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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!
 guilty
mood: guilty
music: Katie Herzig—Charlie Chaplin


Comments

Oooooh...very interesting musings re: guilt and regret. Thanks for the good read.

Re: "wait a minute"...what about "where's the fire?" Similar concept I suppose, but maybe not quite the same connotation.

That's a good one. I'm saving these up to tell her at next week's practice! :)

Well, we use the phrase "take a downer" to have that meaning - but possibly the context is different - usually it is when someone is ranting and raving and you are asking them to just breath, so maybe not the same at all.

Interesting post about guilt, btw.

Yah...not quite what I was looking for, but awfully close :)

And, thanks :)

Edited at 2008-10-11 10:19 pm (UTC)

I recognise the guilty feelings so well. Especially feeling guilty about things you really have NO power to change. I sort of feel "If only I'd tried harder...." I realised later that this sort of mindset kept me in an abusive relationship for 25 years - always blaming myself and trying harder, taking responsibility for everyone and everything.

One exercise that we were taught when I was a child, is to examine one's conscience once a day. To go over that day and look at the situations you were in and see if you handled them well, could have done better etc. The trouble was that the nuns also instilled in us an overzealous fear of vanity and sin, that almost every time I felt bad about most situations! It's only now in my extreme old age that I can look at things with more distance and better perspective and see that to do your best in a situation, with the information you have is really all you can be asked to do. So try and not take all of the responsibility for things on your own shoulders - or you may turn out like ME!

I can't add to your collection of sayings. We have some in Australia like "hang on a tick" which mean the same thing. But others are just not quite right - more an expression of impatience - "don't get your knickers in a twist" or... hmm...I better email you the others. Don't want lizardmom to think I'm being crude :)

Ha! Knickers in a twist! I should have thought of that one. And lizardmom has heard it all, I'm pretty sure, since she was married to my dad for 30 years and has kids like me and my sister and brother. Heh.

Also, extreme old age? You're just a sweet young thang.

Edited at 2008-10-11 10:20 pm (UTC)

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.

This is spot on.

Throw the pointsettas away. They're not sentient in the sense that animals are. If you want compost them, then they're life is making new life possible.

And thanks for the birthday wishes.

I have to dig up a quote I read somewhere once about the "long slow life of plants"...I suspect it's partly what put the idea in my head, or at least sharpened it. I know they're not sentient, at least in terms of humanity, but still.

And I hope you had a great birthday :)

Back the truck up!

LOL!! I don't think I've heard that one before! :D

(Anonymous)
Guilty too....

Gosh, I feel so guilty when I throw out plants ...but maybe it's the regret I have for not being able to nurse them back to their former beauty! And I feel REALLY guilty when they were a gift! Because I fear that next time the person comes over they will see that their previous gift is no longer decorating the window sill! So now when someone gives me a plant I always joke about my inability to keep some plants alive but I will enjoy it while it lives! You shouldn't know how many plants I've killed since moving to Sweden...the light is just not right for the tropical look!

Have you all heard about a labradoddle? It's suppose to be an allergy free dog. I know several friends who have gotten one and they are very happy with it. If you can't get one in Sweden...it's not so traumatic to bring a doggie over from the USA nowadays. (Pepe is proof! no more quarantin)

You and your chorus....well that's me and serving on the board! I feel less guilty NOT doing it then committing myself and not doing a great job of it! because of time and distance! and I also decided not to feel guilty if I don't read our worm books on time or at all! swoosh...what a relief!

Carol in Sweden

Re: Guilty too....

Well, the allergy doctor told Anders when he had the tests done, that no dog breed is 100% guaranteed, and that regardless of whether it's a "good dog for people with allergies" he'd be taking a risk that he'd be the 1% that reacts. If it was just regular allergies I think he'd be more willing to take that risk, but with asthma, you can't really take that chance,...after all it's your BREATHING in question.

And I know what you mean about feeling guilty about not reading worm books, though I've managed to avoid a couple regardless that I knew I didn't want to read and don't feel as guilty about them as I might have a couple of years ago.

I don't think you need to worry about people remembering the plants they've given you as gifts, actually...I can't imagine someone calling you on something like that!

(Anonymous)

Ahhhh guilt - don't ask me what to do about it - I'm German/Norwegian/Lutheran so I'm stuck with it forever.

Heather

What's Norwegian got to do with it?

Reading about your guilt is like a soothing balm for my own. Thanks for sharing!

LOL! Glad I can help! :D

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