January 28, 2013
Thoughts on Guilt
Generally speaking, I am someone who experiences a great deal of guilt. Now, mostly I don't mind. I think that a whole lot of the time guilt is there to make you feel bad about crappy things you've done so that you don't do them again. It's nature's little correction system, and I have high standards for myself that I fail to live up to now and again (often) and so it makes sense that I would feel guilty when I blow it. That lousy feeling is worth avoiding. Guilt, I believe, it mostly there to tell you when you're doing something bad or being a jerk. It's like a warning system that rings an alarm when I'm coming off the path.
Posted by Stephanie at January 28, 2013 3:35 PM
I know that's not always true about guilt. When the kids were little and summer vacation would end, I would just about weep with joy. I would be a good, loving and committed mother all summer long. We'd go to the park and do crafts and have no TV and it would be beautiful for the kids, and I wouldn't resent it all (much) and then the first day of school would come and I'd drop the three of them off and then be the mum in the schoolyard wishing them a happy day and pretending like I was going to miss them... then trying to get all the other parents to high five me and hug the minute that the door to the school closed with them on the other side of it.
Always, while I was trying to kiss some random woman on the mouth in a pure human expression of happiness, there would be some mother - you know the one, she exists in every schoolyard in the world, the mum who says "Oh no. I hate the first day of school. I miss my children so much when they aren't with me" and it would hit me like a train. A train with a snowplow on the front of it. Guilt. A big crushing tsunami of guilt that I didn't love my children enough to want to be with them all the time. It would always take a few minutes for me to remember the truth. You're not a crap mum if you think it's really okay to enjoy a cup of coffee without someone throwing a lego in it. Without someone yelling "SHE'S LOOKING OUT MY WINDOW." I wasn't a bad mother because I wanted to pee by myself just once or twice a year. I'd put down the guilt and walk away. I could define good mothering for myself, and I had. That mum's feelings were hers, not mine. Guilt is a feeling you're supposed to experience when you cross your moral line, not the moral line of the lady down the street.
I try hard not to confuse the first and second types. Is it my moral line, or someone else's? Is my guilt appropriate? (I let myself down) or inappropriate? (I let that lady down.) Mostly now that I'm middle aged I have the difference straight, though I have to check in regularly. Now the only sort of guilt I can't cope with is the third type. The kind I feel when I get something nice, or luxurious. You know what I mean? Like when I'm in the grocery store buying organic milk and that bread made with nine kinds of sprouted seeds while wearing my cashmere scarf and new coat, and the guy in line in front of me is scraping up pennies for pasta, an apple and some carrots for the kid with him, A kid who could really use a scarf at all, never mind cashmere. You know that kind of guilt? Sometimes when I talk about this kind of guilt, the conversations I have are confusing to me. They have been since I was little, and here I am, a big, grown up lady and I still can't cope.
When I articulate these feelings, this sense of feeling bad and guilty for having nice things, invariably someone tells me that I shouldn't feel bad, that I deserve these things, and that I work hard to afford them, and that I have earned the luxury. They're probably right. It's not like Joe and I are rich. We budget really carefully each month, making decisions about where our money goes, and why. If we want something nice, like to go out to dinner, we have to look at the money and make some decisions. We work hard - we probably do deserve the things that we have been able to buy. The thing is, and this is where it gets hard for me, who is to say that the guy in the supermarket who was scraping up the pennies - Who's to say that he doesn't deserve the sprouted grains bread too?
The odds are pretty good that the guy works harder than I do. Years ago I worked at a community centre for a segment of the population that tends to be low-income, and at risk. I was way broke back then, and while I had a grocery budget that was ridiculously low (see aforementioned pasta, apple and carrots) we were never hungry. A lot of these people were. A lot of them would feed their kids and not themselves, because they had to make choices, and here's the killer. Most of them had two jobs. A full time crappy job and a part time crappy job, just to make ends barely meet. They were working way, way more hours than I was, at jobs that I think are much harder than what I was doing. There was a voice in the back of my head back then, and it's still there now. That voice wonders, if you deserve the money you get, if I earned the right to have nice things, then how come these people aren't? Do secretaries work that much harder than the guy scrubbing the toilets at the local? Does a big time baseball player work that much harder than the secretary? I know it's complicated, I know that people are going to say all kinds of stuff like maybe that poor person should have gotten an education, or maybe Warren Buffett really is so smart that he deserves billions of dollars, or... I don't know. A thousand things that make it harder to quantify what people are worth - and all that stuff is true too.
The problem is that when push comes to shove, we're all told that if you work hard and do what you're supposed to do then you will get what you deserve, and I think living in a society that believes that? I think that's gotta feel like total crap if you're a 57 year old taxi driver working 60 hours a week in Toronto, trying your best to pay the bills. Especially if you're an immigrant from a war torn country where you were a surgeon. I'm sure, if you're that immigrant, you understand what happened, and what choices you made, and all that - but I bet it makes that taxi driver want to take people who imply that you straight up get what you deserve depending on how hard you work for a long, long ride with the fare running the whole time.
I don't know what the answer to this sort of guilt is. I do my best to spread my good fortune around, I offer time and money to organizations that are working for a society I would like to live in - I vote for politicians who are mostly going to do work that reflects my belief that you don't always get what you deserve, and that sometimes circumstances or bad luck conspire against people, and that we all need a society that reflects that. It doesn't help much. Mostly I still feel guilty when I have something nice. I've heard the argument that I'm not comfortable with nice things because my self esteem is low. I'm willing to buy that on some level - but really, it isn't that I don't think I deserve a rest, or a vacation, or cashmere. It's that I really think that most people do- and I feel bad having something that they're not, when they're just as hardworking and worthy as I am. More worthy a lot of the time. I don't even have to put on pants to go to work most days.
Anyway, I apologize for the ramble. This whole thing was brought on by my realization that I hadn't told you guys that I'm going on vacation next week - and then realized that I hadn't told you because I feel guilty that I'm getting something nice. Something nice I totally worked for, saved up for and earned - and still have really, really complex feelings about.
Guilt. Got any?
I know exactly how you feel. Exactly.
yes to this type of guilt, all the time. i give people the hat off my head i feel so guilty for having one when they don't!
i'm not sure how to deal with it - yes, you deserve nice things and vacations and all that, and yes, so does every single other person. so i try to give them that as much as i can - i donate what i knit, i give money away, and i buy people a beer or a coffee if i can.
and i remind people who say the stuff about "that person should have x, y or z and then they wouldn't be in that situation" that they are just a short step away from not having everything they have. we all are - a job loss, a health scare, a death in the family and most of us would find ourselves on our asses faster than we'd realize.
and then i knit another hat and give it away. and try to hug the people around me as much as i can. and hope that's enough.
