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Mea Culpa. Wednesday June 7, 2017

[To listen to an audio version of this blog please click here:]

A disclaimer, before I start. This is not a religious blog, although I will be quoting the Book of Common Prayer. Neither is it anti-religious. This is a blog about being human, and feeling guilty.

Maybe you have escaped the curse, if so – then be thankful, because you are one of the lucky ones. Unless you are a sociopath of course; then, maybe not so much.

In my experience, everyone I meet feels guilty.

I'll go first; this is mine. Hands up if you feel guilty for not being a better mother. Ah, yes – that's twenty-three thousand, five hundred and fifty-seven I can see – and that's just those of you on the front row. Um – Sir? Yes, it's okay for you to have your hand up for that one too.

Let's try another. How many of you feel guilty for not being better at your job? So, that's the other half of you, then (plus two thirds of the guilty mothers).

Carrying on then: guilty for not having the house and garden tidy, guilty for not being a better friend, guilty for not having reached your potential and succeeded better in life, guilty for being ill with depression in the first place, guilty for not being able to solve the problems of the world, guilty for...?

The Anglican Prayer of Penitence says simply, "We have left undone those things that we ought to have done and we have done those things that we ought not to have done."

Another form continues, "through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault."

Well, that's simple enough, isn't it? Except that it isn't.

I didn't take my daughter to Scouts last week – I let her father do it, even though I knew he was tired; because I had a prior commitment: guilty whichever choice I made.

I ate the cake she made, though I am slimming. Guilty for letting myself down or guilty for hurting her feelings?

I didn't reply to that email last week; it slipped my mind and I lost the sale. Oops – guilty again.

The lawn needs mowing, the ironing isn't done, the bathrooms are dirty and I haven't read that book for my book club meeting this Tuesday...

So, let's just go back to those simple words. The things undone. Are there any of them things that I ought to have done - really? Maybe the email. That was a shame. My forgetfulness; a weakness, I confess.

The rest? There is no "ought" when there is no time. There are only choices. I choose to write and to spend time with my family. The payment for this is an untidy house and a messy garden.

We feel guilty because we are guilty of being human, of being imperfect. But we do the best we can; all of us. We cannot repent of being human, but we can repent of feeling guilty.

Guilt is a venomous serpent which ruins lives. Don't be guilty of letting it ruin yours.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Caroline Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 6:22am

As a working mother of a currently estranged adolescent girl this perspective on guilt was just what I needed today.

Choices is a fascinating frame to think about guilt.

Thank you.

LP Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 7:00am

Hi Mary,
My hand up to all of those, except am guilty of not being in a book club! :)
Thanks from me too, we can let ourselves off the hook at least for today for being human. Got to dash so as not to be guilty of being late!
Lovey bright sunny morning in London... Hey I wonder if it'll work to swap a thing we feel guilty about for something we feel thankful for? Will give it a go! ;)
Loved your writing, it made me smile.Thanks for a reassuring blog Mary. Warm wishes to you and all LPxx

Orangeblossom Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 7:17am

Hi Mary, thanks for the great blog. Guilt is an emotion I am very familiar with including feeling guilty for experiencing guilt. However, when someone tries to guilt trip me for not doing what they want e to, like my Mum or my Father-in-law, I just become mutinous. Thanks for the antidote. Best just to apologise if in the wrong & move on. I do have a tendency to wallow in guilt.

Christine Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 7:21am

Thanks Mary, I suffer from guilt a lot, so I can relate to your blog, wise words as ever, I feel guilty that I don't fill my day with lots of activities, guilty that I don't take more exercise, eat more healthily, I could go on! thanks again Mary best wishes

Lou Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 7:48am

A very thoughtful and thought provoking blog, Thank you. I frequently feel like I am being chased by flocks of "shoulds" and "oughts"; next time they descend I shall try and remember your comment "when there is no time. There are only choices. "

Adam G Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 7:53am

Profound and eye-opening as always Mary!

