Jeez, this Sprite’s Keeper gal plays hardball, doesn’t she? When she announced the subject of this week’s Spin Cycle, I felt a bit like Indiana Jones when he got his first good look at the Well of Souls:
Guilt…why’d it have to be guilt…
Of course, she had no idea what she was handing me with this task. I’m a 46 year old woman who’s been married twice, divorced once, had a child with a man I was not married to, spent years raising my children – alone – in a neighborhood nestled between the gang-ravaged Barrio and the West Dallas housing projects (Oldest Son attended a high school nicknamed “Drive By High”), seen my credit score hit roughly around 400 (can we say “No child support?”), given room and board to a young man who immediately stole my next door neighbor’s car (he was involved with my sister at the time), eaten cold pizza, chocolate cake and diet Coke for breakfast, drank alcohol before 9 a.m., ingested substances of an, ahem, controlled nature, failed at more diets than most people have even heard of, and lived in sin off and on for roughly six years with my Beloved before making an honest man out of him.
I’ve not only lived with guilt, I’ve run the full version of Guilt 2.0 without so much as a glitch.
The years of my first marriage were the worst for guilt – my ex is The Grand Master Of The Guilt Trip. For twelve years, literally everything was my fault – if he could have blamed me for the situation in the Middle East, he would have. Not enough money for the things we needed, much less wanted? My fault for not making enough money; never mind that he refused to get a job. The kids got sick? My fault for not taking better care of them; never mind that he was home with them all day (he, of course, was the perfect parent so it had to be something I’d done – or not done). We didn’t have sex every day? My fault for not whipping on a sexy outfit the minute the kids went to bed every night; never mind I worked 12 – 16 hours a day, 6 days a week at a job that required I stand on my feet every minute I was there and was completely whipped by 8 p.m. every night. He chased anything that even looked like it might possess a vagina? Well, see the last item – not only was it my fault he didn’t get enough sex, it was my fault that he flaunted his “friends” in my face, for I was his wife and the person he was supposed to talk to about everything. And if I didn’t like it, well then I was just a prude.
The guilt trips continued even after the divorce, for it was my fault that he had little to nothing to do with our children – if I was concerned that he be involved in their lives, then I shouldn’t have divorced him. One of the very last arguments I let myself be drawn into with him became a shouting match where I enumerated the many reasons we were divorced and ended with him telling me I should have MADE him behave.
Good times. Oh, yeah.
I really didn’t mean for this to turn into a rant about my first marriage, but I can’t talk about guilt and not talk about that. By the time it was all over with, my self-esteem was non-existent and it has taken me many years to recover it. In the process, I’ve come to realize that guilt serves very little purpose. There are undoubtedly many things I’ve failed at in the course of 46 years, but that does not make me a failure. Dragging around a shitload of guilt about those past things I can’t change isn’t going to do anything but take time and energy away from the person I am now. A person who, overall, has done more right than wrong in her life and is a pretty decent woman despite those past things – and because of them.
So fuck guilt. I don’t do it anymore.