Body for Life, the Universe, and Everything

Being a description of the author's thoughts on the experience of participating in the "Body for Life" Challenge, questions of great philosophical import, and randomly selected topics of no significance whatsoever

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Location: Missouri, United States

In no particular order, I'm a professional lettering artist, a yoga practitioner, a cat lover, a vegetarian, a reader of everything from books to cereal boxes, married to a very attractive guy named Tom (nope, no kids), an exercise enthusiast, and a lot of other things I don't care to admit in a public forum. I have a BS in applied math that I haven't used in over 10 years, and I can put both feet behind my head. What else would you like to know?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Guilt and Circuses

Sunday was not a good day for me emotion-wise. I was out of sorts when I woke up and it just went downhill from there. In the afternoon I was explaining to Tom that part of my near-perpetual depression is that I feel guilty about everything.

"When I wake up, I feel guilty that I slept so late," I told him. "When I'm cleaning the bathrooms," (something I do almost every day) "I feel guilty that I haven't learned to do it faster--it takes five minutes per bathroom. When I'm doing something for my business, I feel guilty that I didn't do it earlier, because I always procrastinate on that stuff. I always feel guilty any time I spend money, no matter what I spend it on--groceries or socks or cat litter. When I cook dinner, I feel guilty that it takes me two hours to make a meal, and I also feel guilty that I have never reconciled myself to having to do it, so I resent the necessity. Whenever I'm doing household chores of any kind, I feel guilty for spending so much time on trivia instead of doing stuff for my business so that I might actually make a positive difference in the world. When I read, I feel incredibly guilty that I'm not doing something productive." I paused, and then continued.

"Remember early in our relationship, when you joked that I couldn't possibly have all that much guilt to deal with, because I'm not Catholic, and Catholics--especially Catholic mothers--have cornered the market on experiencing and spreading guilt? I thought you were wrong, but I didn't want to argue with you about it at the time."

He smiled wryly. "Where could you have possibly gotten all this guilt?" he inquired rhetorically. "Who could have trained you to feel this way? Who could it possibly be?"

I knew exactly what he was talking about. After my father died, when I was seven years old and my brother was two, we were raised exclusively by our mother. I not only look like her, I have inherited many of her personality traits. Not all, but many. I have a lot of good things from her, but many of the things about me that drive Tom (and other people) crazy come from her too. She trained me well. For example, I did not understand until I was about thirty years old that it isn't normal for kids to be put through the third degree and treated as though they had committed a crime if they bring home a report card with five A's and one B. (To be fair, I must mention that for straight A's, which was my standard report card score through the end of high school, I got to choose a restaurant and we would go out to dinner. Unlike many of my classmates' parents, my mother did not believe in rewarding children with money, which was fine by me.) The flak I got when I flunked out of college after my freshman year was not any worse than the "bad" report-card hullabaloo, although it lasted longer. (I switched colleges after that notable failure and subsequently did pretty well. I have the dubious honor of being one of the few college graduates to possess a transcript containing the line, "Removed from academic probation," immediately followed by the line "Placed on Honor Roll," all for the same semester. Tom is another member of this exclusive club.) :-) One of my college friends met my mother for the first time after several years of hearing me talk about her. Later this friend said to me, "Y'know, until I met her for myself, I always believed you were exaggerating when you talked about your mother...."

I returned Tom's wry smile. "Who, indeed?"

"Your mother," he said, with the gravity of one issuing a solemn pronouncement, "could have been the mother of the pope."


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