Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Guilty No More

Not long ago, I wrote a creative non-fiction essay focused on my love affair with guilt.

The opening lines went something like this...

"Other than my mother, nothing has loved me more than guilt.  Its stuck by me in all seasons. The very moment that I try to let it go even for a brief sabbatical is the instant that it calls me home, reminding me that we are partners for life."

I continued the essay trying to get my bearings, hell-bent on determining the origin of my obsession. Was it my Catholic upbringing, my parents' divorce, my need to please others, who knows?

And then, in traditional Kelly form, I went for a run and this song came blaring through my headphones:

And it struck me, to live ones' life under the guise of guilt is not to live at all.  It is to be frozen in the past or to reel forward to an unknown future, fearing that you'll mess something up there as well.  It is to constantly question, to doubt, to play it safe, to wonder, to worry and to not walk on the cracks in the sidewalk. And it is exhausting.

The greatest source of guilt I contend with is whether or not I'm fucking up my children.  I think most mothers walk around with this daily source of concern.  We worry that we're not around enough or that we're hovering too closely.  We caution that we're being too hard on them or that they're becoming entitled, spoiled brats who will be living in our basement at 30.  We are quick to anger and judgement and slow to patience and grace.  We also know that this day will not come again and sometimes, you just can't take back what you said or didn't say when you should.  And God damn it, the stakes are high.  I can't think of anything I care about more.

But today, on my run, I decided that it's better for me to fuck them up and get really good at apologizing over and over again than to live in a constant state of paralysis.  Every meaningful relationship is based on saying "I'm sorry" again and again and again.  So, modeling that I'm human and that I'm trying to do the best in the moment, seems better than trying to feign perfection, falling short, digging myself into a deeper hole daily.

I'm not sure that I'll ever be completely free of guilt...it just seems to be in my blood.  But knowing what I know about the human condition, it's better to operate from a place of recognition as opposed to a permanent residence.  It's better to be alive, free of the bars of guilt.

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