The Guilt

We never believe our own mothers.

She tells us the world is round, and we roll our eyes at the very idea that she would know anything about the size or shape of the world.  But when Mrs. Smith shows you a globe, you believe, and you run home to tell your mother what you learned that day.

She tells you that you’re beautiful.  And special.  But she’s your mom and so she has no credibility, not like the pimple faced 13 year old boy whose opinion defines your idea of beauty.

Moms don’t know anything, until the rest of the world finally confirms what she’s been telling you all along.

My mom has been telling me for years that I carry too much guilt.

“You are you’re sorry all the time,” she says.

“Stop apologizing,” she tells me.

“Oh, Baby,” she’ll say, “let it go.”

But, you know, she’s my mom, so she obviously knows nothing about nothing except trying to make me feel better.

Our marriage counselor suggested I might have a problem hanging on to guilt.

“Just for tonight, Britt, do you think you can set your guilt aside,” she mimes with her hands the action of setting luggage beside her chair, “and just put it over here so you can tell Jared what you’re feeling?”

I nod my head.

“Without the guilt,” she repeats.

And so I do.  Or at least I try.  I muddle through a few minutes of talking about how I feel and things that hurt or make me angry.

“You know,” I lean forward to put my hand on Jared’s knee, “I don’t always feel like this.  I don’t want you to think I walk around with this stuff all the time.”

She interrupts, which is kind of startling because she never interrupts.  “Yes, uh, that’s the guilt, Britt.  We’re putting that aside, OK?”

“Right, right,” I nod my head, “of course.”

“It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t belong here.”

I push on.  He keeps asking me if there’s more, I keep trying to tell everyone “nope, that’s it,”, and she keeps using her prompts to make me keep talking.  “And so I tell myself…  and then I feel… what I want to feel is… ”

It’s an agonizing hour.  When it’s over, we pay the lady and walk out holding hands the way we always do, and I stop him before we get to the car.

“Listen,” I tell him, “I really want you to know that I’m not mad at you all the time or anything, OK?  Really.  I mean, she wanted me to talk about that stuff and I did, but I’m not thinking about it all the time or anything, OK?”

He just kisses me.

On our way home, I’m talking to the windshield and suggest, “maybe I have an issue with guilt.”

“Ya think?”

“Yeah, maybe.  I mean, I don’t know,” I turn to him to see if he thinks it’s plausible and I see he’s smirking.  I swear I can actually see him holding back a snort.  “Were you being sarcastic?”  I’m still not sure and now I’m kind of embarrassed for not knowing.

He looks at me as if I’ve just asked if my name starts with the letter B.  “Um, yes.”  Emphasis on yes, duh.

And so I’ve been thinking about it for the last 12 hours.  The guilt.

People say “guilt is a useless emotion”, but I always thought that was a stupid adage.  Guilt isn’t useless.  It keeps us in check.  It stops us all from running around acting like selfish assholes to each other.


Except, I suppose, it doesn’t.  I suppose technically the guilt comes after the asshole.  Although I know I’ve said myself at least a hundred times that “then I would feel bad” as an explanation for why I don’t… you know… do whatever it is I would feel bad about doing.

I have preemptive guilt.

And guilt guilt, too, don’t get me wrong.  My guilt certainly hasn’t kept me blameless.  I guess my hope is that it keeps me humble.  Or less selfish.  And that’s not a bad thing, is it?

I should be concerned with how my actions affect other people.  But even in saying that, I feel like maybe I’m tapping at the window or the real reason I shroud myself in guilt.

Maybe it protects me from judgement.  Maybe I hope if people can see that I’m judging myself harshly enough, they’ll be less likely to judge me themselves.

I’m terrified of being unaware.  It scares me to think that someone would say I was a bad person, or annoying, or inconvenient.  I imagine my friends rolling their eyes at what a pain in the ass I am, and so I pull it in close so they won’t have to deal with it.  I think of my family talking amongst themselves about my childish behavior, scolding me when I’m not that for being reckless or immature.

It haunts me.

The idea of people I care about thinking poorly of me breaks my heart, and so, maybe, I cling to the guilt.

It keeps me in line.  It keeps me in check.  It keeps me from thinking that everything is OK and being surprised to find out that someone else thinks that I’m not.

It’s easier to stay aware of my faults and my missteps at all times, so I’m not embarrassed at having them pointed out to me by someone else.

Maybe that’s it; I don’t know.

But I can’t even begiin to imagine living without the guilt.

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