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Posts Tagged ‘guilt’

I’ve never been Catholic, but I observe Lent every year. I figure I’m not too good for a good idea, whatever the source.

Each year, I try to think of something I should be working on anyway. Then once I’ve decided, I commit to trying for a long-term commitment, not just until Easter.

So this year I gave up something I’m allergic to as a “deliberate shopping choice”. I won’t be ‘freaky’ about it if there’s a little in something that’s my best option.  Also, if I’m feeling good and I’m offered food containing it, I’ll probably indulge.

Why the prewritten exceptions?  I know I’m not ready to give it up for long-term serious, so why pretend, even to myself?

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I have some vague thoughts today on how often we try to retread our old steps.

I’m looking at finally completing a project that I have put on hold for about four years or so. I’ve caught myself in self-recriminations for not finishing it earlier, even though I didn’t have the inclination and may not have had sufficient energy/motivation to actually succeed. But I’m known for my ability to just power through most things that are important to me, so I have a bit of a toe-hold there for kicking myself.

And then I caught what I was doing. Being absolutely ludicrous. I mean, honestly — what good does it do to waste time and energy wishing for the past to be different? I know better than that.

Instead, I decided to be grateful for the foundation I laid in the past. I’ve got a really good head-start on getting this thing done. In another year, it’ll all be completed, anyhow.

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Shall Good

Shall, should, shouldn’t and shan’t.
We’d choose well where we wouldn’t,
yet it seems that we can’t,
for we shall where we shouldn’t,
and shan’t where we should
– still –
fail to try,
and the good will be even more scant.

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I recently read about a study that talked about how we rationalize our lives. It concluded that we didn’t necessarily make the choices we preferred, but the ones we were able to rationalize to our satisfaction. One of the researchers put it this way:

Everyone feels that as a rational creature he must be able to give a connected, logical, and continuous account of himself, his conduct, and opinions, and all his mental processes are unconsciously manipulated and revised to that end.

– Ernest Jones

That is, we’ll choose what we can rationalize, and barring that, we’ll find a way to rationalize what we already chose.

Rationalization can be fairly harmless, especially if we apply TRUE rationality and really examine what we want and why — that can even be beneficial. But there’s things we’ll think, do, say, desire, and so on… that don’t have what we’ll feel comfortable calling a “good reason”. What’ll we do then? What will we think of ourselves? How will we move forward?

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I was reading an advice column to somebody who was working with a charity that helped impoverished children, but the charity would make the “showcase kids” eat pizza in the back room after speaking at their charity banquets. The guy said that he felt like they were using the kids for fundraising without really empowering them, and wondered what the advice-givers thought.

In the advice, the columnist brought out a quote that’s apparently popular in the charity/activism circles, but I hadn’t quite heard before:

“If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time; but if you’ve come because your liberation is bound with mine, then let us work together”

-Lilla Watson, Australian Aboriginal artist/activist

Isn’t that just awesome? There’s this tendency to view a helper/helpee relationship in a kind of hierarchical structure, with one having the power and responsibility, and the other having the obligation and the guilt… and sometimes vice versa. This mucks things up, and gets in the way.

I think it’s far more effective and helpful to BE in a situation with someone and offer yourself, instead of just trying to “manage” their situation from the outside. For a hundred billion reasons, it serves you better, it serves the situation better, and it treats the “helpee” with so much more power and respect. It also lifts the “rescuer” weight off your shoulders, instead empowering you to really and truly help.

I also just love the phrase “liberation” — because really, that’s what it’s all about. The rest is just stuff that happens along the way.

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It’s been a big week. Though everybody came out of it unscathed, I’ve faced down a few different major issues of pain, illness, death and the seeming capriciousness of it all, and I think I’ve come through the “crash course” (ha ha ha) with passing marks. It was pretty hard on me at times, because these were all instances where I needed to face some deep-seated grief and/or resentment that hadn’t quite gotten out in my prior “life scrubbing”. But I guess my prior work was pretty decent, because without too much heartache, it took only a few tears to wash them away.

