Jenny: Guilt-Edged Bonds

I feel guilty.

I feel guilty because Lani’s driving me to all my doctor’s appointments even though she’s swamped right now.

I feel guilty that I didn’t put an interview up on Argh today.  Lani’s swamped because she’s launching her first Lucy March book, A Little Night Magic (which is out today so you should go buy it right now.  Thank you) and I was supposed to do an interview with her and I didn’t get to it.

I also feel guilty because I was supposed to do an interview with Laura Vivanco in DECEMBER, and I didn’t get to it.

I feel guilty because I haven’t dragged the treadclimber out yet.  I was going to start on Monday and here it is Tuesday and it’s still in the store room.

I feel guilty about the deer I hit, the book that’s grotesquely late, the dogs I don’t get outside with enough, the vague way I answered Alastair in the kitchen this afternoon because my brain was crashing from lack of food, the truly horrific state of my little kitchen, the fact that I left dishes in the sink in the big kitchen, the chair that’s only halfway re-upholstered in the living room, all the laundry I haven’t done, every lousy thing I ever did to anybody going back to grade school,  and that I lost the Sherlock DVD.

Look, I know this is ridiculous.  I know this guilt isn’t doing anything for me.  I know that a lot of those things I don’t need to feel guilty about.  And yet the guilt persists, sometimes so strongly that I apologize out loud when I’m alone in the car.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize . . .  I’m sorry, I never meant to . . . I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry . . .”  Krissie says I cry in my sleep (we’ve shared a lot of hotel rooms at a lot of conferences) and that has to be guilt, too, because there is absolutely nothing in my life right now to cry about.  So it’s the guilt, latent guilt, remembered guilt, unresolved guilt that gives me nightmares and makes me sob.  (The good news: I no longer sit bolt upright in the middle of the night and scream.  Those were some bad, bad years.)

The key for me is that the guilt is always about people: people I’ve hurt, people I’ve disappointed, people I didn’t help enough.  I don’t feel guilty because I missed my contract deadline, I feel guilty because I’m letting Jen down.  I don’t feel guilty because I didn’t do the dishes, I feel guilty because Alastair is going to face them in the morning.  I don’t feel guilty because I got sick and have to go to the doctor, I feel guilty because Lani has to leave her work and her family to drive me.  I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve always been such a loner: if you don’t interact with people, you have nothing to feel guilty about.  Then Lani and Krissie came along and told me they’d love me no matter what, and now I still feel guilty about ways I’ve let them down, but they yell at me for it.  Then I feel guilty for feeling guilty.  Really, guilt is just the gift that keeps on guilting.

I’ve tried to end the guilt a couple of different ways.  The whole forgiving yourself bit: that didn’t work at all, my Self was not fooled for a moment.  The logic bit: does feeling guilty help at all, especially since some of this stuff was forty years ago?  No, it doesn’t help, but it’s still there.  The mistakes-are-education approach: Of course, you’ve made mistakes, you’re human, it’s part of growing, your mistakes have made you what you are.  Yeah, that’s true, but it doesn’t get rid of the guilt.  (Weirdly, I don’t regret anything I’ve done, but my vicious little id still sends up the guilt about it.)  Or there’s my favorite, the self-affirmation bit: Tell yourself how wonderful you are and the guilt will go away.  Or as I said to Lani the other day, “Awesome wishes it were us.”  Which is true, but the guilt remains.

Therapy you say?  I’ve had eight therapists.  Three were really excellent, although one of them went kind of crazy after her divorce and I ened up in a basement with a faith healer waving peach pits over me, so in the end, not so good.  Still better than the male therapist who wanted to hug me a lot, and the female therapist who wanted to fix me up with her brother.  And now, eight therapists later, still guilt-ridden.  Which can mean only one thing.

The guilt is doing something for me.

If I wasn’t getting anything from the guilt, I’d stop feeling guilty.  There is something in me that needs to beat me up, some kind of atonement, some sense of confession without forgiveness.  Yes, you did those things and you can’t FIX them now, but you’re not helpless, you can do something about your sins, you can torture yourself with them.  Guilt proves I am still in control of the universe.

Except I really have to get rid of it, the stress it’s caused is playing merry hell with my blood pressure, and I’m sure it’s not doing much for the diabetes, either.  So my next mental health goal is finding some way to cut lose some of this damn guilt.   I’ve felt guilty for sixty-two years.  (Yes, even as a baby.  Have you MET my mother?)  I’ve served my time.  I’ve paid my emotional bills.  I accept that I am not in control of the universe.   Om, I am letting the guilt go . . .

Listen, I’m sorry this post was all about me.  It’s really selfish of me, so for those of you who read this far, I’m truly sorry I wasted your time.  I’d write a different post for today, but I don’t have the time because I have to go back upstairs and clean up the kitchen before Alastair wakes up.  It’s my own fault for not writing this post ahead of time . . .

I’m really sorry.


93 thoughts on “Jenny: Guilt-Edged Bonds

  1. Lani and Krissie aren’t the only ones who love you anyway. I do, too.
    I feel lucky cause guilt isn’t one of my many issues. I read a book at 21 called the Nature of Personal Reality. I have some issues with the book but parts of it were wonderful and Jane Roberts really rid me of guilt.
    Well, what she said coupled with the fact that I’m a rebel at heart and my mother’s main weapon is guilt and no way I’m going to feel what she wants me to feel, dammit.
    I’d be willing to bet you have nothing to feel guilty about in reality. I’d say something to help but paraphrasing Smokey the Bear – only you can prevent the guilt.

  2. I don’t regret anything I’ve done

    Maybe you need to make yourself sing Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien” every time you start feeling guilty? At very least it would be distracting, and at best you might start actually thinking you can shed some of the guilt. On the other hand, if all you’ll do is start feeling guilty that you’re not remembering to sing about how you’re going to stop feeling guilty, maybe that’s not such a good idea …

    As for the the interview with me, I think it’s maybe for the best you haven’t got round to it yet, because I’m not very funny and neither’s my book, and I’d feel guilty about boring your readers 😉 Maybe you can include it in a Literary Criticism of Crusie post when the essays about your novels come out at the Journal of Popular Romance Studies? Except you probably won’t even want to mention my name by then, because a large part of my essay’s about Sizzle.

    Guilt proves I am still in control of the universe.

    Or guilt proves that, at some level, you still feel you ought to be in control of the universe? I wonder if the guilt has something to do with having very high expectations for yourself and your work. Maybe, at some level, giving up the guilt would feel like lowering your standards? And maybe those standards are important to you and your self-image? I’m not a therapist, though, so what do I know? It wouldn’t even have occurred to me to dangle cherry pips over you.

  3. may says:

    Guilt, it does remind you that you need to do stuff, but I think in a really negative way. For me sometimes guilt really prevents me from doing anything as I just want to avoid the feeling altogether. Of course that only makes it worse.

    You’ll find out what the purpose is eventually, my house is a mess too, 🙂

  4. I am simply amazed. I think you are wonderful and I love what you write and I am very sorry that you feel all that guilt. (Eeek! Too many “I”s make it all about me! Sorry!)

    Anyway, you are an amazing woman and you have done wonderful things. And normal things. And probably not so wonderful things. Maybe you’d like to look into a book that my therapist and I are just starting to go thru (because I have terrible “broken thinking” patterns that hold me back in huge ways). It’s called SOS Help for Emotions: Managing Anxiety, Anger & Depression, by Lynn Clark, PhD. I know guilt isn’t listed, but it’s part of that whole cauldron and broken thinking plays into it. It’s cognitive therapy stuff and, given all the therapy you’ve had, you can probably handle this without a professional. Just a thought. Excessive guilt like that does seem to come from some sort of broken thought pattern.

