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
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”…)???