Sunday, June 11, 2017

When Guilt Gets Too Heavy

Guilt has been heavy in my life. At the best, it's because I'm an idealist with an ideal way to handle every situation, but can't always make it happen. I believe wastefulness is passive violence, denying the truth that others don't have what they need. I'm aware fresh water makes up less than 1% of the earth's water, so even though water's cheap where I live, I don't like to use more than I need. I've got strong opinions about parenting, religion, effective management...the list goes on, creating high standards everywhere I turn.

At worst, it was because I believed God was moping around until I decided to spend some time with him. More recently, I think she's less than pleased when I'm trucking down a perilous path or even if I'm just listless because I don't know which direction is right. 

In other words, there has been a right way and a wrong way to do EVERYTHING. 

Which made me crazy. 

Which made me a failure.

Which made balance impossible. Because, if it's always right to show up to a fast food place with reusable cups, how do I treat myself kindly when I don't have them? If it's always right to get to yoga as often as possible, what do I do when my body says, "No." 


There's been a lot of that. 

Other common names are perfectionism, legalism, falling short, self-condemnation.

Well I'm sick of it. If there's a peace that passes understanding, I need to get in that line. Because there is NO PEACE when you obsess over what's right or best all the freaking time. 

Here's a real thing. I wrestle every day with whether I will make it to yoga or not. Some days I know from the get-go it won't happen, but I can't admit that to myself, so I bounce back and forth about it in my head ALL DAY LONG until every class is over. I weigh pros and cons. I ask myself what will I be happier about after the fact. Will I wish I'd gone? Will I be okay with it? How the hell do I know?! What do I look like? A mind reader? No. Apparently, I can't even read my own future mind. And that is a failure on my part too. Just add it to the list. 

I wrestle every day with what I eat. Will this Dr. Pepper make me a hunch-backed old lady? I've always believed in good foods and bad foods and I could feel good about myself only when I was eating the former. But if you do any reading or get any advice from anyone, you'll no longer be sure ANY food produced in the US is good (except organic veggies) and what are you left with? Guilt. Because...who eats only veggies.

I wrestle with how much we spend. My therapist said, "I hate to tell you this, but you don't have a healthy relationship with money." It's true. I've thought spending more than you make was pure evil. Being in debt, especially credit card debt, was a sign you did something terribly wrong somewhere along the way. This became a new guilt-either-way game for me because my healthcare costs more than we make, but shy of becoming a martyr and not taking care of myself...well, I feel guilty about that too.

So you see, this is madness. 

I've known it was madness a long time and I've known it was making me miserable, but what I didn't know what was throwing me off. 

Apparently I've been moralizing. Marc David talks about moralizing food in The Slow Down Diet, "Food is morally neutral. So is every other object in the universe. Is a baseball bat good or bad? It depends on how you use it. It can be used to hit a home run and make thousands of fans deliriously happy or it can be a tool of destruction, used to smash someone's car window and ruin her day." 

This is why there are variables. This is why the right answer isn't always the same. This is why my strict rules paralyze me - I can't decide anything without breaking one. Decisions can feel like the WORST THING EVER, when really, my freedom to choose is a blessingI've been painting a color picture in black and white and acting like it was so simple. 

I know where that comes from. It's a scarred little human hoping if she does everything right, she'll never find herself alone. Or destroyed, with no song to sing and no one to enjoy it.  

But I believe the stage I live on is lovingkindness. I will never step out of the spotlight that is God watching me and delighting in me. He thinks it's cute when I tie my freakin' shoes. He's made my guilt (real or imagined) a non issue, so we can be together forever. 

And since that's the case, I can stop judging every move I make on a moral measuring stick. I can journey and experiment and try things with curiosity to SEE IF they are right for me this time or not. And if not? NO BIG. I'm learning, questioning and discovering. And that's exactly where I'm supposed to be. 

At yoga or not. 

In debt or not.

Eating veggies or not.

No guilt. 

Just free. 


  1. Yep. Sometimes a girl just needs to drink a Dr. Pepper while eating califlower. It's good for the soul.