    You are wonderful and I hope you can get rid of this guilt soon. I think it’s holding you back.

    Sending lots of love and guilt-free (that’s like calorie-free, only better) FGBVs your way!

  5. Ylva Hedin says:

    You came to the same conclution as I did, reading it. You are in some way getting something out of it.

    Perhaps its how you are use to live your life. You are not only feeling guilt you are darn good at it too. Holding on to it may be a security for you.

    Keep yesterdays post in mind: you dont have to change everything just somethings. Mabye you dont have to leave all gulit behind. Just some. Start with ONE thing to not feel guitly about…

  6. Oh, hell, honey. I wish I didn’t understand exactly everything you’ve said, but I do. So well. I feel it, too, and it’s debilitating, and I’m getting sick of it, too.

    Not yours. Mine.

    I’m sorry. 🙂

    I remember this passage from Eat, Pray, Love:

    “Guilt’s just your ego’s way of tricking you into thinking that you’re making moral progress. Don’t fall for it, my dear.”

    I think that’s it. We can’t feel good about what we’ve done or sometimes even who we are, but we can trick ourselves into thinking we’re good people because we feel so damn bad about it.

    The thing is, the lie you tell yourself here, is that you’re a bad person in the first place. It’s simply untrue. The character I’m writing now, Stacy Easter, does all sorts of selfish things. She has no problem putting her needs first. But she never feels guilty about it, and every time I write her, I think, “She’s got it right.”

    Also, untrue, by the way – that I leave my family to take you to the doctor. When I’m with you, I’m with my family. And we have fun, even at the doctor.

  7. I’m not a therapist but I’ve done a lot of counseling over the years and I think that everybody has got their keywords to explain why things don’t work as perfectly as they should. Mine is failure. Yours is guilt. I suppose it’s not always there 100%, 24/7, but now is the time you can feel it strongly. And no wonder, you’re trying to change things, you’ve come to some conclusions, so your mind is looking for a way to resist the change (heck, who know’s what’s going to come out of it?) like your body is trying to resist weight loss (wait, that was Krissie’s, but never mind).

    Seeing this doesn’t help to take the guilt away completely. Old habits die hard. But sometimes it helps to put things in the right perspective.

  8. There is tremendous gravity (in the sucking sense of the word) to our habits, both of thought and of action. At some point you will figure out what guilt does for you, and what it keeps you from. And then you get to decide how much attention t deserves.

  9. I came acros a quote last year that really resonated with me:


    I had this vision of someone (me) desperately clinging to a the rear bumper of a car speeding down a rough road.

    It helped me to start letting go of a few things.

    I will say this. For those who love you, care about you — well, they love you and care about you. And certainly you have the option to say … I am overwhelmed, can this wait?

    And sometimes people will be disappointed. There is no way around it. But who is going to be nice to you, if you aren’t?

    Guilt sucks!

    so …


  10. stephanie says:

    It’s so very very hard to accept help from people. I get that. I really do. But people – nice people – people we like – they like to help us when we need it. They know when we need help. Like when we have a head wound and we’re gushing blood. Don’t try to drive yourself to the hospital. Just say, “Thank you.” Because you’ll want them to say, “Thank you” when you do something similar for them.

  11. Julia says:

    I’ve replaced therapy,boring exercise, solo attempts at meditation, self help books, affirmations and mud wrestling with my own messy brain with one GOOD yoga studio, where I go 3-5x week. My view of brain behavioris that it’s just an organ,sitting in the stew of our biochemistry – hormones,habits, sugar, whatever – and it’s so much simpler to change the composition ofthatstew than it is to talk ourselves out of stuff. And yes, I am older, fatter and stiffer than my yoga buddies but no one cares. I prescribe breathing and some radical self-care, Miss Jenny. I love your books, they’re part of my flotation device, so I want you happy and healthy – but no pressure to write more. You’ve done your share! I volunteer to analyze your local yoga studios and point you towards the best fit. I’m a yoga teacher, full disclosure, who only teaches prenatal to teenagers and relaxing classes for chronically ill and poor women – everyone’s diabetic, chubby, and sarcastic. Email me if you want a yoga BS detector!

  12. romney says:

    My first thought was it’s not about people, but people other than yourself.

    “Guilt proves I am still in control of the universe.”

    Only your own universe. Perhaps let go of the rest of the world a bit? Scale your responsibilities down in your head. Even in our own universes we don’t control everything, or even most of it.

  13. romney says:

    “broken thinking” is a great phrase. Sums up so many stupid assumptions I’ve made and ought to discard.

  14. I’m willing to bet that Lani doesn’t mind driving you to the doctor, that she understands about no interview, and that Alastair isn’t cursing you out under his breath about the dishes.

    The chair might harbor some resentment over its unfinished reupholstering, but it’ll just have to sit with it.

    So, here’s the question. If the people you feel guilty about hurting or disappointing or upsetting don’t feel hurt, disappointed or upset, is your guilt invalid?

    Cut yourself a break, Jenny. You’re lovely and loveable and even Wonder Woman needed allies.

  15. romney says:

    Yoga, meditation and so forth is much easier when someone else is instructing you to do it in a studio I practice really half-heartedly at home. It’s so much easier in a stinky dance studio with 30 other people, dance music pumping out of one of the other studios and a bar recycling glasses just outside the window. Funny eh?

  16. I argued with a friend shortly before his death(a death for which i will always feel indirectly responsible). I was still have severe issues about it a year later, so I went to the wisest man I have ever known: My grandfather.

    He told me that guilt serves a purpose. Guilt, he said, is meant to motivate, and teach. When we feel it, there is a lesson to be learned,or something we must achieve. It doesn’t have to be an enemy; in fact, the only way you will ever rid yourself of it, is to make friends with it.

  17. Librarian Betty says:

    I read somewhere that guilt is anger turned inwards. My guilt tends to be a result of my lack of perfection. It sounds like your guilt may be from not putting other people’s needs over your own. I’m pretty sure from what Lani, Krissie, and Alastair have written here and elsewhere that they are not holding it against you.

    And, BTW, you may think this post was all about you but, you know something? I would bet that every one of us that read it saw a piece of themselves in it too. We’ve all been there in some way, shape, or form. No need to apologize.

  18. Jennifer says:

    We’ve all been there. Don’t get me started about how guilty I feel about being a shitty caregiver for my dad for 10 years. Hell, my mom was the perfect self-sacrificing caregiver and she still feels guilty. We’ve all got our shit.

    But keep in mind that you’ve had several anvils of epic badness dropped upon you recently. Nobody should be expecting you to function at full capacity right now while freaking out about eyesight and having to change your entire diet and meditate and exercise and all the other crap you hate starting right this second. That’s a lot of shit that suddenly has to be juggled right now on top of noveling. You can only do so much right now.

  19. I’m sorry, am I in the wrong place? I thought this blog was SUPPOSED to be about you. Feel free to spew all over it.

    I have no terrific insight. I’m an addict, so for many years the universe really did revolve around me. When I got clean I tried to live in a way that would make amends for all the horrible, self-centered things I’d done. But for years I carried the guilt.

    Finally, I realized it was my addiction trying to fuck with me. It had figured out that if I beat myself up enough, eventually I’d go back to using. Which would make me lose everyone I love, so I would die destitute and alone. Score one for the disease!

