Guilt. For me it’s the unwelcome nudging, the pit in my stomach, the furl in my brow, the inner judgement of some part of me telling another part I “should be” ….
Why do we have this thing called guilt? Why do we do this to ourselves? At present, I’m using some much needed vacation time to have a break from my challenging job at a not-for-profit charity. I’m still sending my kids to daycare and daycamp. My husband is at work while I’m not. And it’s eating at me as if I’m doing something wrong. Even as I write this, the groceries I just purchased for the family for the week are chilling in the fridge and my son Ben’s clothes are agitating in the washing machine. I have a planned dinner menu for the week on the fridge. I accomplished all of these things before 9:oo this morning and after I post this, I’ll be emptying the dishwasher and purging the kitchen of the hastily left behind breakfast ingredients. And still I feel guilty. Feeling like my kids should be home with me. That my husband should be here, too. That I should just keep working even though I’m slowly burning out.
The guilt is telling me that I don’t deserve a break.
I’m a mother of two young children, I work full time out of the house and I try very hard to maintain a clean(ish) house, produce 3 healthy meals a day, and find creative ways to introduce empathy and spirituality into our home and our lives. This is not easy work but it is my passion. And yet it’s exhausting. I talk to other mothers who go to bed every night at 8:00, so tired they are from the effort they’ve expelled from the moment their children have opened their eyes. Other moms I see seem to do it all effortlessly and happily. Clearly we all have different energy stores and we need to look within for what we need rather than comparing ourselves to “the others”.
It’s a scorching hot day and what I would like to be doing is heading to the beach with my library book in hand, some snacks in my purse, wearing a bathing suit and sunhat. Instead, I’m regularly checking work email, doing household chores, and seeing only the outstanding items on my “to-do” list. Because god forbid I should sit and read a book when I’m on vacation.
I’ve seen the people who do what they want when they want. Maybe just for a day I can try to be that way. Maybe if I practice, I can learn to inject more compassion for myself into my days. One of my deepest wishes has for a long time been that I could live with more abandon, more freedom. That I could fly by the seat of my pants. That I could jump off the dock rather than wade slowly into the water, acclimatizing as I go.
I once had a dream about a woman on a windy beach. As we stood by the shore, waves washing in, I must have asked her how she lived so freely, so confidently. She threw her arms up in the air as she told me that after living a cautious life, she one day just spoke to the sky and told the universe that she understood it was out of her hands – that she trusted the universe to take her where she needed to be. I woke up in the morning, remembering vividly this conversation, wondering who that woman was and how I could manifest that kind of trust.
I’ve started learning mindfulness through practice so maybe I can indeed learn some indulgence through practice. Healthy indulgence. Letting myself take a break when I need one. Not wondering what the person behind me is thinking of me. Trusting that I can do what feels good for me while I take care of those I love.
I think I’ll start today. I’ll grab my book and suit and hit the beach. Lord knows the laundry will wait for me and I can see to it later. I’ll likely still wade into the water, but I’ll nonetheless take the time to enjoy the refreshing feeling of the lake I love surrounding my body, soothing me into peace.