So I wanted to share with you a little message I felt in all this, because I think it applies to all of us:

The past is passed, and must be let go if you are to have your future. The world needs not more pain and punishment, but forgiveness and joy. Your purpose now is to release your pain and relieve it, not re-lose and relive it. Let go and take the steps you need to take into the bright and loving future that awaits.

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Mothers’ Day is this weekend, which is a wonderful holiday, so long as we don’t let the mommyguilt thing get us down. I think you know what I mean… did I do enough as a parent/spouse/child? Could I have done more? Am I doing enough now? What mistakes might I be making that I won’t even know how to fix? Actually, this can become an issue as a friend, an advisor, etc. etc.

The stress of helping someone stay safe and happy and appreciated can really get in the way, yeah? As a perspective, I’m trying to remember the phrasing on something I read some time back. It was about the goal of parenting, the ultimate end result, which was something like this: The whole point of parenting is to raise somebody who won’t need you anymore when they become an adult, but will (hopefully) enjoy having you around all the same.

That’s pretty simplistic, but I also think it’s a great way of putting it on a very basic level. This means a lot of mistakes are going to be made on all sides, but so long as no real harm is done and everybody comes out the better for it, it’s all good. Perfection isn’t the goal in relationships, but wholeness. So this weekend, I’m hoping we can all take a bit of time to relax, forgive all mistakes, and feel a little more whole.

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I sat down with my tea to write a few words about people in our lives, and the memories we share with them, and how important it is we make connections with them from time to time. Then I got all mixed up in all the various emotions that arise on that topic — one of the main ones being guilt. When we move away from people in our lives (physically or emotionally), or even lose them entirely, there’s this guilt that we didn’t do more with what we had, when we had it. As though there was something missing there, and it was our fault for not bringing it. Or that there’s something missing now, and it’s our fault somehow for losing it, or the void’s so great that the pain is too much to fill… to really feel.

I realized that wasn’t where I wanted to go. And then I realized maybe that was the point I wanted to make. There’s never too many reminders to treasure and cherish the people you love, and to let them know they’re cherished and loved — but we know that bit. Maybe what I wanted to say is that we could do more to treasure and cherish the people we just happen to he around.

When the mortal beings we love aren’t around (I’m going to include pets too), there’s always mortal beings around us who need love. I think that by sharing some of that love we have just lying around waiting to be used can be put to good use there, by just smiling at someone you don’t know, maybe letting someone over in traffic or giving sympathy to a complaint at the checkout line. The void for people who are missing can be filled just a little bit by giving a bit of that empty space to the people who are there.

It’s like a little twist on the old song – “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey – love the one you’re with!”

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Today’s Ash Wednesday.  I’m not from a Catholic tradition, but I had Catholic friends and I believe strongly in using what’s in front of me, so I’ve been observing the key points of Lent.  I figure that most religious traditions have elements that can really be beneficial to apply in our lives — the trick is whether we can use them, rather than being used by them.  In this particular case, since I can benefit from the goals of Lent without being burdened by possible side-effects of guilt and self-doubt, I figure it’s a good thing.

So, each year I’d pick something new that I needed to give up to become a happier, healthier, more spiritually sound person… and then would try to remember not to pick it back up again after Easter.  The year I broke my addiction to coffee was the hardest until I moved to non-physical things, like giving up complaining.  I tell you, changing behaviors and thoughts was harder than changing what I ate or how I goofed off!

This year, I’m trying something different, the kind of opposite of “giving something up”.  It’s not that there’s nothing else for me to work on having/doing less of, it’s that I’m already working on all of those so it would be “cheating” in my mind to use them for my Lent work.  So this year I’m sacrificing self-sacrifice.

It’s become far too easy for me to deny myself things.  I was raised in that as a virtue, and I’ve got a decently steady habit of saying, “no, thank you”, to the point that I actually feel better from it — like scratching a mosquito bite.  So I think this year, for forty days I’m going to try saying, “yes, thank you” to whatever good things come my way.

I figure, I spend so much of my thoughts and prayers hoping for good things to come, it’s like a responsibility to say “yes, thank you” when they show up.  So I need to get into that habit.  Wish me luck!

(and thank you!)

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