    Screw that. I’ve stopped feeling guilty over the past. It’s done. Can I be a better person every day? Maybe. Maybe not. My Buddhist nun friend says I don’t have to, because I’m already exactly how I’m supposed to be. Should I try? Sure.

    I believe in biochemistry, because I have two autistic kids and another with anxiety. They sprang from the stew that is our gene pool. I also believe in behavior modification, so Skye’s book might help. And despite the fact that this comment was all about me (hey, recovery is ongoing), I believe in you.

  20. Aw Jenny so sorry this is coming to bite you in the butt, just when you really don’t need anything else. I reckon you nailed it, it’s a coping mechanism. Like all coping mechanisms – eating , drinking, worrying, hoarding …. we pick them up pretty early on, or get them handed on to us. They are familiar and stop us having to look at the really scary stuff.
    Trying to cut this off at the knees in the middle of all this crap that fell on your head is a pretty tall order. Can you allow yourself some space – give your self a window when you’ve cleared your plate a bit to deal with this? So that every time you feel guilt say to yourself that you’ll get to that in … March/the Summer/ whenever feels possible.
    You will deal with it – you are a strong,talented,resilient woman with loads of people who love you and want to support you. You just don’t have to deal with it all right this minute.

  21. Renee says:

    Guilt is one heavy bitch. I hate her! She’s loud, bossy, cruel, and so very ugly – which makes her very hard to ignore. Occasionally she’ll take a vacation and life is great, and then she comes back with renewed vigor. I’ve been able to prolong her vacations lately. For every one thing I feel guilty about, I think of 3 things that I’ve done that made me feel good, or that was good for someone else. I think of the joy I felt, the smile on someone else’s face, the sheer satisfaction that came over me at the time. When I remember to do this, she stays away longer. Unfortunately, life gets busy and before you know it, she’s taken over again and you’re at her mercy til you’re able to boot her back out again.

    Did I mention that I hate her.

    It pains me to hear that you have this same affliction. You bring such light and joy too so many. And as I’ve told you before, your books threw me a rope a few years ago that help me climb out of a pit that was so deep, I didn’t think I’d ever find my way out. For that, I will always be grateful. You helped me find joy again. And there’s no guilt in that. Much much love. I hope you find a way to boot that bitch out of the house and out of your head.

  22. Terri Osburn says:

    As a Cradle Catholic with 12 years of Catholic school behind me, I know a thing or two about guilt. Still doesn’t mean I know how to get rid of it. So maybe it’s a matter of where to focus. If I look at the past, even just this past weekend, I can find lots of things to feel guilty about. I didn’t organize that stack of paperwork. I didn’t go visit my cousin in the hospital. I didn’t do as much revision as I should have.

    Beating myself up about all this doesn’t seem to get me anywhere, so I try to focus on today and tomorrow and the day after. I can turn off that TV and dive into revisions tonight. I can get that paperwork filed this weekend. My mantra seems to be Annie meets Scarlet. The sun will come out because tomorrow is another day. A clean slate.

    As this really talented, smart, and amazing writer always says, nothing but good times ahead. Look ahead!

    And now I definitely want to try yoga. Thanks, ladies.

  23. Susan D says:

    “I feel guilty because Lani’s driving me to all my doctor’s appointments even though she’s swamped right now.”

    As if you wouldn’t do just that for her?

  24. Guilt, failure, anger, basically it’s all about (lack of) perfection. Because if we all were perfect, things wouldn’t have happened. So we either blame ourselves or the others for it. But honestly, if I can’t have the perfect people, I prefer those who blame themselves to the egotists who blame the others. Hear that, Jenny? You’re not the worst kind! ;o)

  25. Marcia in OK says:


    My “cross to bear” for many a year wasn’t guilt, but shame. We got comfortable with each other and whenever I’d venture to far out of my comfort zone, or get yanked by someone or something else, I’d overload with the shame. The woulda, shoulda etc. No one else was dumping on me, I was dumping on myself. Mostly, I think now, because it was familiar and I knew how to do all that routine. Thankfully, I don’t spend much time in that zone anymore, but it lasted for a long time and I used it as one of my excuses for hiding from everyone and everything I could duck.

    And, about relationships, a wise for her age teenager slammed me last year (when I was sick, and couldn’t even manage my own daughters’ birthday party and others were trying desperately to help us)when she told me it wasn’t very nice of me to discount her blessings and her opportunity to “do good works” because I didn’t want her help.

    Good relationships have give and take, and we have to participate in both, or we are being selfish. And, it doesn’t actually give us the power and control that we are fighting for. It is an illusion.

    Feel better.

  26. One of the hardest things I ever had to learn was that the greatest gift we can give other people is to need them. The second hardest thing that I ever had to learn is that they needed to see my flaws, they needed to know that I trusted them enough to show them the cracks. Because they had cracks, and wanted to be able to trust me that they could be themselves, and I would still be there. For them. No matter what.

    There is a difference between abusing people and needing them. There is a difference between occasionally dumping a responsibility (which is, frankly, human) and taking someone for granted (dumping that responsibility on them every day).

    None of us think you’re perfect. None of us want you to be. (We’d have to have you killed.) You’re flawed. Get over it. We love you.

  27. Oh, yes — how many of us relate! I certainly do. For me, the nasty, nasty thing about guilt is that it isn’t just informative –as in , “Well, Terrie, what you did there was outside your value zone. Time to make some amends.” For me, guilt is a fast track to shame — and that is where the real pain lies. Not that I did something wrong but that I AM something wrong. Of course, that goes way, way back. I do try and fight it — sometimes by getting it off my chest, and then I can hear whether I have something to beat myself up with or not. As in Lani telling you that you ARE family.

    When I had a super duper mental crash a number of years ago, I did a lot of things to try and get out of that. Therapy did help me a lot. Individual worked. And then group therapy, all women, was astonishing — one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Slowly I really got that we were all in the same jerry rigged and leaky boat, and still afloat.

    Romance novels helped a LOT. I had been away from romance novels for decades but for some reason picked one up off a grocery story rack. That was pure luck — because it was a Jayne Ann Krentz and suddenly I was immersed in the mind set of a female lead who was funny and smart and capable. A character demonstrating what I’ve since seen referred to as emotional intelligence. I started reading romance novels again and for a while I was incredibly lucky because I came across exactly the writers I really needed, Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, you. Living in those characters gave me a way out of my own pain and also modeled just what I was aiming for. Never underestimate the power of a romance, I say.

    And then there was Quan Yin’s garden. I’m sure you know Quan Yin is the goddess of compassion. I imagined an isolated mountain range and on the top of one of those mountains was a walled garden. It was a completely protected space. Absolutely nothing bad allowed in. I was though. It was (still is) a beautiful place with winding paths, gazebo’s, ponds, the occasional chimes. And while I am there I can feel nothing but the generosity of Quan Yin surrounding me with compassion and gentleness. It is magic indeed. So, what I wish for you is that you can build a garden of your own — the place where someone very powerful, much more powerful than your personal demons, can hold you safe in comfort and tenderness.

  28. McB says:

    First, cut yourself a break. You are under a lot of stress right now and that’s where most of this is coming from.

    You know, those feelings are not unusual. I have felt it myself, like I’m supposed to be this amazingly wonderful human being but I just ended up being a regular mortal instead. And it turns out that lots of people love me anyway. Huh. Apparently they don’t expect or want me to be perfect and what kind of conceited ass would I be if I threw that in their faces?

    And finally, and Jenny, this is really really important. I can’t begin to tell you the ways that you have made a difference in my life. You wouldn’t know me if we passed on the street, but between your wonderful stories that have lifted me out of bad places more than once, and the incredible community that spawned from your blogs, I’m a little stronger that I would be without that, and it made a difference when I needed it to.

