Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Spin on Guilt: Me, Guilty?

Jen over at Sprite's Keeper decided that we should do a post on guilt this week for the Spin Cycle. So here I sit, trying to decide what angle to use on this particular topic, because I have, as so many, had my fair share of guilt. First of all, I am a woman. In addition to being a woman, I am a mother. Add to that the fact that I am awesomely self critical and a pathological people pleaser, and you have a motherfuckingshitload of guilt in my (almost) 30 years.

Call it empathy, call it being wishy-washy, whatever, but I have always had the uncanny knack of feeling guilty about things I have done, things I haven't done but thought of doing, and for things that other people have done. The last one is completely baffling, but I tell you, there are times when someone else does something bad and I think there is somehow some way that I had some sort of influence over that person's bad decision. When I was little and my mother got angry, I always thought it was my fault and felt overwhelmingly guilty, even when I knew I didn't do anything wrong. Sometimes I get a guilty feeling like I have done something wrong and I don't know that I have and that someone is going to confront me and tell me that I did something awful to them inadvertently. Is this sick or what? Don't get me wrong, I don't sit around all day feeling indescribably guilty, but it sneaks into my day from time to time, probably more than the average person, and all my life I have found myself saying "I'm sorry" over and over again, as if those two words and my feeling falsely guilty could somehow erase the wrongdoing ailing someone. Maybe it is just that I wish that my saying sorry could wash away their woes...who knows, maybe I am just like Jesus. Now THAT would be a surprise...

So if all that regular, general, run-of-the-mill guilt isn't bad enough, I became a mother, which means that I have gained access to the Holy Grail of all guilt, the role of the "guilty mother," feeling like every time I deny my child something they want or drop them off with the baby sitter and they wail and cry for the safety of mommy's arms, that a little piece of my soul rips free and shoves itself down my throat, choking me with guilt. Yesterday I let my sick stepson wait out in the cold, freezing rain for a half hour until he finally came in to tell me the bus hadn't come and it turned out there was a two hour delay and I didn't know. I spent the day trying to block out the image of his trembling, chilled little body amidst the elements while I sat at my computer with my piping hot cup of coffee and slippers so that I didn't feel like I would suffocate from feeling like such a suck-ass mother. Last weekend my daughter threw up while staying over at my mother's house and just the thought that I wasn't with her when she most needed comfort and a mother's touch made me actually shed tears. Guilt. Motherhood. They go hand in hand. It ain't no joke. And it ain't no pleasure cruise (and I have been on a pleasure cruise and they are quite lovely, so I know).

And as much as I give my husband shit when he criticizes me for not doing the dishes or not putting his underwear in the right section of his drawer (yes, he has "sections" of his drawers, we won't get into it here but it goes up my ass sideways that I must organize his skidmarked panties), I actually feel GUILTY that I was too busy chasing a toddler, managing an 8-year-old with ADHD and attempting to work three jobs from home WITH said 2-year-old and 8-year-old fighting for my attention to get around to such other motherly duties. I feel guilty when I ask him to do anything for the kids, because in my sick little mind, I am supposed to do EVERYTHING for my children and never need any help. Is this martyrdom? Is this insanity? I really don't know, but my neurotic little psyche would probably benefit from some shock therapy, I am sure. However, I don't think my insurance covers that. But it might do wonders for my quest for more volume in my hair. Anyone have a home shock therapy set?

I also feel guilty about the following:

1. The box of tic tacs I stole in the eighth grade.

2. The guy I really hurt in college (if you are reading this, I am very, very sorry--you know who you are).

3. For not keeping in touch with more wonderful friends that I left behind without a second glance.

4. For taking so much from my parents all these years and not being able to give back to them yet (I promise, Mom and Dad, someday, I will repay you for all you have done for me).

5. For being self centered and feeling sorry for myself in the past.

6. For anything that I eat that I shouldn't.

7. For the fact that I really want to get away from my kids sometimes.

8. That I sometimes (more than I would like) feed my children unhealthy food just to get them to eat something, or because I am exhausted and spent and can't bring myself to cook healthy, nutritious food.

9. When I bitch at my husband because I am in a bad mood.

10. When I lose my patience with my children.

So guilt, Jen? Yes, I know a little bit about guilt. Right now, as I sit here, I am feeling guilty about the fact that I didn't read and comment on every blog in my reader and I am thinking about staying up just a little bit longer so I can get to those I neglected. But somewhere, deep down in my damaged little soul, a voice is telling me something that I think may be very, very important...

You can't please everybody.

Which is something that I know. But damn if I can't give it the old college try.