I have been reading your blog for a really long time, but have never commented before. I hope you have a WONDERFUL guilt-free vacation with lovely weather. You do deserve it. :)
Screw the guilt...Enjoy your vacation!!! I love vacations no matter whose they are...I love hearing about where people go and the experiences they had almost (not quite) as much as I love going on vacation myself. I can't wait to hear all about your vacation when you return.
Safe travels and I hope you have a wonderful vacation. We (and probably your guilt) will be waiting here to welcome you home!
Yikes! Have fun! I'd be worrying about what projects/yarn to bring!
I have that kind of guilt. When I lived in Boston I would sometimes carry snack bars, an extra hat, or bottles of water to give to homeless people in the subway when it was really hot or really cold outside.
I did all the right things and had some good luck, so I'm not rich, but I can buy a bottle of wine without adjusting my monthly budget. As I look back, though, I can see where one thing or another could have catastrophically altered my course in life and I would need major help.
You are so real and down to earth and honest with yourself and everyone. I know just how you feel, and your self-awareness makes you such a role model for me. Thank you for sharing this post, and enjoy your wonderful vacation.
I firmly believe in karma, and helping others when I can, however I can, whether it's giving them a knit scarf to keep warm, or walking their dog for them if they are ill. You shouldn't feel guilty for having nice things, you do deserve them; and I've read enough of your blog (and met you a couple of times, too) to know that you spread the wealth so to speak, when you can. I figure one way to balance the universe is practice random acts of kindness, especially if the other person will never know. Please enjoy your vacation, you have earned it.
Me too! Other than continuing to wrestle with it, I don't know if there is "A" solution. Happy vacation!!! Hopefully some of that guilty luxury will end up here in beautiful photos. :)
Barrels of guilt.
I remind myself that life is not fair, and that I lucked out. That means I must do the best/most I can with what I have, and not be a shit.
Sue and I are going on a cruise in France this summer. And even tho we told people when we bought the tickets (read: sticker shock), we haven't said a thing to most people about it since. Why? B'c half our friends don't have jobs right now. And 1/4 of the other half are under employed. And I know I feel guilty about it. Even tho we saved for this. It is our 10th anniversary and we kinda feel like we deserve it. But then... we don't talk about it b'c we don't want to ruffle our friends feathers. It is hard and I *so* relate to you. blargh.
Guilt? Heaps and mounds at the moment. And lots of the 4th kind of guilt, the kind that other people try to inflict upon you to make you feel inferior. The hardest kind to overcome, I think.
I'm also no stranger to "nice things guilt." And I've got no answers to make it less or easier. I can confidently say though, that you should go on your vacation, leave your guilt here and we will keep it company for the week! Have a wonderful trip and be safe!
I want to thank you for the way you write and the topics that you are willing to raise on this blog. It would be so easy to sit where you are and not talk about these uncomfortable things and say "ooh, look, beautiful yarn". But you do raise them in a way that is thoughtful and respectful and thought-provoking and I thank you for that. No answers for you, as this is an issue for me as well. And, please don't stop the parade of beautiful yarn either.
Get out of my head! Really, you seem to crawl right in there and spill out all my secrets. Oh I feel guilty about things that happened before I was born and things that will happen when i go to the Big Yarn Store in the sky. "Good things come to he who waits; as long as he works while he waits." I try to remember that, and fail miserably. Enjoy your vacation. My hubby says "vacation is a change of work". We still fight about enjoying ourselves after 40 years.
I feel a lot of that guilt as well. I feel like most people in my situation don't feel it but my major Anthropology that I got my bachelor's in made me understand cultural difference more intensely and I see why the kids in the inner city even if they had lovely, hard working parents would have so many less opportunities then me and how their school system and cultural feel at the school would unfortunately hold them back.
The other part of MY own guilt as a 22 year old is A. I have a full time job (where most people my age do not), B. I feel guilty that I'm still relying on family for some kinds of support, even though I know I could do it on my own in a minute if I had to - but I feel guilty I suppose because I'm still "figuring it out" - I feel like I'm flaky but well, How can you not be when you don't know what's happening in a month?!
So many kinds and faces of guilt!
I think you summed up how most of us feel/think. I like to think that if we work hard and treat everyone fairly that good things will follow. When things don't seem to be falling into place, I think that we just have to believe that they will in time and for all those counting their pennies, good things are still coming their way. Don't feel guilty about your vacation. Everyone deserves great things.
Life is a cycle of highs and lows. Do not let someone's low point diminish your high point. Let the universe help when you can not.
And have a great trip!
Oh yeah, I totally know about guilt. I was really struck by your measuring rod about it. Is it my own or someone else's moral line. That is a stroke of brilliance for me, since I always get screwed up over where I end (good intentions, guilt, and all) and where someone else's stuff begins. I also breathe guilt, since I am a mother to two small children. I try really hard to be an active, involved parent, yet guilt persists because I think I'm not doing it enough. Hard enough, long enough, the right kind of materials, enough money, yadda yadda yadda ad nauseam. Sometimes I think guilt makes me try harder when I might be sorely tempted to throw in the towel, but more and more lately I am realizing how corrosive that damn emotion (is it an emotion?) really is.
Sorry to go on so much, but that really has struck a chord with me. Whenever I have some sort of issue, I find myself comparing it to others on a global scale. Usually I have what I call a "luxury problem"--car won't start, or I need to stop by the gas station before going on my way. But the dang guilt still pervades a lot in my life. Probably need to find a new hobby...perhaps I better ramp up my knitting! Rechannel the guilt...take up needle felting (argh). :P
we all have that guilt now and then, and you simply cannot give everything you've worked for away. you have to have some reward for your work, some wonderful, beautiful thing - cashmere or Nassau - to take a moment and recharge. and yes, others deserve that, too, and that's why we give when we can... as long as you realistically plan your charitable giving, and you're ok with the amount you give, I think you should be able to face yourself in the mirror just fine each day... (but nobody says you can't treat the guy in the grocery line in front of you to a bag of groceries or sprouted grain bread... or a small gift card to the store you're in... I keep those on hand for those random, spirit-guiding-me moments... random gifting is part of my planned giving, and I love how it's so much more personal than an online donation...)
enjoy your vacation. :-) we truly appreciate you and all that you give to make the world better.