    So please don’t tell us that you are sorry for being less than perfect. We don’t need perfect. We just need you.

  29. Kelly S says:

    because there is absolutely nothing in my life right now to cry about

    Was that sarcasm? Because my first thought was that you have much you could cry about. You have learned recently that you have 2 illnesses – AMD an diabetes. Both will cause changes in your life. Change is stressful. You have a dog you love who is doing well but you know may leave soon. And you hit a deer which would totally make me cry. Now, maybe I shouldn’t put it out there like this, but crying makes sense. Plus, it evokes good hormones to help cope. So, cry.

    Also, totally fine with both no posting of extra interviews over on ArghInk as I’m still 4 interview posts behind on reading them and there is no need to apologize for today’s post about feeling guilty. It helps us to know you better and to recognize even the fabulous have difficult times.

    No matter what you do, you are still loved and respected and people are simply happy to have you share what you will with them. I have no advice on how to rid yourself of guilt, I just pray that you are able to do so in a way that helps you on your road to better health.

  30. I’m sorry that your sorry ass feels so bad. : )

    We all have those guilty feelings, but if there is a specific guilt that is niggling at you, think in terms of karma. What goes around comes around. You have to break the chain. You can pay your karmic debts through specific action like asking forgiveness; by asking what you can learn from a prior experience; how you can make that positive and give back to the universe; or you can transcend the negative karma through meditation. Well, we know how that’s going, right?

    You posted about your feelings and you asked Lucy/Lani for forgiveness, and you provided the universe (well at least the blog readers) with information about Lucy’s new book. That equals good karma. No more guilt.

  31. Tai says:

    I lived with guilt for years. Allowing my mind to be consumed with guilt kept me in the same unhealthy patterns. I choose now not to feel guilty for anything. If I do something wrong, I apologize, try to fix it, try to change what about my thinking caused me to make that choice. I choose no guilt. I have seen guilt destroy lives. It nearly destroyed mine. I found hope in knowing that I alone am responsible for myself and how I think. Feeling guilty about something is going to keep me making the same mistakes. Guilt kept me from seeing and accepting myself and my role in that guilt-causing situation. I fail to send thank you’s. I lose my temper at my kids. I am too negative with a friend who has only been kind to me. I have to do a lot of damage control. But I would not be able to apologize,stop/change my behavior if I spent the time feeling guilty for it that I need to spend fixing it. I think guilt is simply an emotional mental mechanism we use to distract ourselves from facing our deepest selves and the situations we do not like to deal with. Jenny, you give it to us straight. Thought I’d reciprocate.

  32. “and that I lost the Sherlock DVD.”

    I was totally, 100% supportive until I got here. Some things are nigh unforgivable.

    I get the guilt; I carry a lot of it myself (when not actively suppressing it into its compartment). But that’s not what once drove me to apologize.

    I used to apologize all the time. In college, one (still close) friend actually yelled at me “stop apologizing!” and then I would apologize for apologizing. I was terrified that I would do/say/be something wrong and people/friends would leave me. That was my history, over and over that was my experience, ergo, it had to be something I did that caused them to flee far and wide. So I apologized. In advance.

    I don’t know when it stopped. At some point, I think in my late 20s, I finally adopted a “fuck ’em. they don’t know what they’re missing” attitude. I still fear that I’ll do/say/be something that will send friends/people scurrying away, and it still subconsciously informs a lot of my behavior. But I’ve stopped apologizing for it.

    Last fall at NJRW, my utterly fantastic friend/roommate was apologizing to me for almost everything she did and said. It was excessive and so totally not what I’d experienced with her before. I finally yelled at her “stop apologizing!” and heard my old friend’s admonition echo in my voice. I was able to say to my roommate “I get it. I understand the fear that drives the need to apologize. So let me be clear. I’m not going anywhere. You cannot say or do or be anything that will make me not be your friend. You don’t ever have to apologize to me.”

    And now, she doesn’t. 😉

  33. Krissie says:

    Oh, shit, I love that!!! I want that tattooed on my .. hand or whatever, so I can see it all the time and remind myself.

  34. Kieran says:

    Oh, this post made me cry! You’re such a big soul, Jenny Crusie.

    Okay, I’m going to pretend to be Eckhart Tolle here. I might be getting this all wrong. But our guilt reminds us that we’re alive. We’re all afraid to die. The guilt tells us we’re still here, which is a comfort.

    I’m not suggesting I know what you should do. Everyone has to walk their own journeys. But have you ever gone deep inside and examined the topic of death? I know you’ve had scares. If you haven’t gotten to that place of discomfort in which you confront death at a very raw level, it might be worth a try.

    Now for my opinion: The death at the end of our lives is over-rated. It’s easy. We have nothing to do with it, usually.

    Some people wait for that death in hopes that it’s their ticket to paradise. But I believe we can have heaven right here on earth, in the here and now, if we “die” a little every day.

    This means repeated mini-recognitions of the fact that death, in all its facets, both end-of-life and daily, is part of who we are as sentient beings living in a universe that embraces death as part of the natural order.

    As much as you may feel you’re a loner deep inside, you’re part of the whole. Denial and separation won’t spare you the truth. That’s what guilt is for you, perhaps. The Great Wall of Jenny. It won’t keep you alive…or even make you happy.

    Good luck. I don’t mean to be pushy. You’re always such a gift to my day. You and Lani and Krissie! You ruin all my plans for writing solidly all day long. But life comes first, writing, second–or the writing will stink anyway.


  35. Are you Catholic, by any chance?


    Also: what someone said about guilt being a weapon that people use against others. Yes to that. And when you’re manipulated as a child to reflexively react to guilt, it is very hard to shake. Just ask my husband. You know, the one who is an amazing teacher who beats himself up for weeks if a student does poorly on a test (because said student didn’t study, I might add). Gotta thank my good ole in-laws for that one.

  36. Alis says:

    First, this is long–and I’m sorry. 😉

    I think I have a very different view of guilt than most of the folks around here, so I’m going to throw in my two cents. Hopefully you won’t throw them back at me.

    First, guilt is a wicked good multi-tasker. It does many things for many people. Healthy guilt teaches us through pain–almost like touching something hot teaches us not to do that again. If we’re open to that kind of learning it comes in, does its job and leaves again. However, a lot of us can’t just let it go at that, and that’s when it gets reinvented and we find slots in our lives to shove it into because we can’t let it go. (See above–let go, or be dragged.)

    It’s a procrastinating tool–if you’re focused on feeling guilty about something you’re not doing something else. It is really easy to shift your attention to something you know and are familiar with rather than starting a new and potentially emotionally dangerous endeavor. The devil you know… makes you feel guilty.

    It’s an egocentricity tool–if you’ve done something wrong it MUST have a HUGE impact on the other people involved. They can’t possibly not be torn up over something I’ve done because, well… it’s ME. Guilt allows you to assume massive importance, even if its just in your own mind.

    It provides an endorphin rush from a pain that is actually controllable. If you’re used to lots of emotional stress the absence of it is strange and scary and we end up waiting for the other shoe to drop, because dammit we’ve had that shoe land on our head before, and there’s no way it isn’t going to happen again and again ad nauseum, ad infinitum. Guilt gives us a daily dose of pain endorphin, so we’re lulled into believing that we’re not actually going to be hit by a train, only probably trampled by dachshunds while they’re trying to take our peanut butter.