Leah Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 8:49am

Since I wrote my blog on Living Guilt Free(March 16) I have tried and it works sometimes and others I fall into my old habits

I can say as a mother of adult children , I have decided I can't change the past so I will concentrate on the present. The media and the community puts enough guilt on mothers, why should we add to it?
Thanks Mary for continuing the discussion on living guilt free.

Wyvern Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 9:37am

When those gut-wrenching feelings try to creep in under my radar I carefully and clearly remind myself that I am doing my best, whatever that is on that particular day.
For example it has taken me nearly 2 weeks to find the energy to deliver a phone to my son so that he can (if he chooses) contact me. Pathetic? No. I haven't been well enough to make the trip to where he is nor strong enough to overcome the anxiety of potentially meeting him face to face and risking his wrath for being what he considers Not Good Enough. He does try to guilt trip me and I won't have it any more. So mostly I have to avoid meeting him. This time I went there and left the phone in a place where he could see that I had left him something but not so that anyone would think it something to steal. Mission accomplished.

The Gardener Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 2:58pm

Oh Wyvern, how I feel for you - one of my sons and I seem to have been rubbing each other up the wrong way for most of his adult life. The fact that he is 'tetchy' with others is no help.

Julie Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 11:21am

Guilt is just another form of negative thinking and self judgement. In my view your only guilty when found to be so in a court of law. Compassion for others is important but vital for the self also. I have banished shoulds and oughts from my life and it's certainly a very freeing way to live. It's possible for anyone to choose this path, meditation and mindfulness definitely help with the self compassion part. Good luck to you all.

Melanie Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 11:49am

Thank you for the great blog Mary, I don't usually call it guilt - I call it "making myself wrong"- however I noticed recently I was making myself wrong for something and then thought well what if I did the other thing and saw that I would also have made myself wrong for that. Choices! Decisions! Good to see that there is no right and wrong - maybe one is marginally better in some ways than the other. This goes well with Lex's blog yesterday on the inner critic! xo

Another Sally Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 12:04pm

Well Mary, you have hit on another good subject. I have not had time to read comments recently and have just about caught up with the last 3 days. Wish I could spend more time on them, there are some very good comments. Funnily enough I only give the 'Guilty' card a 0, as I refuse to feel guilty about stuff.
However, I do have quite a lot of oughts and shoulds that hang around to nag me.
Mainly I find I have so many odd tasks to do that I just can't make a decision and. To Hong gets done.
Am having a good morning today and am part way through several tasks. My problem is flitting from thing to thing and not getting them finished.
I liked HO's joke about the Barbie dolls.
Has anyone heard from Bear recently? I miss the Bear waves and hugs, even when they are not aimed at me. If you're there Bear, please know you are missed and send a wave.
With thanks to all the Moodscope community.
Another Sally, sending hugs and waves to those who need them.

The Gardener Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 2:55pm

Smguly, I can only suggest having 'priorities'. For me kitchen and my bedroom must be impeccable, my sanctuaries. Ironing? put it out of sight. If you have a big enough house remove yourself from the tasks screaming to be done and curl up somewhere with a good book - or walk away from it, briskly - often not so onerous on return. My problem is inertia, an insuperable number of jobs drives me to play solitaire till I can face them

Caroline Thu, Jun 8th 2017 @ 6:48am

Oh,I recognise that too ... from the inside.

Another Sally Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 12:05pm

That should have read nothing gets done!

Kelly Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 12:31pm

I deal with so much guilt...I do get the guilty just for having depression thing a lot. Guilty because I've considered suicide. Guilty for the things that I'm too tired to get done. Guilty for a lot....and it's a struggle to not feel that way.

Lucas Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 1:30pm

Thank you for this. It's a helpful perspective.