I get your guilt issues. I currently work 2 jobs, my 3rd one ended a year ago. Guilt is why I took my gloves out of my bag and gave them to a kid at school today because he doesn't have any. I have come to an understanding with myself- vacations-which I work for -are for recharging and renewing, they enable me to work 2 jobs, to deal with parents, students, my own family and grandchildren with renewed vigor. I am learning to accept the blessings that come to me with grace. Not everyone will have the same blessings, it's up to me to recognize and show thanks for them.
Enjoy your vacation, for all that you give us, you are a blessing in my life!
A thought provoking post. I so get this....not that I know how to deal with that kind of guilt either. I work in a job that focuses on balancing some of the inequities. My family and I try to do what we can for others. We work to build a world that's more just, more caring... I don't know, but maybe the guilt is the cosmic nudge to not take anything for granted, to share what you have, to do what good you can, and to be grateful for the blessings that you have. Maybe without it we'd all become too complacent - the discomfort leads to action.
Any chance it's on an island with Mum and Hank again??!!! I think it's harder to not feel guilty when the reward is the nicest. If you were taking a week off to be in Toronto or maybe someplace like Thunder Bay or Northern Ontario, or winter camping near Hudson's Bay, you wouldn't feel as guilty as one does going someplace really nice. But all of us need to re-charge the batteries and please, GO DO IT. I just got back from 4 nights in Florida. I scraped for the airfare, I stayed with friends who have a condo and generous enough to share, and I contributed what I could to meals and animal care (1 dog, 1 cat). I only stayed as long as I could afford both to pay for and to be off work. I only feel a bit guilty because I was gone the days it was wa-a-ay below zero F here in MN.
Yep, lots of guilt. I grew up Catholic. But I really don't think one religion has a monopoly on it. There I go . . . feeling guilty for claiming all the guilt.
I really understand this feeling. I grew up in a solidly middle-class family, and most of my friends growing up had parents that made just slightly less than my parents. I got horse riding lessons and holidays abroad, they barely got to see their parents. It felt unfair then and it feels unfair now, when I'm a university student getting spending money from them while my friends go the last few days of the month on one tin of tuna.
I think it's partly my background and partly living in a society that is much bigger on "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need" than the US (which, by sheer volume, tends to dominate all discourse), but I am, at heart, kind of a communist. Rationally I know it's not a realistic solution, so I give to charity, vote for people who believe in progressive taxation, and try to accept that the world is not fair, and sometimes you get windfalls you don't necessarily deserve.
Well said! I think the fact that you have the guilt just shows that you are a compassionate person ~ have a wonderful (and hopefully guilt-free)
I DO know what you mean. Every time I read a yarn store newsletter requesting warm knitted clothing donations for the needy I feel like I might not be doing enough. Mind you I knit at least 5 to 6 hours a day to fill the inventory for the charity I run with 6 friends of mine which donates hundreds of items of clothing in a year and have been doing this for the last seven years. And yet I feel guilt. It must be genetic. I had an Italian grandmother who thrived on guilt! I gotta get over it!!!
I tend towards guilt like that too, and I usually manage to cope with it by deciding to think that they are facts, not a measurement of 'deserving'.
It is a fact that you work hard and think smart and therefore have what you have.
It is also a fact that not everyone is that lucky.
It is yet another fact that there are some who don't work hard at all and have more than all of us.
It is an unfortunate Fact, and based on your efforts with things like Knitters Without Borders; you accept the Fact, and try to change the Fact as much as you can. However, foregoing the luxuries that make you feel guilty will not change the less-lucky ones' fate - they will just make you miss out on luxuries.
Yep. Got that covered. I'm also SUPER tired of hearing that garbage about you get what you work for or deserve. My partner has been out of work almost 2 years, and we did get an education. We did all the right things and followed all that advice folks told us growing up, but we had the damn bad luck to graduate in 2006 into a TERRIBLE US economy. And things haven't looked up much since then. Still, I am thankful for what I have. I know it could be so much more terrible than it is, but dang. If hard work equals awesome life, I think a lot of us have paid in more than we're getting out by now. :D
Enjoy your vacation. Leave the guilt home. It won't fit in your luggage.
It seems to me that the guilt you describe demonstrates the socioeconomic imbalance existing in our society. Is it guilt or is it shame? As guilt, it seems a little disingenuous to me. However, what I admire, appreciate and embrace in you is your great generousity to your family, friends, cyberfamily and strangers, your sense of humour, your vulnerability, your thoughtfulness, talent, and love. With this and so much more, why waste a second on guilt when what you do share moves us all to be better at our lives than we were the moment before.
Maybe the way to deal with going on holiday and having nice things should not be guilt but gratitude?
You pay it forward in so many ways to so many people. Allow that to balance some of the material guilt that you feel. Give to yourself so you can come back recharged and give back in many effective ways.
Guilt is always around the corner when you care about someone other than yourself. It's people who don't feel guilty that cause most of the misery in the world. Try to leave it behind and enjoy your vacation!
Enjoy!!!!! your vacation,everybody needs a break of sorts
When you come back orginize a
"Keep Warm and Carry on" Kal
Hats,mitts,scarf,sweater,blanket to be dropped off somewhere in the citys where ever people read this blog.
PS We also won't feel quilty about our stash because we can use it up well ssome of it.
I wish politicians felt some guilt and compassion before they start slashing budgets for those folks who are the most in need and the most badly affected by downturns in the economy. Send your guilt to the US Congress please!
Good for you ---enjoy every deserved moment!
GUILT --I was brought up on it --it is used by government, religion, to CONTROL PEOPLE. Guilt does not add one bit of knowledge to us. I learned in retirement to have "a daily give" and am now happy to give without guilt. Part of giving for me --is to ENJOY the MOMENT!!!!
Oh, yeah. The guilt that comes of living in an unjust society. If you didn't have that guilt you would be heartless. It's guilt that makes you humane and kind. It's guilt that I'd rather have than not have. It means I give a damn.
Yes, exactly. I know why things are this way, but it doesn't make feel any better about it. What frustrates me the most is that while each of our individual efforts to make things better is important, we really need system-wide change. This requires political will and a strategy. In a democracy, this means voters need to vote for leaders who will work toward this goal. Too often people vote against their own interests. It drives me batty sometimes.
Sorry to be so long winded. I think about all of this (the guilt, how to work toward a better system, how to get people more engaged, how to make thing more fair) A LOT.
Thank you for articulating what I feel a great deal of the time. The fact is, there's more to wealth than just 'hard work'. If there weren't, then a LOT more people would be wealthy (and some who are wealthy would be dirt poor). It seems to me you've struck the right balance between recognizing the inequity and being an appreciative steward of the gifts you've worked for and those that have accrued to you. You also make conscious decisions to work to mitigate the inequity. Unless you are willing to forgo all pleasure (for instance, no more buying yarn, which is, after all, rather a luxury), you have to make peace with the fact that your denying yourself a vacation isn't going to fix the problems of the guy in the supermarket. I'd argue that a well-deserved break might give you the motivation and energy to do more to change the world when you return. Go, rest, enjoy - the world will be here in all its dubious glory when you get back.
