Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Embarrassment Of Riches

Barbara: I’m a bit of a sensitive type, maybe too sensitive sometimes, but I do have one area that is of particular concern: when things go well for me, I feel guilty. Even if I don’t appear to be feeling guilty, rest assured, I’m feeling it. Even if I’m trying hard not to feel guilty or know intellectually that I shouldn’t feel guilty, I can’t stop myself. It’s there beneath the surface, adhering like razor-sharp zebra mussels to every lovely thing in my life that would like to—for once––take precedence.

So, here’s the latest: next week my husband and I are taking a bit of a holiday, leaving the
girls and their posse to watch the home front, and escaping—just the two of us—to the warm clime of Jamaica. I am sooooo excited. It’s been a long while since we’ve had a holiday just the two of us. Hell, it’s been a while since we’ve had a proper holiday at all.

Guilty? You bet. Why? Because so many people I know can’t afford a holiday, or can’t get away despite needing the break as much as I do. I know these people are happy for me. But still I feel guilty.

How does my guilt manifest? In one of two ways. I don’t speak of it but let it silently fester. Or I try to justify my embarrassment of riches. If you don’t believe me, see above: “It’s been a long while since we’ve had a holiday just the two of us. Hell, it’s been a while since we’ve had a proper holiday at all.” Is this proviso relevant? Necessary? I don’t know. I guess I thought it was. Even though I know that everybody else knows that we are all navigating different gates of our lives at any given moment. I certainly don’t begrudge my friends their holidays (or money or success or, well, anything), so why would I assume they would begrudge mine?

Hmm, I may have an answer for that last question: I have indeed encountered a FEW people in my life who do begrudge. They are either downright and overtly hostile in the face of another’s good fortune, or they are obviously and disingenuously “cheerful”. See, they’ve screwed it up for everybody else. I end up assuming that everyone harbours this kind of ill will even when it is clear that most people—really, truly MOST people––do not. (BTW, an honest “damn, I’m jealous” is not the same. It’s true hostility I’m talking about here … you know the kind.) This is just another example of how the lowest common denominator can so easily ruin it for the rest of us. Sigh.

Anyway, I have no advice for those sorts of people, but I will say this: I am pretty sure this guilt I’m experiencing now, this self-conscious wincing, this cringe, will neatly and completely disappear when I am sitting on that beach next week sipping my pina colada. Just a thought.

Deb: Barb, I know what you’re talking about, but I can honestly say that I have never begrudged anyone anything. Someone else’s gain has nothing to do with my gain or lack thereof. I have never understood the jealousy in this arena. I am always anxious to hear of people’s travel stories and to see pictures! And it is also––if one is planning travel oneself––a way to learn from people whose opinion you trust: what is worth seeing and what isn’t.

And if I felt guilty every time I went away, I would have to be guilty every time I ate a good meal and every time I bought new clothes, and even every time I ran the tap and drank from it. If I started down that path, I would never enjoy anything.

So my advice is, try not to do it to yourself. We all deserve trips and the like. Sometimes a cabin overnight is a getaway and sometimes it’s a trip round the world. Sometimes it’s just a quiet moment of reflective thought. But try your darndest to let go the guilt.

And when you do, yours will be the most enviable journey.

Barbara: True words indeed. Thanks so much, Deb. I will keep them in mind … when I’m, you know, sipping pina coladas on the beach.

PS If you want, I’m prepared to share a few of my Jamaican exploits with all of you next week. Would it drive you crazy to hear them or would it be kinda like “travel porn” (and just to be super-clear, by “porn” I don’t mean porn, I mean “living vicariously”…)???


  1. I know how you feel. I am not sure of your background but I call it Italian-Catholic guilt.
    Think of it as Marriage Maintenance and a generous gift of your time to your husband.

  2. Ah, yes, Susan, Marriage Maintenance. Very important. My husband and I used to be so good at having Date Nights when the kids were young, but that's a lot trickier the older they get (because they're always, you know, awake...). Wise words.

