Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Guilt. The endless weight of guilt and regret. Should have, could have. Why did I? Why didn't I? How could I? Self-rejection and mental beatings, reaching, reaching, reaching for...for the impossible? For the vague but brightly illuminated expectations held ever in front of my mind's eye. All I should be and do. All I want to say and accomplish. Willing me toward more, toward better, toward a sleepless night of never enoughs. Marinating, even while I rest, in the heaviness of guilt.  

Lately, I find myself falling asleep in pools of guilt, finally slowing my mind enough to realize something about my day didn't quite align with my desires just as my head hits the pillow. Finally realizing that, yet again, I have fallen short of many of my expectations. I say to myself as I drift to sleep, "Tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll do better."  Parent better. Clean better. Multi-task better. Play better. Breathe better. Be better.

I plan on rising early to meditate and read, to focus my mind and heart on truth and love before the busyness of toddler-rearing and working-from-home begins. Some days I get that head start, but most days something goes wrong and I fall short before the sun even rises. My heart is racing and my muscles are tense even as I welcome just awakened little ones, the weight of all that pressure, all those expectations, all that guilt already burdening me. 

I yell too many times during the day. Sometimes I scream and cause tears and the most heart-wrenching frowny faces, that I want to rip my own tongue out. I grab wrists too tightly and I turn the TV on too often. I apologize for what seems like the thirtieth time in an hour, a constant model to my children of failing and I'm sorry's. I hear sweet, accepting, I forgive you's, but know deep down that I am not able to forgive myself. Not yet. Not now, in all this mess.

They say sociopaths don't experience guilt, that they are incapable of the moral compassing of shoulds and coulds that guide much of society. In this sense, I am thankful for my guilt. I am thankful for a built-in cue, signaling a misalignment between my actions or words and my values. I am thankful for awareness and empathy and a desire to match my life with what I believe to be truth. 

But what happens when our values are distorted? When our "truth" gets skewed into a variety of off-kilter expectations and endless quests for more, more, more? Self-imposed standards that, when dissected and exposed, are nothing short of impossible? No more sociopath talk here - nothing that extreme or obvious or menacingly wrong. Perhaps just as dangerous, yes, but much, much more subtle. Masked as goodness, as growth; masked as a desire to love more, listen more, do more, be more. Masked as our own inner drive toward wholeness, or rather, perhaps, toward perfection.

Some days feel like a broken record...

I'm sorry, Kyler.
I forgive you, mama. 
I'm sorry, Havyn.
I forgive you, mama.

But sorry is never enough, because the weight of the guilt just keeps piling and piling and causing me to crack again. Causing me to fall under the weight of it all, so that endlessly I am messing up, endlessly I am feeling guilty, endlessly I am exhausted by the never enoughs...and endlessly I am messing up again. I cannot break free long enough to feel cured, whole, forgiven. The more I mess up, the guiltier I feel. The more flaws in a day, the more self-mutilating I become. 

It is so cyclical, that I cannot help but wonder if it is the guilt that is partially responsible for the emotional mess I find myself in so many days. Sure, I need to be more patient and more attentive and more kind and more gentle and a million and one other mores. Yes I should pray more and trust more and...it all just becomes another list of mores. What about when I'm not more? What about right now? Could it be that the feeling of not enough is actually causing the most damage? Could it be that the weight of guilt from never quite living up to all these standards is the ultimate roadblock, the anchor tying me down to fatigue and failure?

I dream of life without regret, without the nightly ritual of falling to sleep with guilt and disappointment from another day of falling short. I wonder, what would life be like if I really and truly lived this word: Enough. What would it feel like to be content with my parenting and my home and my business and my faith? What would it feel like to live a whole day, not trying to accomplish or to improve, but just marinating in enough

For far too long, that has seemed like a distant dream. And perhaps I am being naive to think this, but it also seems like a lovely dream. It seems like a place of deep breaths and long embraces and full hearts. Where we try and fail, of course, but where failing is not followed by the noose of regret, but by the rope of hope. Where second chances are welcomed with open arms and somehow our souls are slippery enough that the guilt never sticks for long. Where freedom from not meeting our own expectations liberates us to a place of greater fulfillment and alignment with those very desires and dreams. Where we sleep deep, embrace our flawed selves and soar.

Today, may we find courage to whisper to the skies the boldest of all four letter words: "Help!". May we find wings to rise from all the expectations, finding freedom, finally, from the exhausting weight of guilt. 

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