I work not far from Canada's poorest postal code. There is a lot of hate for the poor and the homeless here (and a lot of other places I imagine) and I feel guilty that I have never wondered where my next meal will come from or where I will sleep that night and I feel really really guilty that sometimes I feel numb towards the people I walk past on my way to the train.
You express that third kind of guilt so well...and yes, it's a daily companion. It's gotten worse over the years, as the society around me has seemed to harden into a worship of selfishness and victim-blaming...I just can't understand that. Yet it's easy for me (probably not you) to use anger at those without compassion to push away the guilt that might nudge me to what I could do (not everything, but some things.)
I hope you can enjoy your vacation fully. When good things do land on us, I think it's good to accept them with joy...and if it's something that can't be shared (if your next knitting book hits #1 on the bestseller list, for instance) to not waste its goodness by slathering guilt over it. You have shared so much with so many people...it's OK if you have the occasional vacation or cashmere scarf.
Just balance the guilt with gratefulness - embrace being grateful for what you have, do what you can to help others, and put those against the guilt. The guilt is still a good thing to some extent, since it helps us act generously, but extreme guilt doesn't help anyone...it just stresses you out! Its a mindfulness thing, I think...acknowledge the guilt and accept.
And then enjoy your vacation!
I feel this all the time, but it makes me quite happy to feel this. The feeling of guilt at having nice things that I work hard to earn helps me to know that I will never take for granted the nicer things in life that do come my way. In fact, I think I'd be quite afraid of the guilt going away; I think I would begin to worry that I had developed a sense of entitlement.
Like others, I want to thank you for your blog, the yarn pleasure we get, and also for raising these issues. I relate to you on many levels, and that's why I read your blog. As for the guilt, I'm with you there. I have been blessed in my lifetime.
When you are feeling guilty, remember the more than $1 million you have caused to be donated on behalf of Knitters Without Borders. You are a good person very deserving of a break.
And do tell us your plans! We always love hearing about your vacations!
It is complicated. But if no one went on vacation until everyone could go on vacation, vacations wouldn't exist. A lot of people's jobs are in tourism and other services people on vacation are likely to need or use. Be a friendly, polite consumer when you are consuming is my only advice.
Feelings of guilt are part of the being human, but a waste of energy better spent in doing, something,.. anything. A charitable heart is a wonderful thing and very contagious. When will people realize that they get much more in return when they are charitable?
But life is not fair....people are responsible for their choices. And when they need help, that is where we have a chance to bless them with a hand up. Why do we work hard? So after we have provided for our own family, we can have the resources to help others.
Vacations are to recharge us. So go...recharge so when you return, you can bless others :-)
As I live in a dutch country site with a lot of animals around me, cruelly enclosed in huge barracks I feel very quilty about their miserable lives. For example 30.000 chickens in 2 barns, never seeing normal light!
I donate to all kinds of organisations, and am still very unhappy about this.
How on earth can we treat each other decently, if we treat animals, dependent on us, as products?
It seems like sort of a delicate balance, though, isn't it? At some point if we all stayed home doing good deeds and being self sacrificing, then more people would end up out of work who currently work in fields supporting what we consider luxuries. I don't get the sense that you spend with reckless abandon and no conscience- I think you should enjoy what you do spend on if you are able to squash the guilt gut.
Stephanie - Guilt prevents us from being present from one of life's greatest emotions - JOY. If you can't be present and in the moment and enjoy the fruits of your labor, then why the hell are you working so hard?
So release the guilt - it's just a nasty trap in this instance. Have a wonderful time.
Have a nice vacation.
life is not fair. everyone will never be equal. do what you can.
This is the guilt we wish our political leaders could feel more acutely--I'm thinking, for example, of Eton-educated David Cameron putting steel hawsers around youth benefits, and talking about a "culture of entitlement" among disadvantaged youth. (An Eton education somehow doesn't breed a culture of entitlement? Seriously?) Or Stephen Harper criticizing other nations for their economic situations when our own is supported by natural resources that he himself did not create. Or the Harris administration cutting welfare benefits by an enormous percentage because ... well, actually, I can't remember what his rationale was. Or anyone looking at the difference between life in developed countries and the developing world and not weeping.
If you take your own feelings of guilt to their logical conclusion, though, they are really an awareness of the appalling inequities in the distribution of resources, locally, nationally and world-wide. You act on it with generosity and honour, and you show leadership in doing it: a really, really long bike ride; Tricoteuses sans Frontieres; the money you give as a family.
So now you should go on holiday and have a brilliant time, and not even think about whether you deserve this more or less than someone else!
Oh my, yes. People only joke about Catholic guilt because it is a real thing, and I have it in spades. I have no idea how to handle it either... it always feels like whatever I'm doing it's never going to be enough. And then whenever I try to just live my life and ignore the guilt it comes back and ambushes me worse than ever. My dad has been trying to tell me for years that this means I'm a good person, and empathy is good, and that I should be worried if I wasn't concerned for my fellow humans. Which is clearly not helpful.
Oh, my, yes! Usually I just have to figure that I'm doing the best I can. But, then, that little voice says, "Are you really?" It's complicated since we could all probably do more, but I hope I'm learning to put the guilt aside and enjoy small luxuries that reflect my values, sprouted bread from a local bakery, a scarf or sweater I knitted that I will enjoy for years to come, etc. Guilt can really suck all of the joy out of life and that's tragic, too.
I believe that all people are inherently equally worthy. Many work very hard and some are rewarded more for that because of how our economic system is structured. The myth that everyone is getting what they deserve was created by the rich to justify their greed. You and I respect all people, those who are getting lots and those who are not. We did not invent this wacky system that rewards some and not others. So we do not need to feel guilty, just compassionate toward those who are working hard and not getting much. You, for example, use your blog to raise funds for Dr without borders. I do lots of volunteer work. I have very little money in general, but sometimes I get a windfall, like I did last week. So I called the cruise line and got a super deal on a last minute (leaving in 36 hours) week long cruise to Mexico. And I went and do not feel the least bit guilty. Just a bit overfed. Diet time!
Enjoy your vacation.
I know exactly what you mean. Its not easy dealing with that kind of guilt BUT it is also a feeling that drives many of us to volunteer our time and talents to those less fortunate. I thank the good Lord each and every day for all of my blessings because all that I have is from Him (ie I was able to get a good education regardless that my family was very poor because he instilled intelligence and motivation in me).... I have sometimes been that person that no matter how hard I work, it doesn't seem to pay off - and then it did.