  3. *giggle* Travel porn. Barbara, haven't you noticed, yet, that in this group of blog readers, you could probably get away with real travel porn? LOL *thinks about how often the comments section splashes down into the gutter*

    I don't feel guilty of good times. I feel nervous and suspicious. When things seem to be going too well, I'm on my guard waiting to get taken off at the knees. Waiting for the next sniper shot. It's scary to let myself be too happy about something because then the crash to sadness will hurt that much worse. Because it's happened so often. Married to a man I love, built a secure little nuclear family, and thinking it's for life? He divorces me. Got a job I love? Get laid off. Engaged and thinking that I'm finally on the upswing and that my son and I are about to have a better life? That all falls apart. At the last minute. As in days before the wedding, have already quit my job, have already pulled kiddo out of his school system, have boxes stacked everywhere and a UHaul in the driveway kind of last minute. More recently and on a smaller scale, it was joy about getting a great writing gig, only to find out how completely incompetently the magazine was run and, oh yeah, they didn't know when or if they'd start paying me and they kept skipping issues and jerking deadlines around on no notice. So, that was the end of that writer's delight. A good thing happening is just another opportunity for me to be hurt and betrayed. So, I've learned to never allow myself to be so stupid as to fully, trustingly give myself over to joy.

  4. Rigel, before I read your response the operative word is allowing joy into your life. Barbara, are you sure you aren't Jewish? One must accept joy and happiness and good fortune in their lives. It makes all the difference. I travel a lot. My kids are grown and I tell them I am spending their inheritance. You can afford the trip and your want the trip so I say feel joy and let it go. What others think is not where you need to head. If you are a good person, support your family, help others you are welcome to have joy. I use to think if I said no I was being selfish. I now realize at 62 this is my time. I take advantage of it, embrace it and love myself for it. Joy can be fleeting so embrace it. Have a wonderful vacation and do blog travel porn or otherwise. Maybe your husband and you will actually have travel porn to show us. Watch that gag reflex. Absolutely love your blog and those that follow it. I feel joy just reading it.

  5. Sometimes you have just got to go away for a while. Even if it's just for a few days. Enjoy your time away when your on vacation, think of it as time to clear your mind and remember never feel guility for taking time out for yourself you deserve it.

  6. Your guilt tells me you're a very conscientious and thoughtful person, and if people knew you felt guilty, they'd feel better too. I think. Or not. Have a great holiday.

  7. Rigel, I always tell my girls that love can be heartbreaking -- but that even 5 minutes of love is better than none at all. Even if it hurts when it ends. I think it's the same with joy. Even 5 minutes of joy is better than none. It enriches your life and heals you. So give in to it. Even if it doesn't last (and let's face it, it's a rare bird for whom joy is ever-present). You have had to bear more than your fair share of shocks, but look at you: strong, beautiful, loving, resilient WOMAN because of your experiences. Hear you roar! (and real travel porn will have to be for my other blog ;) )

    Madge, wow. You slay me. Really. You are gold. I aspire to be you at 62. You are my hero and example. Thank you so much for joining our conversation and being such a lovely lovely part of it.

    Lyndsie, you're so right -- and it's a good thing to know at your age!

    MJ! Thank you!!! I half-expected sly banter about travel porn, but I'll take your sweet words of support. (see MJ's excellent blog for some of the best word play around)

    In fact, see all these blogs for some of the best words around. True wonderfulness!

  8. I never feel guilty for my good fortune, as it seems natural, but I often wonder why I am so lucky as to be born in Canada, to live in a spot I love, with a job that suits me to a T, good health, "no tanks have ever thundered through these streets" (a line from one of Joni's songs), healthy happy kids, plenty to eat, safe shelter, etc. Why am I so lucky when so many are in danger and have nothing and can't get health care for their dying children?

    There's no real answer. Maybe it's karma; maybe I worked for this in another lifetime. But I don't think it's possible to be truly happy for the good fortune of others unless I can accept my own. And I do accept it wholeheartedly and with gratitude. I think the secret to getting rid of your guilt, Barb, might be simple gratitude and also knowing that you DESERVE good things like new shoes, and joy, and tropical holidays with your sweetheart, and your having them doesn't take anything away from those who don't have them.

    But you know all this. Bring back photos and stories; looking forward to them.

