I feel the pressure of so much guilt weighing me down. I am unsure if there has ever been a time when I have been able to live my life without feeling guilty. I wonder if this guilt is a result of the successful imposition of other’s will upon my psyche, or if it is an alarm system that I have developed to ensure that I function as an acceptable citizen in the community in which I am required to exist. I suspect it is more the former, but fear there may be a little of both at play. I sometimes wonder if I would find more contentment with a hermit’s lifestyle. The guilt I feel can, at times, overwhelm me.
It is my own response to other’s perceived expectations that can floor me; I so desperately want to please those I care for. Some days I will pour the time and effort required into being the good wife, mother, daughter, friend; but it is never sustainable at the levels demanded. I cannot be the person that other’s appear to want me to be.
Growing up I was taught how I was expected to behave. I should eat my food and be grateful because there were hungry children around the world. I should follow the rules set out in the bible and preached at church because God and my neighbours were watching me all the time. Bad people went to hell to burn and suffer for eternity; they also embarrassed their families. In my head each was as bad as the other. I should be kind to my parents, obey them and make them proud, because they had done so much for me in so many ways. I picked up a subliminal subtext here, that they could have led a better life if I hadn’t been me. I knew that I was loved, but could never quite live up to that which was expected of me.
Sometimes the demands were clear and vociferous, more often they were passed on through the anger or sadness that my wicked actions created. As a child I was desperate to please and impress. It felt impossible.
My mother would voice her admiration of other children and I would hate them with a fierce jealousy. I would offer up my own tokens of achievement that rarely generated more than a ripple of praise. Whatever reaction I expected, it never felt enough. My accomplishments, looks and behaviour fell short; the disappointments I generated in those I cared for washed over me in huge waves of resentment and guilt.
How does a child live with such negative emotion? I rebelled. When I realised that I did not want to be the girl that my mother was bringing me up to be I changed direction. I could not leave the guilt behind though. The feeling that I was letting her down, that I was an embarrassment and a disappointment, bubbled on below the surface. She would express fear that other’s she knew would notice my behaviour and that I would bring shame on us all. I did not care what those other’s thought, but I did still care about fostering her good opinion. Not enough though, not enough to change the way I was. The guilt gnawed away at me but I fought it, suppressed it, rejected what it was telling me.
I changed my view of the church. I discovered a loving God who forgave and accepted. I could not believe that he would send me to hell for rejecting a rhetoric that inspired so much hatred. I lived in a country full of hate and violence, perpetrated in the name of the God who threatened pain and suffering. I rejected that deity and found my own; a loving and supportive being who would accept me as I was and then help me to be a kinder and better person. Knowing my bible became less important than knowing how to support a friend in need. No longer would I reject people for their wickedness; I would hold their hands and show love and practical support as Jesus would have done.
My guilt is a construct of the muddle of thoughts that developed in my formative years, but that has been built upon since. It worries me that I have the same desperation to please my husband that I once felt towards my father. Both men are quiet, kind and supportive; neither demonstrate emotion unless sorely displeased. I fear that displeasure.
I skirt around my mother warily, trying to offer her contact that will please whilst holding back that which may not. I do not wish to hear her judgement; I do not want her to worry about me. I am not a good daughter because I do not give her my time. How can I spend time with her when it may allow her to see me as I am and then open up the floodgates of her efforts to mould me into the person she has always wanted me to be? I am not that person; I do not want to be that person. Neither do I want to let her down.
I live with the guilt of my failure to fit the moulds that others place before me. The hardest to climb into is the one that I have created for myself.