We should be thankful for what we do have because it could be nothing one day.... and we should always be thankful for what we can do for others, no matter how small the action (donating hats, for example)
Thank you for this. Just yesterday, I found myself falling prey - but thankfully noticing that I did so, and being bemused by it - to the opposite feeling, which in me took the form of "I have worked so hard for so long, and it's STILL difficult, the budget it STILL tight, why do other people get help and not me?"
It made my heart feel small and tight. I would rather have the guilt. I would rather have that feeling of shy awe about how well I am loved, by so many people, and knowing that they will never let me truly fall.
This was a good reminder.
Enjoy your vacation - I hope it renews you.
Also, the "she's looking out my window" thing. Yes there too. Exactly that happened to us once, on vacation. It's a bit of a shock the children made it home alive from that trip.
Oh yes I get that kind of guilt too. I try to talk myself out of it but without success. If I could put a dollar value on guilt like I do so many other things like cashmir, Starbucks, and so many other things I'd be rich! Who determined that cashmir is soooo much more valuable than say acrylic anyway. They are after all just sweaters and scarves no matter what they are made of. Enjoy the vacation!!!
I believe the guilt feelings are a response to what I call the question "Is this fair". No it is not fair that some have, and deserving others do not have. We are in a class that has enough, works hard, and have been lucky and priveledged with many other facts that make our lot in lifw better than some. I believe that you are doing what your "feelings of guilt" are meant to accomplish. Some type of personal action, writing, knitting for others, giving. I have started to openly confess to my conservative friends and family, that I am proud to be " a bleeding heart liberal", because it means I care about others. I do not make up excuses as to why I should ignore the unfairness. I haven't found the answers, but I am not blind to the welfare of others.
Guilt is something, that says you care. A lot. Guilt makes me knitting hats and scarves and mittens for the community centre in my town every Christmas so people get something really nice. And I use the very softest yarn I can afford. I've got plenty, they're cold. No big deal, I love doing what I do and I love giving away the results of my doing.
It doesn't help, the guilt remains. Philosophical question of Mr Sartre, I think: May I write literature as long as people are starving beside me? Yes - that's my answer - you may. That is life. It's mine and theirs, it's hard and injust and it's just the way it is.
And believe me, the man with the noodles and the apple and the carrot is not just spending his days with scraping pennies and trying to make a living of it. He's having fun like we do, hard times like we do, troubles and good times like we do.
When I saw a picture on BBC of a lady in Japan during the atomic crisis, this thought came home to me. She was a bit older than me and apparently wore something handknitted. My life, small and simple it may be, it was still there, while hers was torn to pieces. May I go on living happily seing this woman in the ruins of her life? Yes, I think, I have to. It would not be worthwhile otherwise. All I can do is bow to what is there, accept the harshness of reality and simply not stop caring.
So why do you not only give yourself your retreat wholeheartedly, but also give your guilt some rest? It won't go, it will be back eventually, it will be there, because you go on caring, even having time off of seing what you have and others do not have.
I'm right there with you. I know I don't do enough and I know there's really no good reason that I get to be a stay at home mom and my cousin is a working single mom. Neither of us is inherently better - yes, her decisions were slightly suckier but that's not because I don't make crap decisions. See same for guy in the store. Now, I'm fine if there are two families that make the same $$ and they have nothing to show for it or are a breath away from the brink while driving a BMW and we're financially secure - I"m cool with that. Then I think that's where your education comes in - like, you have an education, and a job you should be able to figure this out.
Otherwise, I recognize the truth of luck and karma, I guess. I"m exceptionally lucky that I'm not living in a cold apartment with only carrots on assistance and I try and help people out while not being an ass (which is where the karma comes in). I guess.
It's hard. I"m ok with socialism in these respects. Fine with it. There's really no good reason why Bill Gates can buy half the world and I cannot. Just like there are probably hundreds (if not more) who would be greater composers than Mozart but have never been put in front of a piano - missed opportunities, wrong place...ya know? Mozart was LUCKY, probably more so than saying the others were unlucky....
If that makes any sense. But, because you have been lucky means you should enjoy that luck (to an extent) without guilt as long as it's not just ridiculous. Real housewives are ridiculous. Going on a sensible vacation occasionally is just lovely. Going on an extravagant vacation (provided you can afford it) occasionally is also lovely.
Stopping typing now.
I've been feeling this since I got engaged. I'm in my 40s, have a good job, enough money for food, housing and some medical care for my elderly cat. Now, I've unexpectedly found a great guy and we're going to share our lives-and I'm supposed to register for gifts for a shower and a wedding, when really, I have everything I want. A little cash to help pay for a modest wedding (we don't have a ton of cash laying around), but that's it. And I'm incredibly happy to be blessed with friends and family, and I'm told it's selfish to not let them buy me things. Just when I've finally learned that happiness is only a little about things, and a lot about love and family and friends!
This is a very thought provoking post. I understand your 3rd type of guilt. Really good people are bound to feel it. I still do too but in order to be able to live my life and sleep nights I decided long ago not to feel guilty about things I cannot control. Life is inherently unfair. I can't control fate or the choices other people make. I do what I can to make the world around me a better place while at the same time trying to ensure that I will not be a burden on society during my lifetime. It is all I can do. Taking a vacation should not result in guilt. If you don't take that vacation and spend money doing it, some poor part time hospitality or tourist industry worker may lose his or her job. Just a different perspective that I am offering.
Guilt? Wanna hear some Mom Guilt? Yesterday I had to kick my 18 year old son out of the house. I have no idea where he is or if he's okay. The only thing that's keeping me from a total breakdown is that I have two other kids, who are doing the right thing and need me. There has never been a mother who feels more like a Crap Mum than me. Sorry, but I just needed to get that out. Keep all things in perspective Stephanie, and enjoy your vacation - you've earned it!
I'm sorry to hear you feel guilty about the good things in your life. You've done many things that help those in need--Knitters Without Borders to name one--so enjoy the good things. Don't let guilt tarnish them.
I look forward to hearing about your vacation.
Everyday. All day. When I get my airline upgrade for free (I flew 180K miles last year). When I look at my stash. When I get a hotel room upgrade (200 nights in hotel rooms last year). When I buy groceries. Did I earn all of the above - yep. One way or another. The guilt I struggle with is my salary for the job I do. I do a great job, but are my skills REALLY worth what they pay me?
"Deserve" has to be the single most damaging word in the English language. It implies that the world is -- or should be -- fair, which is patently untrue.