  9. Thanks Barbara. It took a while to get this way. But once it is here I embraced it with gusto. Having my kids young and seeing them grown with their own families allowed me to relax and enjoy my life. The fact that my kids love to see me enjoying my good fortune makes them even happier. It is a good feeling and I agree Katie May (or may not). Love that tag line.

  10. So, I'm sitting here reading news websites (day off work due to the holiday), and I came across something that made me literally squeal and laugh. And, I thought, "Hmmm, I wonder if Barbara and Phil will have to pass through American airport security at any point in their travels? Poor dears."

    Here you go, Barbara. Stick it to the TSA and get an early jump on the "travel porn"! Have Phil wear a kilt like a true Scotsman!

    This is a happy, happy thing in my world. :)

    (But, then again, one of my dearest, closest (of 20 years), most beloved friends in the world is a redheaded Scotch Irishman with an affinity for kilts so I'm biased. LOL)

  11. Yes, Katie May, simple gratitude seems the best tonic for most ills, huh? Love your words here. Thank you :)

    Rigel, Phil has long been humming about the opt-out day, so thanks for the link! Kilts are genius. He might just play ;) (travel porn is getting better and better by the comment here)

    And Hollye just tried to post a comment, but it errored and disappeared -- and of course, knowing Hollye's gift, it would've been GENIUS. Apparently the upshot was that her own string of bad luck prevented her from going to Jamaica this last year. And she STILL doesn't begrudge me. She sends me her best wishes and love. You see? You guys are grand! xoxo

  12. HAVE THE MOST GORGEOUS, LOVING, SEXY, ROMANTIC TIME! enjoy every single moment!
    love you!

  13. mama ferris, i am filling with gratitude, love, and abundance today. i think i am becoming well-armed for this trip. love YOU!

  14. But, remember:

    Sand is an abrasive.

    *refrains from making really bad dirty joke about jerk chicken*

  15. Ha!! (jerk chicken) And the gag-reflex, no doubt ;) (which, as I said on Monday, is not my issue...)

  16. I hope you have a great time on your holiday. Don't pack the guilt and take it with you. It's just heavy and will slow you down. And yes, please, share your travel adventures with pix!

  17. Test comment using Google Chrome.

  18. Happy (American) Thanksgiving, Barbara and Deb!

  19. Pictures please! We poor western Canucks have been suffering -20° to -35° temps for a week now! So, no need to feel guilt - you're providing a 'warm up vicariously' service.

  20. Dee, you guys need vicarious warmth (or even better, the real thing) more than anyone I know!! Will soak some up for you.

    And Happy Thanksgiving to all our American friends!!!! I can tell you this: we are deeply deeply thankful for all of you.

  21. I hi-five Magdew on her post!

    Guilt is a fear based emotion. Shift it - life's too short. Switch the word to an acronym: Feeling Excited And Ready. or False Evidence Appearing Real.

    When the doubt whether you 'deserve' joy, happiness, fortune, love, travel, whatever, ask yourself two questions:

    1) Why NOT me?
    2) According to who?

    Travel is like recess. Do one thing for me on this trip - skinny dip. Somewhere. Anywhere. It's magnificent and liberating, especially when there's the chance of getting caught.

    Love you long time!

  22. Ooooh, Tannis, GREAT acronyms/wisdom/advice! Love it!

    And, you know what: gonna do the skinny dip. Why NOT me?

  23. Barbara, regarding skinny dipping, you know EXACTLY what I'm thinking about right now. ;) LOLOL

    Northeast Arkansas. It's 69F warm, gusty winds, and gathering humidity here. My sinuses are throbbing from the rapid pressure drop. By late tonight, it'll be 27F with ice and snow on the ground. There are thunderstorms (and possibly tornadoes) between this and that.

    Yes, right now, the house windows are open and I'm wearing a t-shirt. But, we're under a Winter Weather Advisory from the NWS. Welcome to Arkansas weather.

    Can I stowaway in your suitcase, please, Barbara? Or, at the least, will you please bring me back a luscious man as a souvenir so I can "get my groove back." (Since apparently no one has yet to arrange my Christmas/birthday wish to be given Tory Belleci, please. I'd unwrap that package and play with him a lot.)


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