    Someone earlier posted that it’s anger turned inward, and that’s another of its manifestations. If you’re angry about something that you feel you can’t change, you feel guilty, because that at least is something you CAN do without anyone else, and without looking, outwardly, like you’re trying to control everyone around you, even if, in your little heart of hearts controlling everyone around you sounds really, really good, because God knows no one ELSE is flying this plane, and we’re all going to crash and die, because if we aren’t that means I have to trust someone other than myself, and gah, that makes me scared and ANGRY dammit!

    So… you wanted to know what you were getting from your guilt. I think if you look at what you’re feeling guilty about, it will fit into one or more of these categories.

    Guilt sucks, but you’re right–you’re getting something out of it. Now you just have to decide if what you’re getting is really what you want.

  37. Karin says:

    Have you ever collaged your guilt? I just read your blog about collaging your books, and I thought heck think of the fun you could have making a collage of all the things for which you have ever felt guilty in your life. It might put things in perspective. Heck it could be kind of funny when you were done.

  38. Look under the chair cushion for Sherlock. Or not. It’ll show up either way. Just like your purse.

    There are so many people in my life trying to make me feel guilty so I’ll do stuff for them it’s not funny. Or to make me feel guilty so I’ll stop doing things they don’t like. such as taking an afternoon off just to read. It does cause me to resist guilting myself, however – all that external pointing of fingers.

    I’m trying to resist guilt, shame and overwhelm. Those are the emotions that cause me to totally freeze up and do nothing. I’m trying to remember I am where I’m supposed to be. That includes my mental state I guess.

    I could lend you my main guilter – after a month with him you’d never guilt yourself again.

    I have lots of things I could guilt myself over – including the fact I haven’t finished my friends Christmas present. Wait till I post that on my blog – it’s Beau -t- ful! But it needs to be finished.

    I’m trying to avoid the crazy. Sometimes that means just reading other people’s books and trying not to worry too much about mine. Because I don’t know if you noticed but when I get crazy it’s not pretty. I start climbing all over people like a panicked drowning woman. Of course that’s because I am a drowning panicked woman at that point, but that doesn’t make it any prettier.

    Is feeling guilting about this(?): “I screwed up and didn’t do what I said I did, but look at all this guilt. I feel horrible about it so I’m not a bad person and you shouldn’t be angry at me. You can forgive me because I’m guilt ridden.”

    Instead of this: “I over committed relaitve to my current state of mind and health and didn’t get to the dishes or the interviews. I didn’t do it to hurt you, and I hope you weren’t harmed by my actions. I’m doing the best I can.” At that point the idea is to forgive yourself, and not worry about what the other person is thinking about you.

    Because it’s not like you are a manipulative bitch. You’re going through a rough patch and doing it with a lot more grace than I can muster at the best of times.

    And in case you’re interested while removing wheat from my diet has made me incredibly cranky and intolerant, my blood sugar this morning was better than it’s been in over six months AND I forgot to take my meds last night. Of course I’m also eating less because I’m not sneaking cookies and cakes or muffins or croissants. However I’m still eating chocolate and Ice Cream.

    My spelling, however, still sucks the big one and I’m too lazy to copy this into a word processor and check it.

  39. merrymac says:

    Suffering Sappho!! (Sorry, I was just listening to DON’T LOOK DOWN in the car.) I hear every word of this. I was brought low the other day because I remembered being in the second grade and telling another little girl that her breath smelled bad. What a little beast I was! I hurt that kid and made her feel bad about herself for no reason! Bring on the guilt. And then I have to recount other instances, large and small, where I was mean or impatient or neglectful, and then I swim around in the guilt pool until I’m exhausted. So I was reading the comments and realized that the guilt is both a penance and an atonement. After all, I don’t even know that little girl’s name. I can’t very well find her and apologize and if I did, she’d just think I was crazy. I can, however, feel guilty. My only conclusion is that I’m a person of extremes. I can feel EXTREMELY guilty, or EXTREMELY grateful, or happy or sad as the case may be. I really need to find the way to middle ground and to believe that while I may not have always been a Pepper (I love that kid), I was a reasonably decent, mostly kind little girl. And right now, I’m a reasonably decent, mostly kind woman and that just needs to be enough.

  40. Pam says:

    I have guilt but I blame it on my wackadoodle religious upbringing. Which helps, actually. Yes, I feel guilty. But THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH ME (thanks, Lani). It’s just the wackadoodles who brought me up. 🙂

  41. Dnelle says:

    I have this exact same personality quirk. I tend to stay away from people because I always feel like I end up doing something to hurt/ destroy the relationship or the way they see me. So I have to call bullshit on the whole “this guilt is helping me” thing. The guilt is guilt at being alive, and that does nothing but tear you down. I don’t know about you, but my feelings go back to MY family, and being made to feel like I had to earn the right to exist. If I wasn’t perfect, helpful, and selfless ALL THE TIME… I was disdained. It wasn’t just that there was rejection; there was total disgust-contempt. I remember my mother’s response when I would get sick: “Well, SHIT.” Like I had contracted a sore throat just to annoy her. So my whole adult life I have tread the line between trying to earn the right to be alive versus shunning everyone so I don’t have to deal with the anxiety.
    The thing you have to realize and tell yourself is that it’s OKAY to need help sometimes, to make mistakes, to say the wrong thing, to BE HUMAN. You are allowed to have problems, to break down, to be depressed, to exist. When these feelings surface, examine them closely. I have learned to stop and think about why I feel the way I do. Is it really guilt? Or is it that I feel like I’ve done something that will cause me to be rejected/disdained by that person, and that I have to fix it so they won’t be angry?
    The things you agonize about no one else even notices most of the time. Think about this- the things you worry over in your mind- if someone did them to you would you be irritated? Offended? Insulted beyond bearing? Or would you mentally shrug and think they’re probably having an off day and think nothing more of it? OR not notice at all?

  42. Jenny,
    I’ve always thought of you as an incredibly generous person. Especially with other writers and especially newbie writers. Sharing your time, your wisdom, your honesty, is very generous.
    And it certainly sounds like you and Krissie and Lani have a great friendship where you all help and support each other.
    I guess I could ask them all here, Does Jenny let you support and help her in return?
    Or is she one of those people who think she should help others, but shouldn’t need help in return? Because I might be able to identify with some twisted thinking like that… 🙂

    I do know from what you’ve all said here that Lani and kids moved in with you, during or post-divorce, and you made room for them in your house and I suspect provided a ton of emotional support and friendship to her then.
    So I’d say if you insist on looking at the balance of support in this friendship, she probably owes you and would likely be happy for a chance to give back to you what you gave to her.
    Would you want her to feel guilty for what she needed and you provided to her? I bet you wouldn’t.
    So, what’s different when she’s the one helping you?
    Is she allowed to need help, but you are not? Are you allowed to give but she is not?
    Does it make you feel to vulnerable when you need help? Feel out of control? Are you worried that if you reach out and really need some help from a friend, you might find out they’re really not the friend you thought and turn you down?
    Do you feel like by always being the one to give, people will like you and be your friends? But if you ask for help in return, they won’t?

  43. I don’t know how to deal with it. The really awful no-way-in-hell-to-fix-it stuff I throw in a box. If it’s still got some life to it, I use a ribbon to secure the lid. Then I put the box on my Hate Myself Shelf. Some days, I spend hours leisurely lifting each lid, taking a good sniff, and feeling absolutely horrible. It’s a waste of time, because it changes nothing. And yet I do it. Just like I apologize.

    Here’s the thing about guilty apologies. What I’m really asking is “Do you still love/like me even if I’ve been a poop-head?”