All any of us can do is find happiness for ourselves and our families, and when we have it, do what we can to share it with others who can use some.
If you didn't take that vacation and donated the money somewhere, you'd feel great about it, but that feeling can't last forever, and eventually you'd be tired and grouchy and that feeling would seep out and infect everyone around you. Just be grateful for your wealth and share the wealth in the form of goodwill and everything will be so much better.
Personally, i try to resolve that third kind of guilt by taking 'deserve' out of the equation. I honestly cannot say I feel I deserve all the wonderful things that have happened to me or the material possessions I have, nor did I deserve the awful bits. So I feel it is only fair to apply the same logic to others. I always feel uncomfortable when someone tells me I deserve something.
That being said, I do believe in committing to work that helps to lessen the hardships for others, and I'm a sucker for fundraising campaigns for charities- especially those that work to help children in forced labour. For me, guilt must be a stimulus for action.
I have the same issues, but I've learned this: When you're on vacation, you're giving other people jobs! Who cleans your hotel room? Someone whose kids need food on the table. Tip well and enjoy it!
I understand your feelings... I have complex feelings too. I just started a career in government and I just bought my first house. It's a really nice house with stainless steel appliances and my OWN WASHING MACHINE. But I feel like I don't deserve all these nice things. I'm modest, I don't want to hold myself higher than other people. I guess it's a bit of guilt... And yet I went to school for 9 years!! I deserve the job I have! But other people who have the same credentials I have might not get a job like mine. There's also the environmental argument. I don't want to be a consumer... but here I am with fancy shmancy appliances... I totally get it.
Stephanie and all the good commentors above, yes, yes and yes. I am right there with you on all of this.
I repeat what others above me have said: great post and have a wonderful vacation to relax and recharge. Even though you DO deserve it, do it because it has come your way and it helps you be who you are all the time.
Take your vacation and enjoy it! You have worked hard to earn the money for it, I'm sure you've carefully budgeted for it, and you deserve it. Right now I'm feeling guilty because I'm not working. I do have an interview tomorrow, but I feel like I should have more. My husband earns a LOT more money than I do, or probably ever will, and some might say I don't need to work, but I do, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I want to buy something for myself without feeling guilty about it or that I don't deserve it because I didn't earn the money to pay for it. And I NEED a vacation, like nobody's business, and I need to earn the money for it.
I firmly believe that we can always look up and we can always look down. Looking up we see people who get so much more than we do. And looking down we see people who get so much less. And I think that nearly everyone has an up and a down in their life. We can choose which way we look.
Not your usual Yarn Harlot type post, but perhaps all the more interesting for that very reason.
I'm no wise woman of the woods with memorable words to share, but I believe that it is good that you think about and consider what you feel, do, and think.
Being aware of others and what they lack and being aware of how we are so often blessed helps us to become thankful, thoughtful people who are cognizant of our blessings. To take these gifts for granted seems to lead to a self-centered, entitlement mentality.
I hope you can let the guilt go, there's nothing healthy or productive in that, just remain grateful for your blessings and enjoy them.
I don't think ANY of us really _deserves_ anything we have. Every little thing is a gift from God. How we deal with what we have been given says it all. Stephanie, you share, you appreciate what you have. You notice the plight of others and do things to alleviate that suffering. No reason to feel guilty about that! But I know what you mean. I constantly wonder why I'm here living a privileged life and others are starving. It's baffling.
Yes guilt is all around - like the old Phil Ochs song, There but for the Fortune.
It all comes down to opportunities. We that are reading this blog have had pretty good opportunties in our lives, we have extra money for yarn. I am grateful and try to help the less fortunate and treat everyone with the respect they deserve.
Enjoy your vacation - you earned it.
I know exactly how you feel.
I kinda live in the middle; we're in an apartment in a place where kids are given cars without their parents blinking. My boyfriend works and goes to school; I work as does my sister. We live with the parents. My boyfriend hasn't had contact with his dad for nearly a year. My dad works two jobs and we only have one car, so my mom drives us all everywhere.
BUT - we are seriously blessed. Wehave a roof over our heads and food on our table. And we have fun. We care for each other. And when we can, we give back.
Sometimes I buy nice yarn - like 100% merino wool. I used to feel guilty about it (my boyfriend lost nearly everything leaving his dad but never asks for anything, and neither do my parents) but then I realized - it's okay. I'm allowed to have nice things once in a while. :)
And so are you. :) Enjoy your vacation; don't feel guilty.
(Sorry if that was way too much, btw.)
Tricky business guilt. But your confused feelings about it are what make you (and I and many others) different from the people who talk (in the US) about the "47%"... the idea that they accuse the "47%" of feeling entitled as they themselves belittle the "47%" because they feel like they (apparently the 53%) have worked harder and deserve more is unbelievable.... I work, nowhere near as hard physically as my parents did as they struggled to raise my brother and I, and give where I can and feel it will be best used... but I do feel torn also.
Enjoy that well-earned vacation! Hope it is to somewhere warmer and sunnier than Canada at this time of year!
Everyone should earn the same salary and collectively own the means of production. We can't individually change the inequalities. Just do the best you can, be generous, be kind, enjoy life and knit!
I will not be as bold to tell you what feelings you should have. I will tell you that this is my favorite post of yours so far. I agree that a value-heavy word like "deserved" is a slippery slope, for the reasons you outlined above. I think some of us are just luckier than others and that karma is real. We each have a responsiblity to help build the world we want to live in. And we all build the world we're living in, whether we like it or not, whether we think about it or not. And, vacations are part of the world I would like us all to live in, and I hope yours is wonderful!
Yes and no. I work really hard to be grateful. Yes, I know that I have a beautiful home, and lovely children who are healthy and smart and (mostly) beautifully behaved, with alpaca hats I just knit them in the free time I have after they are in bed while I sit and watch Downton Abbey on TV, after a day at a job that pays really well and is interesting and even fun. No -I don't spend as much time feeling guilty, because for me, that way lies darkness - the worry and the sadness about all that is wrong with the world - a friend's mother said it best, I think "If I think too hard about that, I'll never get out of bed again." So - I try really hard to be grateful. Grateful for all that I have, grateful for the luxury to have the problems I have, grateful to be at this point in my life. I try to put the guilt and the worry in a corner, and focus instead on gratitude. So - my suggestion is this: Go on vacation - enjoy it tremendously - and feel the gratitude!!! Gratitude is so much a better feeling than guilt - born in the same place (I think/hope) - but a better feeling. Good luck!
...great post, Stephanie.
I hate the "deserve it" argument, for all of the reasons you outline here. I think "deserve" does more harm than good.
