What Do We Deserve? Letting Go of Guilt

Thanks to vehicle issues and too much time to think, I spent an inordinate amount of time wrestling old demons this weekend. The beginning of our grand adventure has been, to say the least, different than we imagined it would be.

On Wednesday we pulled out of our driveway at about 2 pm after spending the morning on last minute errands and packing. We were headed to Amelia Island, Florida, where we’d camp at a state park and spend Thursday checking out the daytime activities available at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. On Friday we would head north for Georgia to spend a week at a family summer camp at Callaway Gardens. We had a full schedule of work-related and yet totally awesome things to do during our first 10 days on the road.

Our SUV started making a horrible noise at about 4 pm.

On Wednesday.

The first day.

We made it to Fort Clinch State Park an unloaded the camper, resigned to wait until the morning to investigate the horrible noise further. The next morning, Jared took the kids and me to the Ritz and headed off to find a mechanic. He returned with a rental car in the afternoon, ready to join us for dinner and confident the car would be ready the next morning.

His cell phone did not ring the next morning. After waiting until noon for the promised call, we piled into the rental and headed for the repair shop, where we were told our front end would be fixed within a couple hours. Several hours, headaches, and $780 later, we pulled out of the repair shop at about 5pm to make our way to Georgia.

At about 5:05pm, our SUV started making the exact same horrible noise.

Jared was crestfallen. I watched as stress, worry, and unnecessary guilt played across his face, stretching and twitching his jaw. I squeezed his hand and assured him everything would be fine, and I picked up the phone to find a nearby campground. With one phone call, we were able to find a small RV lot just a few miles down the road, with full hookups and internet for just $27 a night, where we can hunker down and wait for our car to be repaired by a more reliable repair shop in Jacksonville.

“See, it’s ok,” I told Jared as we pulled into our temporary home.

But what I was thinking was, “this is because I was bad.”

I thought of all the people who are sitting in the wings, waiting to hear about my failure. I envisioned a cloud of witnesses cheering  and laughing at our setbacks. “That’s what you get!” they jeered in my head.

Never once have I worried that we wouldn’t get through this; it’s a temporary detour that we knew would happen at some point. We didn’t know what would happen, but we expected problems of some kind because that’s life. It’s not the logistics that have tripped me up.

It’s the worthiness.

It’s the guilt I thought I’d worked through.

It’s the knowledge that there are people in this world who truly delight in other people’s misfortunes – and the obvious fact that I give a crap on some level.

I wrote in my journal. I called my mom. I started a discussion in the forum about whether it’s possible to deserve misfortune. I ran myself in philosophical circles. I’m still not sure I have any definitive answers. I do, however, have some tentative thoughts of my own I want to share along with some wisdom that was shared with me.

First, Nyt said:

“…I look at it as my “turn”. I figure that in the whole grand scheme of things, we all have some equalization coming to us, sometimes, it’s just your turn. Good or bad, nothing lasts forever… Ultimately, I think it’s about how you handle it and what you learn from it.”

I forget this. I forget that we have all made mistakes, big ones even. I am not alone in my failures nor more or less worthy of judgment than anyone else. Of course we all know that on an intellectual level, but I think it’s easy for some of us to think of our own failings as worse than others. We withhold compassion from ourselves as some sort of penance.

I’ll show I’m really sorry by never forgetting.

That doesn’t serve anyone, especially us mere mortals.

Kathy added:

“I very rarely, if ever, think of this with “good karma” coming back on me.  When something good happens, you won’t hear me say “oooh what good thing did I do to deserve this.”

An excellent point. I either deserve the good and the bad (and rejoice in the fact that the good far outweighs the bad), or I learn to let go of trying to figure out why things happen and focus on my own reactions when they do.

And Kathryn1124 said:

“My feeling is more…why should I be exempt from the bad stuff?”

Oh. Yeah. That.

It’s fairly easy for me to remind myself that life just happens. What is less easy is to face the fact that I am still coming to terms with the idea of worthiness. I am still wrestling with guilt for ways I hurt my husband and friends. I am still struggling with decisions I made that are in direct contradiction with who I am.

I am two steps into living a dream, and I am terrified that I don’t deserve it.

But who among us does? Who among us is blameless or flawless or has arrived at today with no fault or blame in their bag?

We are, all of us, just on a journey. None of us has arrived or figured it out or become everything we could or hope to be. We are, most of us, just doing the best we can with what we have at the moment.

And I am no different.

I’m doing the best I can where I am today. I cannot relive mistakes or flog myself into an alternate reality where those mistakes didn’t happen. I realize now that it is not my mistakes that hold me back, but my inability to accept them and move on.

Today I will practice letting go, again, and I will keep practicing until it becomes easier.

Today I will do the best I can with what I’ve got and I will accept that the effort makes me worthy of happiness.

Today I will, hopefully, get back on the road.

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