  44. Wow! You’re not Catholic are you?
    My mother was so good at handing it out. My sister in-law lives on guilt. That’s her strongest emotion.Sad but true.

    Write the guilty feelings down and what they’re for on separate pretty pieces of paper…now hopefully they’re out of your head…pass the notes to the people who you feel guilty for. If some are old guilts and are now jumping back in to your mind…burn them, separately and wish them a sweet farewell.

    We love you Jenny. Big Hugs.

  45. Maria says:

    I do not have any advice for letting go of guilt. Fortunately, by the sounds of it, I don’t feel more guilt than others. I have the normal female thing that somehow I am magically in control of all things and if I was in anyway involved with something regardless of responsible for it, I do occasionally feel guilt for that. I think it arises from my tendencies toward perfectionism. The idea that I must do everything perfectly. So, perhaps, it isn’t the guilt but the belief that you must be perfect that needs to be worked on. Of course, I have no real cure for that either. I have been working on it in myself for probably the last 29 years (it took me until I was 20 to even realize it was a problem) and I continue to work on it.

    There, now you don’t have to feel guilty at all for wasting my time because I turned around and used your moment to go on and on about myself. Thus, being equally selfish and not worth wasting any more of your guilt upon. Save your guilt for someone more worthy. ~M

  46. German Chocolate Betty says:

    Oh, man, change some of the details and *I* could have written this. Guilt drives me too — people treat me like crap and *I* feel guilty (even when I know *they* should be feeling it). And I drown in it. Aaaack.

    Like this: I am on business in Italy. Yesterday I landed at Venice Airport, and spent the afternoon freezing my patootie off, wandering through the (mostly empty) streets in the winter sunshine. First trip to Venice. Wonderful. Everything I did and didn’t expect Venice to be. Lunch in a baroque tea-room on San Marco square, watching the pigeons and tourists.

    So, what happened? Felt guilty about my very expensive lunch (hey, I tell myself, you only live once, and maybe you’ll never make it here gain), and guilty about the fact that I owed someone an email about a joint paper, and instead I am stuffing myself full of prosciutto and mozarella and local wine. And DO I FEEL GOOD about this wonderful experience. Nope, I have a stomach ache later because I AM FEELING GUILTY ABOUT TREATING MYSELF WELL.

    Is this stupid and unnecessary? You betcha. Will I ever change? Probably not. Do my friends say, hey, doofus, fuggedaboudit? You betcha. Will I fuggedaboudit? Probably not.

    (The only thing stronger than my guilt is my avoidance… Which is probably why I am so guilty…)

    Sorry. I feel guilty for bringing everybody down…

  47. St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around Squalor on the River. The Sherlock DVD is lost and has to be found.

    I was remiss. Should have done the chant when I first read the post.

    Jenny, I’ve reflected more on this all day. I had surgery last Wednesday. My sister-in-law flew from Pennsylvania to Florida the night before to be with me. My brother flew down Friday night. This necessitated them both taking time off from their work, paying for flights, boarding their dog and renting a car. All so that they could be my post-surgery care/support team. I didn’t even have to ask. They offered. No, to be correct, they insisted. We’re family and we love each other. It’s what families do.

    Should I feel guilty because my surgery cost them time, energy and money? No. It’s what families do.

    If I didn’t appreciate their time and effort THAT I should feel guilty about. I’d be a pretty bad f**khead not to appreciate this demonstration of love and support.

    You know that Lani knows that you appreciate you driving her to the doctor’s.

    Out with guilt. In with gratitude. It’s what families do.

  48. Katherine Peterson says:

    It’s funny but we all filter these through our own perceptions. This one clearly touches a nerve. I agree with lots of the other commenters about the difficulty and necessity of needing help. Reading that you feel guilty for leaning on your friends reminds me that when I insist on being the one who does the helping, the powerful one, I am denying my friends and loved ones a share of the joy that comes from being needed. Giving in to being needy requires both courage and grace.

    I have a thought that may be a slightly different take on this. Since there seems to be so much guilt about so many things that are clearly (sorry but…) not appropriate; and taking you at your word that you’ve gone through the processes that should absolve you for many of these things, maybe this isn’t all real guilt. Have you ever had a funny (funny, peculiar) dream that was inspired by an odd noise in the room? You’re kind of at the brink of consciousness, and there’s a voice on the radio or a cat snoring or something, and your (fabulously inventive) subconscious puzzles it into a dream. The cat snoring isn’t really me stranded in a Himalayan storm, it’s been mislabeled. Your life has been a bit emotionally intense lately? Maybe, as a way to shy away from further discomfort, what you’re feeling is being mis-labeled as guilt? It happens that when you teach people to move in new, unfamiliar, or different ways big emotions will come up out of seemingly nowhere. Moving will release feelings, memories, and emotions that we’ve been holding onto– sometimes for a very long time. When it happens to me, if I can keep myself from knee-jerking I can see that the emotions don’t really fit the situation, that this is a memory or association that doesn’t fit, and I can let go. Takes a little practice sometimes, but once you know what the deal is it’s straightforward to work through. And, frankly, exciting too. You are clearly out the crud, and good riddance. You’ve been making lots of changes lately, perhaps you’ve dislodged some grunge? If you can detach a bit maybe you can label the actual emotions or feelings more accurately. Once identified you can set out to soothing the upset. Feel better.

  49. Jane says:

    Guilt is another one of those nasty ways we self-sabotage, isn’t it? Like perfectionism, it looms over us and keeps us from moving forward. There’s a song I like by Tracy Chapman that begins, “Done so many things wrong, I don’t know if I can do right.”

    At a point in my life when I had really screwed up so monumentally I was really frozen, I was lucky enough to be graced with forgiveness which encouraged me to eventually forgive myself. Since then none of the small everyday failings of being human like you list has had the power to stop me. After all, I’d come back from a biggie.

    I don’t recommend a major fuck up as a taming strategy for your guilt. But I do recommend balance. You posted about meditation the other day. Maybe a few minutes spent daily on one or two simple positive statements about what you want to focus on right now can help clear out the negative self-talk. And remember, you don’t have to FIX ALL THE THINGS right now. Some of them will actually fix themselves if you give it a chance!

  50. CatScott says:

    Karla, that is amazing! Thank you!

    I had decided that 2012 was the year of letting go. You’ve just given me a new mantra. Those words are gonna be put up around my house!!



  51. CatScott says:

    A little background: I grew up with an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother who refused to acknowledge her illness or seek help. She was also emotionally abusive toward me, and still would be if I let her. My dad worked a lot and wasn’t around much physically and never around emotionally. Basically, my childhood was less than peachy.

    My therapist recently said something to me that struck such a chord. He said that my parents no longer had to abuse me because the emotional tape that they help create (my feelings of being unlovable, unworthy, never good enough, stupid, etc…) was still going in my head. My parents, who I don’t have a whole lot of contact with, don’t have to lift a finger now because I’m doing all the work. I’m doing a find job of beating myself up mentally and emotionally all by myself.

    Did my emotional tape automatically get erased with this little light bulb moment? No, but now I try to be very aware of my feelings. I now have a tendency to ask myself if these feelings are *Real or Not Real. It’s helped me a lot.

    Perhaps somewhere along the way you were given certain messages, and now the tape is just playing over and over and over again in your mind.

    I wish you luck finding the cause of the guilt so you can put an end to it. Now it’s not just about emotional help, but physical, too.

    BTW….does your asthma have an emotional component to it? I’ve found that my asthma is very emotionally based. I used my weekly therapy sessions as a form of management for my asthma. Just some food for thought.