I think that part of being a healthy, happy person (and believe me, some people can't afford THIS luxury and I know it) is figuring out what you'd like, and going for it, and celebrating your own successes and learning from your failures. It'll work out better for Warren Buffet than that guy down the street because life *isn't* fair, and things *don't* work as they should.
As a society, we should try hard to figure out systematic problems keeping population segments from realizing their dreams (even though they work hard), and fix those systematic problems. This is why women's rights, and minority rights, and working with low-income and at-risk populations, and cultural sensitivity, and worker's rights, (and more) is important. But such work is not going to succeed perfectly. A tremendous amount of chance is involved. The world isn't fair.
I don't know why I don't feel guilty in those situations. I certainly would characterize myself the same way you did--guilt tells me when I've crossed the line, and my expectations are high enough that I stray fairly frequently. I try to learn from it.
But...for whatever reason, I don't feel guilty when I see the pasta/apple/carrot guy. I feel terribly for him. Sad. Frustrated that I can't fix it. And so I try to help make life easier for people like him, in all the ways you mention. And I dunno. Maybe it'll be easier for you to let go of the guilt, if you realize that giving it up doesn't mean you lose your empathy?
Because it's that empathy, really, that gives us (as a society) the means to strive for a more perfect world.
One of the things I like about my state (other than the motto: she flies with her own wings- go Oregon!) is that we tie our minimum wage to a cost of living index. It went up this year to nearly nine dollars (8.95), which is better than the Feds (7.80). While it isn't a true living wage and there are lots people who could use more- it's a start and a bit better start than some places.
Your blog isn't just family and fun, it's work, too. It's how we keep up with a professional writer and pattern worker/creator. Non traditional job, perhaps, but its a job all the same. Like everyone else, you deserve a vacation from it, too! My vacation isn't until April, so I am living vicariously because I have wish to travel so badly until then!
Yes, to all you say, Stephanie. It is so important to appreciate whatever 'nice things' we have. There should be guilt if we're not appreciative for the fruits of our labors. So, while we can't help all who struggle, we can at least be grateful for what we have and give back in whatever way we can...small or large. Just CARING is a step in the right direct.
Compassion for humanity and our planet...that's a start! And you have plenty of compassion. Thank you.
I hope you have a wonderful vacation and will be doing something you enjoy every single minute! Guilt/schmilt.....it'll be with us always, especially women, I think. As hard as it is to talk about or even think about you did a thoughtful job of doing just that!
Yes. All the time. Right now I'm tearing myself apart over a decision to leave a job because I feel guilty jilting co-workers but I simply can't deal with it anymore. I think of the stress and the sickness and decide, then I think of the money and the friends I've made and I waiver. Then just to top it all off I think about the impact to our patients and I'm crushed by the guilt. Enough of that though. Have a great trip and you very much do deserve it.
I love you. I'm married to the taxi driver, and I'm working through my last semester of college at age 54. Which come to think of it, I am doing in a roundabout way because of you. Because the day when I showed my Mom your blog post linking to my blog post about how to do afterthought pockets, and told her what a big deal that was and how famous you were and your blog is and all the books you write and how everyone reads them, she looked at me and simply asked, in the way that only your mother can "Well, why can't you do that?"
Shakes her head and says, Stephanie, Stephanie, 87.55% of the world is poorer than Hubby and I. I suspect you are richer than I. (Here's the link to the calculator: http://globalrichlist.com/) I think it is absolutely wonderful that you get the opportunity to go on vacation. Take lots of pictures so I can enjoy your adventure as you tell me about it.
Money will not make you happy. Attitude or gratefulness is everything which is why if you ask that immigrant surgeon about his happiness level, I would bet, he will say he is happy to be alive.
Go have some fun!
And another thing. The word "deserve" should be stricken from the books. I have a hard time buying into that. Not a one of us is more deserving than any other being!
My six-word biography: "Right place, right time, sheer luck." My longer bio starts with "No one will remember me when I die, but I am one of the luckiest persons who has ever lived." And I'm not a person with a lot of money, but I own a lot of land with my husband, breath clean air, drink clean water, have enough money to eat well and put gas in my tank. That's more than most, and it's nothing I did, it's just due to the accident of my birth in a particular time, in a particular place. Recognizing the random luck involved helps a bit with the guilt. Still, you are right. Everyone should be so lucky.
Share your good fortune by being a good guest, tipping well and contributing to the local economy especially LYS's! You didn't mention if your family is vacationing with you. If so, remember this: My father used to say that your family won't remember that new washing machine you bought for them, but they will remember that vacation you bought for them. If you are going with friends instead of family, well...that's just mom guilt. No cure for that one but new yarn takes the sting out a little.
I have never commented on a blog before but this hit a nerve. I have been dealing with severe family related guilt for over a week and wondering why I always feel so guilty about so many things. Why do I own guilt that other people put on me or I put on myself? Anyway, your ramblings made me realize I am not alone and your comment about crossing my moral line or someone elses moral line put things into perspecitve. I think I might copy that line and make it a montra. I will give you full credit. Enjoy the vacation. Thanks
It's not low self esteem - it's having a tender heart. You want to make things better for people, and that's a good thing.
I see nothing wrong with having and using nice things, as long as you aren't flaunting them, which you aren't. Things are to be used; people are to be loved - not the other way around. Having "a little extra" means you can spread it around - buy food for a stranger, donate to a good cause, share your belongings with someone in need.
The purpose of a vacation is to relax and recharge - so you can be a better, happier you. What's wrong with that? Enjoy!
Have had literally the same "thought convo" regarding my level of "deserving" vs. any other person. I was a single mom for years, and i did have to work hard, but I never went to bed once worrying that I couldn't keep a roof over my baby's head, or feed him. My heart goes out to those mom's that work even more than I did, but still have that worry. Wish I knew how to fix it for JUST ONE, but I don't.
Enjoy your vacation...
I actually wrote a whole more...but it basically comes down to the simple philosophy of an "attitude of gratitude" for those of us that have our necessities (and a few fripperies)...and working to make sure that all those that work can earn the same.
Nothing irritates me more than to see someone who is blessed with a talent that pays well destroy themselves...and sometimes, those around them.
Of course I feel guilty about everything, I'm a mother and I was raised catholic! The double whammy!
But then, if you never feel guilt, that means you're a sociopath, so I think I'd rather feel guilty and try to fix it with compassion.
