If there were only one thing I could share of what I have learned in my 50 years on this Earth, it would be this...
Guilt is only effective in small measures. Anything more than that and it becomes crippling and hobbles rather than helps you.
Guilt came up as a topic of discussion this evening. Mainly it was my husband, struggling with guilt over being sick for so long, and hating how tired and useless he felt.
He is still recovering from his illness. Yesterday, without any prompting from me, he assembled the tiny tool shed that was still in boxes (and pieces) on the front porch. That little bit of effort exhausted him so much that he took a four-hour nap.
Worse, he decided at 6pm yesterday to mow the dog yard, the front hellstrip (all 250 feet of it) and the front yard of Cottage East. All of that activity had him down for the count for most of today.
He's frustrated as hell with himself. After two weeks, I'm fine with waiting another week or two for him to recover, because it will surely take that long. In any case, the discussion about what guilt is good for came up and I said again how very thankful I was that my eldest child had turned her back on me. That might sound counter-intuitive, but I realized just how much she had invested in constantly reminding me that I wasn't the perfect mother, how much she liked pressing that good old guilt button, and when it was suddenly absent (I had my hands full of a very ill parent) and I wasn't responding as she expected, she dropped me like a hot rock.
It took me a long time to get over what I had perceived as a healthy relationship, but which was anything but, and to realize that, good or bad, great or awful (all of which applies when you are a parent, just try it, you'll see what I mean) we were far better off apart and living our own lives.
I understand that it serves her needs and goals for me to be the bad guy. To be the one who somehow gaslighted her into thinking she wasn't enough (even while I told her she was good enough, go figure). In a world of black and white, I had to be all in black so that she could clothe herself in white. It makes sense when you think about it. It isn't my cup of tea, though. White gets dirty fast and the victim story gets old, but we all choose our paths in life.
Most importantly though, it opened my eyes to how guilt can twist and hobble you. It can slow you down, make you question everything, and it can throttle you at a moment when all you really need to do is breathe. And I am endlessly grateful for this lesson.
Nowadays, guilt is something I am very aware of. I recognize it for what it is worth. A moment of my time. It reminds me of how I can improve, how I can change, and what I need to do to move on.
And as a mom to a teen and a preschooler, guilt is something I do NOT want to see continue on through our family lineage. I do my best to correct, and to help Em and Little Miss understand that my frustration with them is transitory and that in no way do I want them to feel guilt for more than an instant. Feel guilt if you must, apologize, correct the mistake if possible, and move on.
My last post ended a bit on the castigating side of things. I've had a few days to process, to talk it over with my husband, and that helps as well. He told me that a job in customer service was never going to be a good fit for me. I asked him why and he laughed and said, "Well, for one, you don't suffer fools, and two, you don't particularly like people."
He was kidding, sort of. I like you all fine, I just don't want to see everyone all of the time. Introverts prefer their own company, and while I have learned to be far more sociable, I remain happiest when I am alone. And as for point #1, well, my husband is absolutely on the money - I do not suffer fools - and in my line of work I ran into plenty.
I really liked Amazon in a lot of ways, and in some ways I wish I could have hung on long enough to transition into a different position where I wasn't dealing with an onslaught of pissed off customers. After all, folks don't call you to tell you everything is fine and they got the order they were expecting. They call you when they are pissed off, afraid, confused and desperate. If I were not a writer, if the words didn't call to me endlessly, then a job at Amazon would make sense.
I looked at jobs. All kinds of them. I kept getting a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach at the thought of working at any of them. And on Thursday I talked with my husband, posted my grand plan, and got to work. I also decided to do something I hadn't done before, I started right away, that day. Usually I will make a "grand plan" and start it in the near future. But this time, I was done with waiting, with building myself up only to fail before I ever got out of the starting gate.
I was already most of the way through the week, but I decided to give myself a goal of writing 12,000 words by the end of today. Sunday has always been the "end" of the week for me, not the beginning.
And guess what? I did it! Sliding in at 11,833 words written in between bouts of gardening and assembling an arbor and two rocking chairs, spray painting furniture, clearing the back of Cottage East of all the damn ivy (it's everywhere), cleaning several rooms of my house and washing and folding laundry.
I was about to write "if I can keep this up" and stopped myself. Instead, I'll say this...
Next week I'm going to write another 12,000 words. And the same for the week after that, and the week after that. Which means that, by June 14th, I should be close to wrapping up the first draft of the G581: Mars book.
It will be a few months before it is ready to publish. I need to work my way through the draft, then read it aloud to my husband and make sure it is good enough to move forward, edit a couple more times and also get a cover and blurb designed. The editing will come after I have written my words for the day/week. Most likely it will happen in the evenings.
By the time it is ready for release, I will be closing in on finishing G581: Earth and 8-10 weeks after that, G581: Zarmina's World.
I want to let go of guilt and focus instead on accomplishing my goals. Because I know I can do it. I can make a living at my writing. And eventually? I will be making such a good living, that I will wonder why it took me so long to figure it out.
Just watch, you'll see!
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