Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Guilt: A study in ego.

First, the necessary (for me) update on soy: Tonight is day 4. Yesterday afternoon, I told Dh I didn't think the soy was going to do anything, and I hoped it didn't mess anything up. I wasn't having much by way of twinges or pain or any of the side effects I'd read mentioned. Spoke too soon, apparently. All throughout the evening, twinges along both ovaries (more on left), headache (may have been due to sheer fatigue) and last night - heat flashes. Fun. Still, fingers crossed.

Second, I need to go to the grocery store, because we have no food in our house. Nothing causes us to spend money so much as not having good, easily prepared food on hand. Good. Lord. Almighty. We've spent enough for 10 days of groceries on take-out and lunch at work and so on in the past three or four days. Not good!

Third, tomorrow is my husband's birthday, and though we don't exchange gifts usually and specifically said that we would just have a nice meal this year, I still feel bad about not having anything for him. Oops.

Which leads me nicely into the main topic: Guilt. And ego.

Because I've been tossing this around for a few days. I talked some about guilt with other ladies and a related discussion about forgiveness floated in about this time as well, and so I wanted to share my thoughts.

I carry around a lot of guilt for a lot of things, especially as it relates to Gabe. The intensity of the guilt at any given time depends very much on how emotional I am at that time. Logically, I know there is little I should have done differently and that I had good reasons for those things I could have done differently.

I'm a perfectionist. Or at least I have aspirations to be one. That's important, because I've always had a difficult time accepting when something I've contributed to has been less than perfect. It has taken real effort in the past not to get so caught up in the details that all the good things are not appreciated or enjoyed at all.

That relates to guilt, because for me, much of what I feel guilty about are not big things. It's things like not finishing the story I was reading out loud to Gabriel, or not kissing him enough. Or to give perspective, I'm not dealing with massive guilt over the crack I was smoking or the bungee jump I took (because I didn't do those things primarily, but also because there is nothing on a really large scale that I think I ought to have done differently given the information I had at the time). Certainly backwards looking has caused me to question a lot of things and has carried guilt into the past with it, but as someone wise pointed out - if you did the best you could given what you knew then, you have no real basis for guilt.

I agree with that, logically.

But guilt rarely has to do with logic. And on a visceral level, I have long felt that I ought not to have trusted the doctor when he said the bleeding was normal, I ought to have tried for a second opinion, I ought to have demanded an examination at the hospital, on and on. It all, underneath, boils down to - I ought to have known what was happening and either found a way to stop it or treated the pregnancy differently.

I would never, ever tell another woman in my shoes that. I would never believe it of another woman in similar circumstances. I would urge them to find compassion for themselves, talk about how we often beat ourselves up because we feel that as the mother, when our bodies fail, we should have known and prevented it. We should have done something. Easier to accept blame and punish yourself than to accept randomness in the world, I think.

But during our discussion about carrying grief on Glow, someone said something that stopped me cold in my tracks. They said (paraphrasing) that guilt was an exercise in ego. At first, I said 'Nuh-uh.' Then my mouth dropped open, I gaped like a fish and finally said, 'Oh. OH. Right.'

Because it's true. Taking on and carrying that much guilt over something that isn't my fault really is a self-aggrandizing gesture. In essence, I am saying that I had some sort of control over the situations that occurred, and that not only did I not prevent Gabe's death, I'm saying, by continuing to carry this around, that I could have stopped it and didn't.

And that's not true.

Moreover, by continually layering the guilt upon the guilt upon the guilt in my gut, I'm turning it back around to me. I'm saying that this is about me somehow . . . and it's not. This didn't happen as a punishment for something I did or didn't do, this isn't a divine retribution for sins of a past life, it's not about me at all. It's a random chance occurrence of a freak lightning storm of problems coming together that I personally had nothing to do with.

So why do I insist on continuing to build it up and carry it about?

Well, it's easier to be angry at something and angry at God or the universe isn't particularly profitable or sustainable. Self-loathing though - I've got that down pat. It's also easier to think that if it's my fault, then maybe there is some way in which I can figure it out and (what? repent of my sins, beg the universe, call in a favor, who knows) and stop it from happening again. There is, yet again, an illusion of control within the framework of guilt.

And God knows, I am a control-freak. And God knows, I am desperate for some insurance or promise or hope that it won't happen again. So I'm not surprised, on examination, to see why I can happily toss around so much guilt and loathing and anger and direct it to pour all out on me.

But I don't want it anymore. I want to find a way to set it aside. I want to let go of this load, because it's not fruitful. It doesn't make me feel better, or more reassured or happier; it only makes me feel impotent and scared and sad - all the things I feel anyway, but worse. It makes me see how selfish I can be, even in this, and just how far from a true understanding of humility I am.

1 comment:

Diana said...

I have never thought of guilt this way. I can carry around a lot of it too. It makes me stop and think about how much I make things "all about me" when they're not. They're just things that happen in life sometimes. Everyone goes through good and bad times, I think I forget that it has nothing to do with being punished or rewarded. It simply is.
Great post. Thanks. (And good luck with the baby makin' from your other post. ;) )