Apparently, there is a correlation between guilt and pain and in order to release the pain I feel, I need to let go of the guilt. I am more than willing to try anything in order to achieve a pain free life, but this is at the limits of my beliefs, if I’m going to be honest. But, in the interests of research (or something like that) I thought I’d give it a blast. After all, what could I possibly have in my life to be guilty about?
- I feel guilty about not living closer to my parents. Especially during lockdown, as I feel I should be the one doing their food shopping and not relying on next door neighbours. So there’s an added level of guilt over the next door neighbours. The thing is, if I was in Bristol rather than Albufeira, I still couldn’t get to my parents as non-essential travel is not permitted. My Dad excels at laying on the guilt factor, always has and always will, so that doesn’t really help the situation!
I would say that was probably the only sensible thing on the list. Thereafter it all went a bit pear-shaped and gives you some idea of the nonsense that rattles around my head.
- I feel guilty for not spending time with my husband. That’s right I feel guilty if I go and spend time doing something I enjoy and which helps my mental health. But then on the other side of the coin, if I spend all my time with my husband I feel guilty for not doing the things that bring me joy, make me smile and make me feel good about myself. There is a no-win situation with this one!
- I feel guilty for not going to work. We all have that dream, that conversation, what would you do with your life if you didn’t have to work. I’m guessing most people wouldn’t come up with ‘feel guilty and waste the opportunity’.
- I feel guilty for having two houses. Rather than being grateful for this incredible opportunity and making the most of it, I spend my day feeling guilty and trying to brush my good fortune under the table, lest I offend people. Then I’d feel guilty for offending people.
- One thing I am very guilty of is doing things for other people because they will like it, whilst I am quietly dying inside! For example, I offer to take friends to the local shopping centre because I know they really enjoy it. But after I’ve spent an hour in Primark, I do lose the will to live – it’s then that I start thinking about what I could be doing instead – like cleaning the floors, anything other than be in that shop for a moment longer! I do it because I’d like to hope that somewhere along the way, someone would do the same thing for me. Apparently, doing good things for others that destroys your own self-worth is a big no, no. Doing things for others is meant to make you feel better about yourself, not worse!
- I feel guilty about being brighter than average. This is a belter. Nobody likes a smart arse, and rather than just be myself and admit what I am capable of, I dumb myself down. I am particularly good at dumbing myself down to make people feel better about themselves, so that they can shine. As a consequence, I put myself in the position of being the stupid one and then get upset because people think I’m stupid!
- Then there’s feeling guilty if I do drink or if I don’t drink. If I do, I’m not looking after my best interests, if I don’t, I’m not joining in. And so it goes. But I am getting increasingly bored of putting the desires of others before me and am reaching the point where I no longer care if I am offending you by drinking fizzy water instead of wine!
This is not a recent thing. As a child, when the teacher shouted at the whole class for not doing their homework (even though I had) I felt guilty about that. As a teacher when we were shouted at at the beginning of term because of poor results, I felt guilty even though my subject specific results were oftentimes better than the overall results for the school. I’d go home and work out how I could make my teaching better. So, I was always going to be the sibling that felt the guilt card more readily and I suspect my parents know this about me!
I decided the best way to approach this was to take each in turn and started with being brighter than average. It was fairly short lived! I realised that for that particular trigger and several of the others that I no longer feel particularly guilty. So, I’m brighter than other people in many regards, I’m also a lot less capable than others in some regards and it’s about the balance. I don’t need to make myself look dumb to fit in. I just have to be me, and eventually I will find the place where I naturally fit in. This logic also applies to the alcohol. What works for me is all that matters, and I’m not prepared to make myself feel guilty so that other people can feel better about themselves any longer.
Some of this has taken time to overcome. Especially the not going to work thing and the two houses. The ex-pat community is a bit of a strange one. People are generally thrown together through a common language, so you end up creating friendships with people you probably wouldn’t back in the UK. From my perspective, it’s not particularly supportive, people tend to be jealous, or gossipy, and seem to look for the cracks. I suppose it’s a bit like OFSTED coming into a school – they aren’t there to find out what you do well, they are looking for ways to pull you down. I suspect I haven’t helped myself with the dumbing down thing, but slowly I am finding my own way through the ex-pat world and finding like-minded people to enjoy spending time with.
This has also helped with guilt around husband. We both know that I am happier if I do different things throughout the day. It’s fairly obvious if I skip things like yoga and meditation and instead spend the day moping around – I am moody, cranky, irritable and miserable. It doesn’t create a particularly pleasant environment for either of us. Better to spend less time together which is filled with happiness than spend extended periods of time together being miserable. I still feel like I am a burden much of the time, but slowly I am working on that.
So, that really just leaves the guilt about not being nearer to my parents during Covid. There is nothing that I can do about that currently and I appreciate that there are many people in a far worse situation than we are. We do Skype each other once a week and speak regularly on the phone. Until things calm down, I can fly back to the UK, rent a car and life is generally a little more normal the best thing I can possibly do is stay healthy so that once we are able to meet up we can.