Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Strong Powers of Denial

Each day after visiting her little friend Quinn, Iris comes home and shares stories of their time together. No matter what challenges they faced, Iris' voice is always filled with energy and delight.

Almost without fail, at some point in her story Iris will slow down as she describes how Quinn responded to or behaved in a given situation. She'll stop and look at me. She'll smile. Then she'll say something like, "Hmm... who does that remind me of?"

Sometimes it'll take me a moment to realize she's talking about me. Sometimes I've already been thinking, "Well, I understand why he did that. I'd do the same thing."

Apparently, although Quinn is just seven and I'm, well, fifty-five, and although Quinn faces the challenges of autism and epilepsy and I, well, I'm just challenging, we have a lot in common.

For example, Quinn and I are both our own biggest fans. After successfully completing a task, Quinn will tell himself (aloud), "That was awesome!" or "Way to go!"

I do that.

Quinn is also his own greatest encourager. When struggling or feeling too tired to continue, he'll tell himself (aloud), "You can do it." or "It's OK! Tomorrow's another day."

I do that.

Quinn becomes quite animated when he talks, using his body to accentuate his words, even when his physical expression puts him at physical risk, e.g., letting go of the ropes on a swing so that he can use his hands to express himself.

I do that.

When Quinn gets into doing something, he won't give up even if he's ready to fall over in exhaustion. He just keeps at it even as his eyes are slowly overtaken by sleep.

I do that.

It's in our shared capacity for persistence that Iris most often notes our similarities. When either of us (Quinn or I) gets it into his head that we're going to do something, it's takes a lot to get us not to.  Some would call it "persistent", others "obstinate". Some would call it "committed", others "intractable". Nonetheless, we tend to stick with things and see them through.

Persistence can be a great strength that carries you through adversity and challenge. It can be a great detriment that leads you into adversity and challenge By its nature, it's a tricky strength to manage. If you're really persistent, then you're persistent in your persistence. That makes turning off your persistence doubly hard.

I'm usually well past the point of having worn out everyone on a point before I notice that they're maybe wanting to move on to some other point: well past it.

Lately I've become better at recognizing the signs in others that they're just D-O-N-E, done. I'll stop talking and do my best to reduce my level of animation, but meanwhile brain races.  The ignition is off; the engine is still running and it'll keep running until it runs out of fuel. The only solution I've found is to reengage the transmission in some other gear and hope the drivetrain doesn't come apart.

Yeah, persistence is an interesting strength to manage. I'd say it's one of my core strengths, but it's by no means my greatest strength. Nope, my greatest strength is even more challenging to manage than persistence. It's what some have called,  "strong powers of denial".

No matter how dyer the circumstance, no matter how overwhelming the evidence to the contrary, no matter how many times I've failed, no matter how many others have given up, I always just "know" that success is around the corner. It's not a feeling that I have to work up. It's not something I even think about, really. It's just that I, well, I just "know".

If I just keep going a little bit further, if I just hang in there a little bit longer, everything is going to change. I don't have to know why or how it's going to change. I don't have to see a path from here to there. I just know it's going to change. It's the "just" factor.

I don't see this as denial. All the evidence stacked in my favor. The signs of positive change are everywhere. They may be small. They may blend into the fabric of everyday life. However, if you look for them, you can see them.

It's not "denial", it's, um... it's "insight!"

Anyway, with my great strength of insight (or denial if you choose to see it that way), persistence comes easy.

Come to think of it, pretty much everyone I know is persistent; it's just that most persist in activities they claim to dislike (if not disdain). Maybe they have strong powers of denial as well?

Happy Wednesday,

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