The Gardener Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 2:49pm

At the risk of criticizing the admirable Mary I would say the only thing you are guilty of is trying to do too much. It took me till my early 70', I think, to stop making unachievable lists then feeling guilty because I had not done them all. This morning, suddenly, I had a 'flash' as though a load had lightened. A run of awful nights left me tired and niggly, the weather was foul, Mr G going from anger and aggression to a near stupor. I went for the bread - sun shining, the glorious camaraderie of stalls being set up - smells (roasting chickens, paella, couscous) bread - sights of marvellous flower stalls, fruit and veg, the cake array. Smiles all round, greeted by old mates. Last night I phoned my very receptive d-in-law - not for a moan, except to complain of the extreme boredom, but to tap her knowledge of 5 years working with Alzheimers - they are all different, no rules. She said 'why don't you write another book'. Ha? So, ideas RUSHED in, and I will start the research. And I think, don't hold me to it, that I am 'clear' of guilt. Enough people I respect have said that there is nothing more I can do - the situation needs full time hospitalisation, not possible. So, I ignore the harrowing sight in the armchair and have a 'life' as far as practically possible. I was warned when the illness was diagnosed that I would be 'treated like a slave, worse than a dog, I would be a punch-bag, a sponge, however much I did more would be demanded'. Shatteringly it's all come true, with an unexpected jealousy and possessiveness thrown in. But I swear, this morning, my mind 'accepted' that I could 'do my own thing' and NOT feel guilty about it.

Jul Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 3:31pm

I am so pleased that you have accepted it this morning, that you can do no more. That you must do your own thing and not feel guilty. I assume hospitalisation is too expensive? Are there no care homes especially for Alzheimers patients? Our neighbours in France look after the mother who had a stroke, can't speak or move unaided and Veronique the daughter told me that all care has to be paid for by the family, the whole family, children grandchildren etc. No one is spared from the liability. Is this your understanding Gardener? If Mr TG had cancer would care be free? I think countries must get to grips with caring for Alzheimers. It's a disease just like cancer. It's not a social care issue. But onwards and upwards. I love those market smells. Roast chicken, paella etc. Do you get those pasties in Britanny? Huge great meat pies. Julxx

The Gardener Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 5:41pm

Jul, what you say about paying for care in cases like my husband's is correct. All medical problems are dealt with by the state, and most of us have 'top up' insurance. But I agree with family picking up the tab for dementia etc. In the old days the family looked after grand-parents (people did not move so much, nor live so long) unless, like my maternal grand-father is tipped over in lunacy and had to be 'put away'. I'm suffering at the moment through circumstances, but when I see the argument in the UK I am quite surprised. Being pragmatic, NO government can afford the huge cost of care for Alzheimer/dementia victims who may live for years and in the end become complete vegetables. Spend the money on finding prevention - it's a huge problem. I don't know about the meat pies - sounds more like Cornwall? Breton solid food is galettes and Far (solid egg custard tart - thanks for your reply, always appreciated TG xx

Jul Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 6:33pm

Yes I see what you mean about dementia care being paid for by family not Governments. I suppose in days gone by they had lunatic asylums for people with what now is called dementia. I mean dementia cannot possibly be a new illness. It's just that people live longer so there's more of it about and more information and coverage of the problem.Our house is in Limousin and the meat pies are hearty things for farmers. They are sold on fresh meat counters at the weekly markets and are not mass produced but made by the butchers themselves. I bought one once for my husband and it took him days to eat it all even with his huge appetite. Jul xx

Poppins Wed, Jun 7th 2017 @ 3:05pm

I once read that guilt is a wasted emotion. Oh how I want to accept that! I was brought up as a Roman Catholic, and marinated in guilt. This was re-inforced by a loving mother, who used guilt, when logic was not working. I absorbed it all, feeling I was a sinner, an ungrateful child, terrible mother and despite some accolades, convinced I was not good at my profession.
I KNOW guilt serves no purpose. Thanks Mary I am going to work on ignoring this 'wasted emotion' and when it appears replacie it with a positive comment from someone I respect. We all have positive qualities, let's work on remembering them, when guilt rears its head.

Molly Thu, Jun 8th 2017 @ 12:09am

I relate with guilt alot, all the time. I also relate with how grown up children can be difficult. I never had the 'privilege' to have any children though. For the reasons stated here, I am glad I didn't. I am not sure people realise the responsibility of bringing another human being into the world. Especially this world that we now live in.

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