    *Anyone who’s read The Hunger Games trilogy will get that reference. 😉

  52. Amen. Another Lutheran (by upbringing, now I’m liberal UCC). You should hear Jenny and me recite the Apostolic Creed in unison. It doesn’t get much better than that. Ask Lani.

  53. Kelly S says:

    Another here who was raised Lutheran – we also lack the need to pray to Mary & communion is symbolic. Am now simply Christian.

  54. Merry says:

    Can I blame you for Global Warming and stuff like that?

    The whole reason I created my blog was so that I could publicly state my intention to work out. Guilt is pretty reliable –it provides the necessary follow through so that the exercise gets done.

  55. I think that being from the midwest is just as bad as being Catholic, when it comes to the guilt thing. I certainly learned it well from MY family!

  56. So, sweetie, get in your car and drive – or be driven, your choice – very, very slowly westward to the very southern part of the country. Yes, down by the border, that would be us. At this very moment in my garden, white sage is growing *just for you*. When you arrive, we will pick it, bind it, light it, and wave it all around – do the hokypoky! – as exorcism for guilt (You. Me, I got tired of that draggy emotion waay back, I work on mindfulness. Okay, and some other stuff.) Smudge finished, I’ll take you to Laura’s yoga practice, Deep Serenity for Women, and Melissa’s Full Moon Yoga on the Beach practice. Bring a blanket.

    Seriously, you, guilty? Guess I have to believe you, but is this the same woman who wrote Crazy For You? Spent the weekend rereading it. Faaabulous fun, great company, and even more gangbusters this time around. Loved everthing about it. Did I mention funny as hell? You should try reading it, that’ll lift the ol’ spirits.

    Go ahead and do what ya gotta do, but I recommend cutting the Guilt Bitch free. Don’t think it’ll cure asthma, but it might free some cells for writing, unmired from the scoochiness of feeling bad to the bone.

  57. Mermaid Scribbler says:

    Just a thought…I’ve been reading your posts for awhile, and I think your sugar crashes might have a lot to do with your feelings. I’m sure stress plays a part, and asthma, and the house remodel, the new diet, the looming thought of the new exercise regime, the book, the eye issue, the…wow! That’s a lot to get your head around. I read something somewhere about our bodies getting our hormones from food, or something like that. Anyway, I know personally that diet can affect body chemistry. There have been so many wwonderful comments about the mental aspects, but you might try an external one. Sorry to seem food-centric, but you might benefit from snacks (cheese toast, almond or peanut butter on an apple, hummus on crackers or veggies), and a little eating routine might help. I am a super creative ADD person that now has to plan every meal and snack. I really did scoff at planning, but life scoffed back – and now if I run out of food, I’m toast because I can’t buy much pre-packaged stuff to eat. I noticed after getting the planning and kinks worked out that I’m not as susceptible to emotional ups and downs. Anyway, food for thought. Praying for you lots and sending you cyber hugs.

  58. Guilt is debilitating…its so hard to admit though.
    Over the past couple years I’ve felt guilt for just about everything that’s gone wrong in my life. I still cry sometimes because I feel so guilty for things that I shouldn’t be berating myself about. It all comes out like a bad haunting emotion just waiting for the one moment your mind isn’t busy trying to forget that it is all still there.

    A couple years ago I left my mothers house, got married and moved away. I was 18 and up until that point I had long since dropped out of school to take care/raise my younger sister who is ten years younger than me. We were attached to the hip, where ever I went she went. Whatever she needed I made sure she had. I walked almost 3 miles to find her a birthday cake she could share with her classmates before her school had let out for Xmas vacay. I love her as if she were my daughter and not just my kid sister. Our mother married someone who was an alcoholic and there were lots of nights with crazy fights and early mornings with cops filling up the living room. The things I remember most from some of those bad times was that I was holding onto her trying to protect her from all the bad stuff, if I could, and in a lot of ways I think she was protecting me. Anyways, when I moved away my mother tried to guilt me into staying throwing everything and anything she could. Including using my sister, saying that if anything happened to her it would be my fault.

    When I left I stood there blubbering on the curb holding onto my little sister who had just about outgrown me and told her that I loved her no matter what happened. I cried almost every night for an entire year because I felt like I had abandoned her, my heart, how could I have been so selfish to have left her. It took forever for my husband to help get me to point where I am now. When the crying and guilt and all the negative evil little things come knocking now, I can slam the door in its face and say “it’s not my fault, it never was”. Although sometimes the door just needs a little reinforcement. 🙂

  59. Mermaid Scribbler says:

    By the way, I scream in my sleep, too. I started years ago, and it got worse when I realized (while I was ill) that my then-husband was homosexual. Yeah, my innocent Christian upbringing did not help me recognize the signs. But, I made it out, stronger and healthy. I met someone great, and we became our very small town’s version of Lani and Alastair. Really, people refer to it as a fairytale – to our faces. We both teach. We both write. Then, we planned for a baby and had one – and we love him to bits – and…our marriage is heading south. Dying. I’ve started to scream in my sleep again. It’s baaaaack. Anyway, I am a fighter. I don’t quit, but I know about guilt. If this doesn’t end well, the “I told you it was too soon” police are going to come after me. Did I mention our town is small? And I’ll have a broken home for baby. Grrrrrreat! Super guilt. My goal is to wrestle the guilt to the ground and stomp on it, and then sling my baggage over my shoulder and get on with life. Working on how to do that. I had a friend that would write notes to herself when she was overwhelmed. They all said, “Do the next thing”. I’m trying that first, along with this blog. Anyway, thank you for being so honest with your struggles. I just wanted you to know that I’m not a food obsessed anamatron. I get it. Wishing you all the best.

  60. Sorry, I missed references to Catholicism…by quite a few. And I was worried I’d gone too far. 🙂

    Don’t hit me, but I was going to apologize…
    I did not feel guilty…just Oh shit…oops.

  61. great post and great comments. whatever the ReFab version of WEBS (what every-betty said) is, insert it here. I am also a queen of guilt, and I have a whole series of incidents going back to childhood that I can never think of when I’m trying to, but when my guilt-inducer wants to jerk my chain, they come barreling up to the surface. I’ve realized recently that guilt is almost like a security blanket for me, I hold it close, taking comfort from the stinky, satiny, familiar feel of it. It seems to come down to feeling guilty about existing, about taking up space in the world. For me, anyway. You’re just so much trouble, that little sneaky voice says. Which comes from a variety of things specific to my background. I’m learning to let go of it, but it’s not an easy one.

  62. You wrote: “The key for me is that the guilt is always about people: people I’ve hurt, people I’ve disappointed, people I didn’t help enough.”

    Feeling guilt means that you accept responsibility for your impact on other people. Accepting responsibility means you acknowledge your power over those others.

    Getting rid of guilt has nothing to do with forgiving yourself. It has to do with accepting the limits of your power.

    Damnit, sometimes the end result has nothing to do with you and what you did or didn’t do and nothing to do with whether someone else had to wash the dishes or find their own way without you holding their hand or had to explain why the book is overdu– okay fine, yeah, maybe that last one is on you. But most of the time what other people feel — hurt or disappointed or over-burdened or, hello, thrilled to pieces they could help you for a change — has everything to do with how they decided to react. On their own. With no help from you.

    The hardest part of letting go of guilt is relinquishing the infatuation we all have with own overinflated sense of power.

    You also wrote: “The guilt is doing something for me.”

    Yeah, it is. Knock it off.

