Yes, you read that correctly. It is not a typo. For my birthday this year, I got guilt. Not Gilt, the online retail site. Not gelt, the Chanukah money. Good, old-fashioned guilt … You know, that awful feeling you get when you think you’ve done something wrong or let someone down. That. Not exactly what I asked for, but I got it anyway. Three-fold.
First, I selfishly convinced my 8-year-old that he didn’t want to go to his school’s 3rd grade read-athon event last Friday night because I didn’t want to spend my birthday sitting on the school floor listening to the principal read. I bribed him with the promise of a Shirley Temple and an extra-large birthday dessert of his choice. The cake swayed him. I ordered my dessert with a side of guilt.
Then, I had to cancel a planned weekend trip to New York to visit my mom, who has been housebound since mid-January due to an injury. My last-minute cancellation disappointed my mother and simultaneously burdened my sister, who then had to step in to help once again. Score two guilt trips for the price of one.
It was the ultimate guilt-trip trifecta: mommy guilt, daughter guilt and sister guilt. At least I didn’t feel wife guilt, too, to make it a superfecta (Yes, I had to look that word up).
I was heading into my 43rd birthday feeling rueful instead of happy … Until my sister told me to get over it. “I don’t do guilt,” she said. “I don’t have time for it.” At first, her words sounded callous to me, but then I realized how right she was. She really is both older and wiser. Feeling guilty doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make the other person feel better. It doesn’t make me feel any better. Guilt really is a waste of time. Thank you, Denise, for reminding me of this.
Because 2015 is supposed to be about me getting calmer, happier and better, I took my sister’s advice and let the guilt go. It was my birthday gift to myself … That, and a new pair of bright workout pants. Happy birthday to me!
For the record, I still feel bad when I let people down. It’s just how I am. But I am learning to release that emotion swiftly and move forward.