A friend of mine, who happens to be catholic, once told me that the underpinning theme in her life was guilt. She blamed it squarely upon her parents and her religion for they had taught her that if she was doing nothing she was guilty of a sin. She should always be busy. If she was complaining she was committing a sin for she should be considering all she had to be thankful for. I can’t say if that’s her religion or her parents, but I can attest that I too carry guilt as one of the underpinning themes in my life.
Someone once told me when you are chronically ill you feel a wide range of emotions because in a way you have to mourn for the self you have lost while you embrace the self that you are. What no one told me was that by being chronically ill, I’d be having guilt along as a side-kick unless I did something about it.
I used to feel guilty about being sick, about needing help. So I tried to not be a burden on other people and just go about being “normal”. The problem with being “normal” is that it required so much precious energy and strength that I was weakening myself too quickly and that allowed lupus to become more active. So then I’d be in worse shape than I was before. And now I have that to feel guilty about because I didn’t take care of myself and made things worse.
I had no idea how the dishes could make me feel so guilty. Not even a huge pile of dishes, just a few cups and plates and some cutlery. Sitting there, waiting to be washed, but I was resting. So they’d wait until someone else came to do them. And I feel guilty about that because of course I was doing nothing other than resting while this other person was out working and had come home to the dishes he had left in the morning.
The sound of the washing machine carries the weight of guilt for me, as does the sounds of timers going off. Because I know that if I hear the washing machine going while I’m resting it means that Beloved is doing more work than he should, just so I can rest. Which wouldn’t be bad, except I spent all day resting and still can’t do anything and he has already put in a full day of work.
Each meal he lovingly prepares for me used to taste of guilt. How can you be so tired, so ill that you cannot even prepare a light meal for a loved one or for yourself? How? It’s called living with a chronic illness. And the list of things that sounded, tasted, felt guilt is huge. You could easily be crushed by this weight if you let it fully settle upon you.
One day while I was trying so hard to be “normal” even though I was very sick, I decided to do some light house work and cook a meal for Beloved. So that he wouldn’t have to work so hard. That was the day I discovered that the washing machine does an incredible job of shrinking clothes and there is no way to scrape eggs up off the floor. Nor is there a way to quickly clean the spill inside the oven. Maybe the guilt managed to get shrunk in the washing machine, maybe it was collected and washed away with the spilled eggs or perhaps it was burnt off with the spill in the oven. But after that day I no longer feel guilt about what I cannot do when I’m physically unable to do it. Because that was the day that I learned Beloved has a very colorful and interesting vocabulary when push comes to shove. I also discovered that he goes an odd shade of purple at times