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Battling GUILT

January 4, 2010 - Betsy Bethel
As I was driving to work this morning, crawling along the gray slushy streets, contemplating the endless pale gray sky, I suddenly had a moment of clarity, as if a tenacious sun ray had broken through the monotony.

It occurred to me I'm having difficulty reconciling my new reality with my life B.E. (Before Emma).

OK, so it's not such a "new reality"— it's almost four years old actually.

I didn't realize until this morning, however, that I've been holding myself up to the exact same standards I had for myself, and others had for me, in my B.E. years.

I discovered I've been held hostage by an insidious captor, GUILT.

It was a surprise to me because I'm generally — by nature and nurture — a laid-back, easy-going person. I am a follower of the "whatever" ideology. Sure, I care deeply about certain things, but I try to make sure those things are the ones that really matter. I don't push myself too hard or set myself up to fail. I don't sweat the small stuff.

So it struck me hard this morning to discover I've allowed myself to be beaten into submission by GUILT. I mean, to my mind, GUILT is what usually drives most people to push, push, push themselves to succeed. Workaholics, exercise-aholics, neat freaks, fanatics of all varieties ... aren't they all compensating for something? trying to win favor with someone (knowingly or not)? trying to prove they are better than what someone once told them they were? trying to be perfect so GUILT will not haunt them in the wee hours of the morning?

That's not me. But I realize now that GUILT has been driving me in a different way. I have allowed the dirty beast to come between me and everything important to me: my job, my husband, my daughter, my home life. On the outside I say "whatever," but inside I feel like a failure, stuck between the demands of my job and my family. Instead of GUILT driving me to succeed, I have allowed it to drive me to fail.

I feel guilty for leaving Emma with my mother-in-law three days a week and at daycare two days a week. I feel guilty for not putting 110 percent into my job. I feel guilty for not keeping a clean house, not cooking nutritious meals, not being the perfect wife. GUILT plagues me for slacking on my church-going and Bible-studying, and for lacking the get-up-and-go to get up off my butt and exercise.

But instead of pushing myself to do better in every category like some might do, I have let everything go, thinking that is the best way for me to stay sane and be happy. But lo and behold, all it has led to is mediocrity in every area. And I feel guilty about that, too, of course.

So, today, I am saying: Get thee behind me, GUILT!

I embrace my new reality of being a working mother. I know I cannot be everything to everyone and that I cannot do all I did during my B.E. years. I vow not to feel guilty about that. I also need to move forward and find ways to break the chains of mediocrity. My new mantras are: Pushing a little harder has its rewards. Making an effort brings results. Investment yields a payoff.

I still don't want to sweat the small stuff, but I have rediscovered it's healthy to sweat a little!

 
 

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