October 8th, 2008

cocked and loaded

AS CHARGED

For some reason, I've been musing about guilt lately. When it comes, when it stays, why I feel it, why I DON'T, in any particular situation or circumstance. Some things I feel guilty about but that doesn't stop me from doing or saying or thinking them. Other things I don't feel guilty about at all until they are pointed out to me from a different perspective.

Feeling guilty is different from having regrets, although the two are sometimes so close as to be practically incestuous. But they're fundamentally different things, and though I might feel regret about something I said or did and ALSO feel guilty about it, the line between them is still there. I can certainly regret things I don't feel at all guilty about, such as not buying that horse vase last weekend, and the fact that I live so far away from my family. I regret it, but I don't feel GUILTY about it.

All the way home in the car tonight, I thought about the things I DO feel guilty about. Some of them are obvious, like the times I've yelled at or been unsympathetic to my children. Others that came into my mind made me wonder: why exactly would I feel guilty about discarding potted houseplants that are no longer thriving? Because they are still alive. I still do it, though sometimes the poinsettias stay in the front windows until April. This is the reason behind why I never buy poinsettias any more. I love them during the holidays, but I feel awful about throwing them away afterward. I cleaned out 18 potted plants from the house a couple of months ago and I had to steel myself to do it. I felt really stupid about that particular guilt, and still do.

I know the reason why guilt has been on my mind lately is because it's one of the primary motivators for why I am still going to choir. The other primary motivator is because I love singing, and I would really miss it if I stopped like I did for the many years when I wasn't singing. But for the past year I've had to force myself to go. When our choir leader left last summer, the choir lost over half of its members. Part of my guilt arises from the fact that because there are so few people left, every one of us makes a huge difference to whether the choir can continue at all. I hate to be a nail in the choir coffin, just because I don't want to drive a half hour to Malmö once a week for a 2.5 hour practice session when 1) gas is so fricking expensive and 2) I have commitments every damn night of the week. So my guilt, and my love of singing, cancel each other out and I keep going.

I know that life is too short for guilt trips and while I am extremely successful at heading off the ones that other people aim at me, I'm not always as deflective when it comes to my own. I felt guilty for years about not recycling more than bottles and cans, and am really happy about the effort I've made (along with the entire family) to rectify that this year.

I feel guilty about all the walking I haven't done lately.

I feel guilty that the desire my children and I have for a cat or dog makes my husband feel bad about his allergies, especially considering the fact that if it wasn't for the cats I had when we met, he probably wouldn't ever have developed asthma.

I feel guilty about swatting flies, but I DO IT ANYWAY BECAUSE DIE, YOU BASTARDS! DIE!

I feel guilty about some of the snarky things I say or think, but not always.

Some things catch you both ways: I sometimes feel guilty about not posting more often, but at other times I feel guilty for being on the computer so much that I'm ignoring my family. Darn that cake you can't have and eat.

There are several ways of dealing with guilt. You can let it eat at you until you either do something about it or you go crazy. You can ignore it, if you're the kind of person who is capable of such things, in which case it almost seems like it doesn't really count as guilt anymore. You can feel bad about it every now and then but decide it's not worth changing or decide that the reasons for it are better than the reasons against.

The thing about guilt is that it's always about something you can change, isn't it? Regret is about the things that you can't.

Or as this quote I found online puts it: Guilt is regret for what we've done. Regret is guilt for what we didn't do.

***

Tonight at choir (where all the members are Swedish except me), one of the women asked me if there were other phrases that meant "WAIT A MINUTE" besides "hold your horses" which she had heard earlier and which had apparently tickled her pink. Our choir leader said that they use "hold your horses" in Swedish, too; translated literally: "håll i hästen" which cracked me up. I gave her "keep your shirt on" (or alternatively "keep your hair on") and also "hang on to your pants". I couldn't think of any more at the moment, but there must be some, eller hur?

Bouncy Bouncy Pouncy Fun Fun Fun Fun Belated Birthday Wishes to gissa and bezigebij!