Struggling With My Cloak Of Guilt.
A cloak of guilt hangs down upon my shoulders, heavy and dark; it is a constant reminder.
Clouds of sadness and regret hide in every corner, ready to pounce and diminish joy, or push tears to the surface at inappropriate and inopportune times.
Must every activity for the remainder of my life be distorted by this feeling? I’m going to be a grandmother, and all I can think about is missed opportunities, judging eyes, shame, the legacy I will leave, and a lack of access to those I love the most.
I will never be the best friend, the favorite Grammy, the counsel sought through life’s challenges, or the parent they believe they can count on.
This is my reality. When we talk about consequences of one’s actions, I am met with Well, what did you expect? I certainly didn’t expect this!
I’m not saying I don’t deserve it, but it was not expected. I didn’t expect that a millionaire father would endlessly provide unlimited financial support usurping any and all others’ ability to be part of decisions. I didn’t expect that control would be a prize to be won.
I didn’t expect that a version of history would be different from my own, and that their talk of the other parent would always bring admiration and tears of gratitude.
I didn’t expect that the years I was the only parent available, providing for their every need, would be entirely forgotten, washed away in a period of insanity, never to resurface again. Of course, I’ve only myself to blame.
But blame is so easily laid bare. I hear I’m also to blame for the crucifixion of Christ. Seriously.
Being a mother was all that mattered — my only life dream. And yet, as I am reminded, I chose to be with others over them. I can’t explain why I did what I did, can’t rationalize it. A sick marriage, a disease of loneliness, addiction, and low self-esteem became the tempest, and I was tossed around in it.
I knew I needed distance to right my ship again and become the person they, and I, believed myself to be. Now, 10 long, pain-filled years later, should I have expected that I would still be the outcast, the last to know, an obligation to keep, and not a person to enjoy? How can I get over it when it is always there?
How does one’s greatest joy become the greatest suffering? They’ll understand when they’re 20, married, have children… it’s not happening. Now what?
I’m told I’m selfish, and I’m sure that’s true. On some level, we aren’t human if we aren’t selfish. Isn’t the millionaire father who constantly uses money to show his love just as selfish? We all get something from our learned behaviors, and actions are often out of a personal need.
Sometimes the thought comes to end it all — the pain, the guilt, and feeling that I am nothing but a burden on those I love the most. In the same position, someone else might do this, but for me it is not an option — the ultimate act of selfishness would make them right, wouldn’t it?
Sometimes the thought comes to run away — again; is that my answer to everything? Sometimes I think I can do this because I love them so much, I can continue to push through, be present, smile, provide, do little things for them, love unconditionally — I want to — and sometimes, that task becomes the cloak.
I. Just. Can’t. Wear. It. Anymore.
Social media is a bane. You see everyone else’s outsides, and compare them with your own inside. Their fantasy life is not your reality… duh. The smiling mothers with their children’s You’re my best friend posts only serve to highlight that this is not my standing in the world.
So, I teach. Connect with other young people, and hope I make a difference. I reach out to advise and counsel those who struggle with their own cloak. My experience can be comforting to others — at least they don’t have it that badly.
How did I manage to get through it? Gratitude helps… at least I have a relationship with them; for 18 months, I did not. I have a spouse who encourages and accepts me for me. I have friends who matter and support, and colleagues who appreciate and affirm. I have the basics — a comfortable home, food, water, employment.
Sometimes it comes down to just that.
A recent comment stung me greatly: It’s your ego. Ouch. The truth hurts, for sure. I don’t disagree. I’m ashamed. That’s ego. I’m jealous. That’s ego. I’m grieving. That’s ego. And yet, in Freud’s description, my deepest darkest side is the id, and I lived in that for too many years. In my case, ego is Easing. Goodness. Out. The cloak.
Faith and love are the opposites of that. When I am wearing the cloak — the loss, the fear, the loneliness — I am not focused on the good and I am not living in faith and love.
So faith, hope and love allow me to go on. They lift the cloak and give respite at times. These are the warmth in life to provide comfort, surmount any odds, overcome any obstacle, and remove the cloak of guilt once and for all.
A New Englander by birth, M.J. Tierney actually hates the cold weather! Having also lived in New York and Milan, Italy, M.J. now lives in Virginia, where the weather is just a bit warmer and the days a little longer. Keeping her company are M.J.’s husband and rat terriers, Lily and Rufus. Still learning the lessons that life has to hold, her quest is to be the ultimate representation of love to all she meets.