  63. Caryn says:


    I was reading a modern witty romance yesterday and really wished the writer had Crusied it before publication–tightened up the banter, made the characters more conistent, hit the plot points better. You taught me well.

    Then the writer goes and has the crazy-making mother pick up a Jenny Crusie book at the airport. Redemption.

    It was a fun romance, but you’re one of a kind.

  64. Micki says:

    Oh, I do like the idea of exorcising guilt! Guilt certainly doesn’t listen to logic or pleading for it to go away. I think useful guilt helps keep us on track, but harmful guilt (unreasonable, over-reacting, paralyzing guilt) . . . I’d kill a virtual chicken to get rid of that.

  65. Micki says:

    Nothing to add, but it makes me a little angry that guilt and procrastination seem to go hand in hand. If I’d stop procrastinating, at least 50 percent of my guilt would be gone.

    Urgh, it’s like the seven evil sisters: guilt, procrastination, perfectionism, abandonment issues . . . and I’m sorry, but I don’t know who the other three sisters are just right now, but I’m sure they are there.

  66. Evelyn says:

    Terrie, that was beautiful!
    The way you described importance and healing powers of romance novels was so poignant and honest and how a lot of women feel.
    Also, this might sound forthcoming, but you, yourself, should consider being a writer. You’re very good at it.

  67. Ingrid says:

    I’m always surprised when Americans talk about catholic guilt. I’m from a calvinist country and the perception here of catholics is that they are people who enjoy life and can just go to church and have their sins absolved. Calvinists believe in predestination, and there’s no getting away from that, however virtuous your life.

    Talking about feeling guilty about everything, to me it seems linked to feeling responsible for everything and everyone. That’s my own besetting sin, and it’s setting yourself up for failure, and then of course guilt.

  68. what a wonderful truth “When I’m with you, I’m with my family.” I love what you all are teaching me about family and what that means and looks like.:)

  69. Robin S. says:

    LET GO. OR BE DRAGGED. That is definitely going on one of my ‘saying’ cards that I’m doing this year. It will be stuck and unstuck from wall to wall, room to room. AWESOME.

  70. Robin S. says:

    Sooooo late to this party. But I’m going to repeat someone else.


    We’re all adults. You made it clear you would whine here. We, as adults, have the choice to listen or not listen to you whine. Which means you do NOT get to tell us that you wasted our time! That’s OUR decision.

    Do you see how crazy this is? “Gee, I’m sorry I wasted your time whining on a blog I started to have a place to whine..”?

    Snap out of it, Jenny. There is alot of love in your life. Embrace it.

  71. Carrie Trimble says:

    Two things (and with 84 comments, please accept my apologies if someone has already said these things. I’ll get to those in a minute.): I HATE to ask people for things, but I’m trying to remember that I like to help people, so, OH YEAH, other people might like to help me to do. So I’ve focused on being better about asking people for things that I know I would be willing to do for them.

    Would you drop everything to drive Lani to the doctor? Of course you would.

    Second, you should hire a personal assistant. Then you’d be paying someone to do some of those things for you. ;D

  72. Now I’m feeling guilty that I cannot help you. I don’t want to control the world I just want everyone I know to be happy and if they are not, it somehow must be my fault. Now quite sure how, but it is.

    Today I’ve decided it’s projection. I project how I would feel if someone treated me the way I treat others and that whole empathy thing starts off a wave of guilt. Of course, it never occurs to me to think of this before I commit an act that will later inspire guilt.

    But that’s just me, I hope you are soon able to crawl out from beneath the heavy blanket of guilt and enjoy the brightness of your life.

  73. Maria says:

    “The hardest part of letting go of guilt is relinquishing the infatuation we all have with own overinflated sense of power.”

    I love this and must remember it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  74. Pam says:

    Oh, Alis I think you solved my problem. I was just complaining on Krissie’s post about my panic attacks, and what you said about the brain missing the endorphin rush–things are finally better, but they’ve been not fine for years. I’m panicking because there’s nothing to panic about. Geez, I feel so much better. Thank you!

  75. Alis says:

    Yay Pam for internal awareness! Hopefully this will help you enjoy your spells of “finally better.” For the longest time I felt like Marvin the Martian… “Where’s the kaboom? There’s supposed to be an Earth-shattering kaboom!”

    Now we can just try to enjoy the silence. 🙂

  76. glee says:

    I haven’t read all the comments yet (#participationfail) but I’d hope you’d balance all those things you feel guilty about with all the joys you have brought to many of us. Certainly, the books/stories are things that make us all feel good: most of us smile just thinking about our fav Crusie. Then there’s the community that has coalesced around you: so many people who have helped me personally when I was down and truly out, hospitalized and doped up. There’s Lani, of course, and Krissie, and Alesia and Jill and Becke and and and (please don’t feel left out if I didn’t happen to mention your name, folks). And the blogs posts and the endless and wonderful teaching that you do. Although you can feel guilty about the fact that I now find many more wall-banger books than I used to because you’ve helped me recognize when a book doesn’t hang together well. I am looking now at the shelves (yes, shelves) of books in my library that I wouldn’t have read if it weren’t for you.

    And you can also be thankful that you didn’t hit the second deer that was probably hanging with the one you hit. I hit the second deer once, after I’d missed the first one. ugh.

    So, thank you, and please balance the guilt with the thanks. We wishy-washy Libras like it that way.

  77. Nope, they’re not. I love you no matter what and anyway too. And you’ve never let me down, but even if you did, I’d still love you and bail you outta jail at 3 a.m. any time.

    Not that you’ve called on me to bail you outta jail at 3 a.m. yet, but you could, and I would. Unless I was in that cell with you, of course.

    That need to Control All The Things really gets us into a pickle, doesn’t it? Stress = inflammation and inflammation is the Very Devil on our bodies and minds, as many of us are learning lately. So yeah, let go or be dragged. IMNSHO, you are too splendid to allow yourself to be dragged around by such tawdry and wasteful an emotion as guilt. What’s done is done. Keep calm and write/paint/crochet on.

  78. Kira says:

    I hope I’m not out of line here, either, religion is a taboo in our society, and I know very little about Lutheranism, but I’d like to share a few insights from my own religion (Orthodox Judaism) and maybe it can ease your burden somewhat.

    You know how you say you’ve apologized an infinite number of times, why isn’t it making you feel better? Because you can’t forgive yourself – you don’t have the authority to do so.

    But your Creator does. He can forgive you. He is the one who created human beings to be fallible and make mistakes. If He judged the world according what we actually do, it would have to be destroyed at any given moment. If we measure what we deserve, none of us deserves to live, not to mention the goodness that comes our way. But that’s not how He looks at the world, it’s only one component of many. In order for the world to function, He created repentance – the ability to take things back, to clean up, to start over. Just like in therapy, we are asked to reframe a story in our lives, so G-d is able to reframe our story, and change our past.

    We say, “Creator of the Universe, I messed up, I didn’t live up to my expectations, to Your expectations, I did something wrong and stupid. You are patient and merciful, forgive me, wipe it away, let me start over. Next time, I will try to do better, but if I don’t, I know You will be merciful again, and one day, I’ll get it right”.

    And then He does. He takes it away, and you get to start over. More than that – if you’re actually able to get it right, then the previous time, the one that made you change, that story is retold, and in that story, that mistake is no longer a terrible failing, it’s the impetus for change, something to be proud of!

    (It has to be said, not thought, ideally out loud, but no one needs to hear it. Just you, and your Creator.)

    Jenny, you are a good and generous human being, you have done much to make the world a better place that you found it, and have made yourself a better person than when you started. May all your guilt turn into pride.

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