I’m never alone. Denial is my constant companion. She wakes me in the morning, stays close by my side all the day and sings me to sleep at night. I’m never free of her. Never alone. Never totally at peace.
Did you ever watch Frank Capra’s masterpiece It Happened One Night starring Clark Gable and the equally gorgeous Claudette Colbert. Remember that iconic “piggybacking” scene? Well, Claudette called it piggybacking, although I suppose technically speaking it wasn’t really piggybacking.
Click below to watch one of the most famous moments in the history of American cinema.
Denial is like that. I drag her through life, slung over my shoulder, while she playfully flogs me with Clark Gable’s shoes. Her cousin is Mademoiselle Faux Calpabilite (False Guilt.) Two sides of the same rotten coin.
If my narcissistic family had beaten me, starved me, neglected me, I don’t believe Denial would hold me in her choke-hold.
It’s the love, the care, the excellent education, the nutritious food, the medical care, the concern for my safety, the plethora of good times, cultural experiences, happy days, hugs and kisses that created this monster called Denial.
She’s always and forever accusing me of ingratitude. “How could you” is her mantra chronically making me feel like the “bad guy.” That I am abusing them by maintaining strict No Contact with those who “just loved and cared about their Little One and Only.” If I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. Quick! My airsickness bag!
Light only glimmers from memories of those brief moments when their masks slipped. When their true motives were suddenly revealed. Take, for example, that damn “safety first” thing that held me hostage in their home ’til the age of thirty-one.
I’ll never forget the day my Mother first saw my new condo. She took one look around and exclaimed, “Why, you’re perfectly safe here! We could’ve done this years ago!”
If looks could’ve killed, the glance Dad threw her way would’ve buried her six feet under. Interesting, very interesting. It seems he’d brainwashed The Little Warden (Mom) in order to vicariously brainwash me to keep me imprisoned for his own selfish motives under the “catch all” excuse of safety.
One particularly revealing moment came in ’97 when all cultural experiences (i.e. plays, concerts, etc.) suddenly ceased. I couldn’t understand it, until Mother admitted that she’d forbidden them. “If I can’t attend them anymore because of my panic attacks in crowds,” she snapped, “I didn’t want y’all to enjoy them either!”
I really expected better of her.
It’s as though they had two faces, the happy one and the real one. It wasn’t often that the happy mask slipped, but when it did…holy shit! If I may quote Melodie Beattie, in a nanosecond they “whipped off their halos and pulled out their pitchforks.” And I learned more truth about my family from those rare nanoseconds, than I learned in thirty years of interacting with their happy masks.
It’s those moments we must hold to when Denial threatens to drown us.
That moment when Mom slapped me across the face and her rage redoubled because I instinctively ducked.
The memorable meal when sweety-pie Grandma snapped, “And how did you know that!?” when I questioned why her beloved Golden Child little boy (now in his 50’s) claimed I was being kidnapped when I was really honeymooning with my beloved husband.
That flash of rage I felt when Mom hugged my brand-new husband in a way I’d been forbidden to hug my own father since puberty. (“Only A-frame hugs with your daddy from now on, Honey. He is a man.”)
That bolt of insight when I realized I was now on the outside because Mom was pulling ye olde, “It’s just too stressful” lie to excuse their refusal to meet my three step-children. As if I couldn’t see through that blatant falsehood, having been “on the inside” and witnessed them fabricate excuses for decades. Safety, God and Stress. They always use the same three excuses. They’re not even creative!
Most vivid of all, questioning Mother on why Dad looked away, grimacing in rage, whenever my new husband showed me any physical affection. Her reply was well-rehearsed, betraying previous preparation. “Oh, he’s just having trouble adjusting to his little girl being married” she happily warbled. For once, she didn’t deny the evidence of my own senses.
But why take my word for it? To quote Dad directly, “My daughter rather suddenly and unexpectedly (at least for me) became engaged…happy occasion but very distracting.” I would hardly call thirteen, one-three, 13 days from engagement for wedding “very distracting.” Nor could it have been unexpected, as I was thirty-two, three-two, 32 when I married.
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But I digress…frequently.
Hold on to your truth. Believe the evidence of your senses, your intution. Cherish those few memories of when your narcissisticly engulfing parents’ halos slipped and their true motives were revealed.
Therein lies freedom from that damned Denial.