You’ve all heard of the proverbial ‘guilt trip.’ I suppose our individual backgrounds dictate the what, why, and how often, we are assuaged by guilt. I was raised devout Catholic; I believe that statement speaks for itself. Guilt and I have been best friends since childhood.
If anything goes wrong in our family, it feels like it is my fault; and when I say feels, I mean feels. There is a twisting feeling in my gut that immediately causes a tightness in my neck and shoulders, which works its way up to my head if the problem remains unresolved. If any of you suffer from migraines, you know what I mean. So yes, it would be more than accurate to say I suffer from abundant guilt.
I woke up this morning with that phase racing around in my morning mind. Since I’ve been blogging fairly regularly, I have come to realize that I seem to wake up with answers to yesterdays problems. It is literally just sitting in my brain, swirling around and waiting to be identified. I have always claimed to wake up with a racing mind, but it wasn’t until I began this blog that I realized the value of those jumbled thoughts.
When I say my prayers at night and ask forgiveness for all of my mistakes and shortcomings during the preceding day, I think my sleeping mind then tries to find a solution to help me make less bad decisions. That sounds a little silly as I write it, but hey, it seems to be working for me so I’m going to go with it.
There is another way to look at that phrase: ‘guilt in abundance.’ I also feel very guilty when I experience abundance. A table full of food; there are starving people: guilt. A Christmas tree surrounded by gifts; there are homeless people without even bare necessities: guilt. Buying my dream car; there are people with no transportation at all–probably moms who can’t get their children to a doctor: guilt. Bottom line, I have a very hard time deriving pleasure from things that others don’t have. I might buy them, but then regret it. At my core, it just seems so wrong to be happy about them.
That being said, I still want for those things. It is such a conundrum. Let me give you an example. I recently got a new car and I feel embarrassed to drive it. Seriously. I’m even embarrassed to say I like it. And I love it. I feel like I’m floating on the highway. People ask how I like it and I say, “oh it’s okay. It’s not the ‘Beast’.” I drove my 12 year old Sequoia (the Beast) until it was at death’s door (240,000 miles).
I must admit, I went through all kinds of mourning in replacing my Sequoia. We bought it when our first grandchild was born so that vehicle held countless family memories: 12 tree farm trips, 5 beach trips, moving six kids to college…we all considered the ‘Beast’ a member of the family. But last year, when we had already put $6000 into repairs on the Beast by August and then it threatened to break down while stuck in traffic on our way to Boston (needed another $3000 in repairs), I finally had to agree with my husband that it was time to say goodbye.
We looked at cars for three weeks and I nitpicked them to death: wrong color, not ‘trucky’ enough, no entertainment system for the kids. Nothing was going to compare to the Beast and the new Sequoias were not to my liking either. Finally, my husband suggested we take a look at my dream car—just for fun. I drove it. I loved it. I bought it, the same day. And now I’m embarrassed to drive it. My beautiful black Lexus 460 (dubbed ‘Beauty’ by my grandkids) hides in the garage. (and now I’m really embarrassed that you all know I’m driving a Lexus)
I don’t know why I feel such shame to own something nice. I was not born into a family of wealth. Things have never come easily to me. I walked away from two marriages with absolutely nothing and started over from scratch. And I still work very long hours in addition to writing and tending to our large family. Steve (my husband) told me to just buy it. He actually said I am one of the hardest working people he’s ever known and I deserve it (if you know my husband, you know he is not much for compliments, so that pretty much won me over). Gosh, listen to me trying to justify to you that I deserved it. How much of this last paragraph did you really need to know? Pathetic, right?
So…what happened yesterday to cause me to wake up thinking about guilt in abundance today? Well, yesterday, I had a girl come over and help me get the house clean for my Christmas dinner party with my friends tonight. Since last weekend’s over the top ornament and cookie bonanza, I have helped several kids with their kids this week. On Wednesday, we had six grandkids at the house all day, ages 4 weeks, 1, 2, 5, 8, 10. ( I went to Panera for soup for dinner and a woman about 20 years older than me told me I looked exhausted :)) In addition, we’ve been trying to get our gifts wrapped.
My point is, I had no time to even think about getting the house cleaned. There was still glitter everywhere. So, I signed onto care.com and found a young mother of four who came over for three hours to help me clean. I was already feeling really guilty about it when I told Steve she was coming. His reaction (“you’ve got to be kidding me”) pushed me over the top. In my mind, he was calling me lazy and extravagant. Honestly, I have no idea why it upset him that I hired a cleaning lady for three hours; maybe it fed into some value or insecurity of his— all I know is that my temper flared quickly and with all the pressure of the holidays, his responded just as quickly.
Fighting over three hours of cleaning help—$70; doesn’t that seem silly? This young girl was just looking for a way to earn money in the evenings while her husband could watch her kids. And I was just trying to get my house in order before my friends, who I only see a couple of times year, came over. But I know the real reason we got into a fight is because I felt guilty spending the money on something so lavish—so abundant; hiring someone else to help with work I should have been able to do by myself. My guilt was the fuel on the fire. If I didn’t feel guilty, I would have reminded him that 2 of our 6 children as well as many of my friends have regular cleaning ladies, and that he was behaving badly.
And so I ask you…is it okay to own a nice car or hire a cleaning lady? Or maybe get your nails done? (I’ve had mine done four times for the four weddings we threw). Or should we all live as meagerly as possible and use all extra monies to improve the lives of others? I remember about five years ago, our priest spoke of buying a new car and, I confess, it really bothered me. It seemed so wrong for him to drive such a nice car. Is it okay as long as we are still working to improve the lives of others? But then, how do we determine how much is enough?
If any of you have any sage words of advice, I’d sure love to hear them. This guilt issue is a huge one in my efforts to feng shui my soul. I also spend a lot of time worrying about things from an eternal perspective. I don’t want to mess up at this point in the game; I’m not getting any younger!
I apologize if my words and thoughts are a bit scattered this morning. Thanks for hanging in there with me. I have a huge ‘to do’ list before I go see the new ‘Sing’ movie with my grandkids at 1 and then my friends are coming over tonight. Busy, busy, busy…we all are…but surely not too busy to ponder some of life’s big questions. I would really appreciate your help with this one! Happy Friday!
“Be at peace with your own soul, then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.” Saint Isaac of Nineveh