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.