop.   Those things I have no hesitation to keep fairly clean.   It is the living mass of dozens, hundreds, of other items, particularly the shifting rafts of paper everywhere, that I cannot tame or organize.   Why not just go through them, shred what needs to be shredded, file and store everything else, after making space for them?   It is as the slothful saith in the Book of Proverbs:  there is a lion in the way, yea, a lion!  

If I have a place to put something, I generally put  it there.  A nail in the wall is where my baseball hat gets hung when I walk in, it is either there or hanging on the carabiner attached to my backpack.   My keys, wallet and phone stay in my pants pocket or in a metal dish I have on my desk.   Everything else… hoo boy.

So part of the agony of Sekhnet’s cleaning marathon for me is the overwhelmed feeling I get looking at piles of chaos that need to be tamed, sorted, boxed, wrapped, moved.   The energy immediately drains from my body, even as I carry heavy items down from the attic after carefully wiping away decades of soot.  

I understand, using my mind, that this debilitating anguish is a feeling I just have to put aside.   It’s not a phobia, I’m not actually terrified.   It’s an aversion, like I have toward snakes.   I won’t die of a heart attack if I approach a pile of clutter with a box in hand, I just… it’s just… 

I can’t deny it, I have a problem.   One more cup of coffee and I’m on it, goddamn it! Here I come, Sekhnet!   


[1] what actions are truly needed is another, deeper question for another time  

[2]  Sadly, this theory, in practice, is as sadly self-serving as its sister theory, the “free market” with its insidious “invisible hand”.    Good ideas, it turns out, don’t drive out bad ideas in the marketplace of ideas.  Instead bad ideas often incite strong emotions that cause the holders of bad ideas to beat up or kill the holders of better ideas.   The marketplace of ideas is as free and beautiful as the free market that subsidizes already wildly lucrative industries that are rapidly destroying the earth.  Of course, the theorists of freedom have a bold answer to my critique: the alternative is TYRANNY!!!!

This entry was posted in musing.

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