Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | July 18, 2013

Denial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt

Forgive me, Hippocrates, for I have sinned. I have lied to my physician.

That’s so wrong, isn’t it? I can just see Marcus Welby, MD, looking at me with a scowl. “Now Sue, you should never lie to a doctor.”

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Imagine all the doctors I’ve disappointed. Dr. Strangelove. Dr. Zhivago. Dr. Eckleburg. Dr. Fu Manchu. Dr. Doolittle. A phalanx of frowning physicians.

Of course, I like to think that I didn’t lie per se. I prefer to think of it as being vaguely misleading because I was wrapped in my own cloak of denial.

You see, it took me a little while to get around to seeing a doctor about the Little Something in my foot. Basically, I procrastinated until I was unable to walk without limping and muttering “ouch, ouch, ouch” with every step.

I was rather vague on the phone when the receptionist asked what the problem was – just some foot pain, needed to see the doctor, etc. I didn’t want to commit to any particular narrative. Then, as I sat in the exam room, the paper cover crinkling under me as I shifted uncomfortably on the exam table, it was time to tell the doctor exactly what was going on.

I have some foot pain.

The ball of the foot.

In the middle. Yes – ouch! – right there.

No, there was no sudden trauma.

No, no bruising that I saw.

Well, it’s been going on for a while.

Yes, at least several days.

Um, yes, I guess it’s been going on for over a week.

How long exactly? Probably more like a couple of weeks.

Actually, now that I think about it, it’s been several weeks.

I suppose you could say a couple of months.

(Truth be told, it started last October. But don’t tell the doctor that.)

Yes, I know, I’m an idiot. But I kept thinking my foot issue would get better. I hoped it might miraculously go away. After all, it just showed up one day out of the blue, so why not think it might just disappear too? Things like that happen. Sometimes.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “denial” as sticking one’s big fat head in the sand and ignoring reality until sand starts to go up one’s nose and into one’s lungs, causing one to black out. (I’m paraphrasing here.)

Fortunately, when I finally succumbed to the pain and went to the doctor, I discovered that my foot was neither broken nor permanently damaged. I just had a neuroma. Not such a big deal. No boot, no crutches required. Certainly not something that justified living in pain for the better part of a year.

You would think as a result of this experience that I’d learn my lesson and ditch my denial/avoidance habits. But no. You see, I’ve been in denial about other things. Big things. Like the fact that we are moving to Colorado. Yes, it’s time to close the Chicago chapter and move to another time zone, making it even more difficult to figure out when it’s a good time to call my family on the East Coast.

The denier in me thinks “Moving will be fun! We’ll get to try new restaurants and new museums and do all sorts of sightseeing touristy things and go hiking and biking and do all kinds of fun activities. It will be just like going on vacation!”

Sadly, I know the reality is that moving is nothing like going on vacation. In fact, moving is a lot of work. It’s organizing and packing and cleaning, followed by cleaning and unpacking and organizing. It involves crying and saying goodbye to friends and sobbing over the fact that I’ll never again be able to get my favorite roasted veggie sandwich at my favorite local lunch spot. It means finding a new doctor, a new dentist, a new place I can get a pedicure where they won’t wrinkle their noses at my ugly, calloused runner’s feet. It means finding a new book group, a new writers’ group, a new running partner, and someone with whom I can go to the movies and drink wine (not necessarily at the same time, although that’s not a bad idea). I have to find new friends, create a new community, find a new favorite sandwich place.

So, I’ve been limping along, denying the inevitable upheaval.

But now here it is. The move is upon us. After several weeks of organizing and packing and cleaning and saying sad, tearful goodbyes, our stuff is in Colorado and it’s time for me to clean and unpack and organize and figure out how to get to the grocery store without getting lost. I’m nervous. Will people like me? Will I fit in? How do I adapt to life in Colorado? How do I blend with the locals? And then it hit me – the solution to make me fit right in. So, please excuse me while I rush off to my John Denver Appreciation Class. Everybody, sing it with me!


  1. Yes, moving is hard. There’s the scary part. And there really is a fun part too. You’ll find it, maybe while you’re unpacking!

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