This said, enjoy your vacation. If you spoil it by feeling guilty, it won't help anyone! :-)
"Deserve" is a polite way to rationalize a desire, because who gets to decide who deserves what? Deity of Choice? Me? You? Our fortunes are just that, the luck of the draw that the biomass of which we are created coalesced in a particular set of circumstances, with a particular personality. The flip side of "I Deserve" is "Why Me?" which is an equally unanswerable question. "I deserve a vacation" and "Why should I get a vacation when other don't" nullify each other and leave you an open space to enjoy your vacation or not, as you choose. Choose wisely, grasshopper.
Thank you Mak (4:19 PM); defenseless children and animals raise my guilt level to unbearable sadness from not being able to save them all.
But feeling guilty about what my husband and I have worked for and managed conservatively (yes, we were unemployed at times, too) does not make me feel guilty. When I see humans in need, I share what I can. Sometimes money, sometimes my time. If I were in dire straights, sharing monetarily would be difficult; so having it allows for opportunities to help others. Equals: no guilt.
Just like all those children in need and animals treated disrespectfully, sadness and guilt does not save them all. Give what you can, even if it is just an apple or a hug, one at a time.
Dear Stephanie, you have given us so much already; I believe you've earned such a store of guilt-free chits that you can enjoy your well-earned vacation! Just be sure to write home. love, Blog
Wow. Is this the most commented on post you've written? I vote for the person who suggested that you convert your guilt into gratitude. My son is studying in Nepal. I am happy that he cares about the poor in Nepal & Tibet, but I am concerned that he will return and place guilt and blame onus/ his family and us/USA, and our wanton materialism. I agree with him, but have never been able to give up my 21st century luxuries. Enjoy your vacation.
This doesn't seem like a ramble at all. It is a question that has no easy answers and occuplies many waking thoughts for good reason. Having nice things is a mixed bag and always raises another question for me which is, "Where is the line between nice and obscenely expensive and over the top?"
I don't know if I have ever heard these feelings articulated this well. I know EXACTLY what you mean, but I've never been able to say it just like this. Despite the fact that I have less than some, I still sometimes feel guilty when I have anything left over after I buy groceries and pay rent. And it's like anything you do isn't really enough..
What a waste of a vacation if you spend it feeling guilty. I don't think anyone wants that - not the immigrant taxi driver, no-one. Enjoy!
Oh, Maggie at 4:34,I wish I could give you a hug. Sometimes there are no good choices, there's just choosing between the bad ones. I hope your child finds a safe place and realizes that being 18 means it's up to him to make his own better choices. parenting is hard.
Wow, you've got a bucket load of answers already, so if you read this far, here's my guilt ramble.
My grandad used to say "Who said life was fair?" usually after one of the kids moaned at having less of something (or too much if it was granma's rice pudding). And he was right. But he also said "You have to help life balance out" and he said that good people had bad things happen to them and bad people enjoyed good fortune and all a good person (and he was looking right at me) could do was help by sharing when they could and giving the less able a helping hand.
Steph, that's what you do. With MSF, with the little knitting tips, with the bike rides, with raising kids to have ethics and values. You try to balance things ...
No-one said life was fair, and it's certainly not. But the good of us, and in us, will always try to hold out the helping hand - we really can't make things perfect, we can only try to add a bit of balance.
Enjoy your holiday, guilt free if possible please.
I understand completely. Last year around this time my then new neighbor, a single mom of 3 who is in hiding clear across the country from her ex, had to have triple bypass surgery at age 40. My husband and I took her kids in for two weeks, and took care of her when she came home and had nobody else to help. Many of my friends thought we were crazy and that those kids were not our responsibility. My reply is always "there but for the grace of God go I". We aren't rich by any means, in fact, because our business has suffered with the economy over the past several years we haven't been able to take a real paycheck in three years (thank goodness we have savings from when times were better, which they hopefully will again, and really really soon and have always lived modestly), but I could no more have left that family to its own devices than fly to the moon. But while I am not feeling guilty about what I do have, I do know that it isn't that I deserve it or that others aren't working hard enough.
Great ramblings! I love it when you ramble. I get so lost in it. I also- like everyone else - feel the guilt. I was that mom in the school yard, pretending to be sad when I dropped them off. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. guilty as charged! But i was and still am a good mom, and my kids do tell me so - now that they're adults and know what it's all about.
Took a while, but hey, it is what it is. I believe in karma and my past lives. And I tell you, I must have been some B****! with a capital B! because there seems to be no break for me ever. I too work hard and I am seriously thinking of getting a second job for the weekends. But that's another story. My husband is self employed and that's not all that glamorous either. We are taxed to death from the business and our personal lives as well. there is nothing left over for an RRSP. He can never retire, because there is no pension. Same for me - no pension. I'll be working till I'm 95. He must have been a bad boy in a former life as well. So no more feeling guilty. You deserve that vacation! Enjoy yourself and let us poor shlepps live vicariously through you. That'll be your good deed . :)
Beautifully articulated. Especially since there are no good answers.
I am currently in the midst of 20 weeks of chemotherapy. And you know what? I feel guilty that I probably/hopefully won't die of this cancer. Because the next person in the infusion chair is dying and 3 of my friends are dying of breast cancer and I simply put, got lucky. I found the lump and at 32, took it more seriously than I would have normally and I still don't know why. I had no reason to. It was a fluke and I am breathtakingly grateful.
Go on vacation. You already make a difference. And sometimes the best way to appreciate all we have been given by simple twists of fate is to live our lives and not question it.
I loved this more than just about anything you've written and I really like just about everything you write.
I get the guilt, I have it too. This post reminded me a lot of conversations I have had with my boyfriend. Anyway, if we really do all deserve some nice things for working hard and trying to be good people, then that means that you do, too, and you share what you have. Just a thought....
And I think Warren Buffet actually suspects that it is at least a little unfair, too. He espouses that he thinks the tax code from which he benefits is unfair, at least....
I think it says a lot about your character that you worry about it at all. There are so many people who never consider giving back. I think you shouldn't look at it as "I deserve" - because yes, everyone deserves happiness, health, food, shelter...but at the same time you've earned the right to take a vacation.
As long as you're grateful and you do what you can, no one can fault you for that. Not even you.
I generally don't engage in much guilt but your discussion of guilt #3 was something about which I am very familiar. I did work hard to get where I am but much of it was luck. I got into school when someone else didn't... I got good jobs when someone else didn't... I worked (luckily) in a job which paid less but offered a pension so I am now retired when others are not able to retire. I am grateful each day I wake to find that I am still retired. The free time is such a gift. I too am uncomfortable with the term, deserve. Nothing about me "deserves" this fabulous life. I don't know the answer but I do think it's important to acknowledge the good fortune, feel grateful and give back when I can. Tip well on your trip and enjoy it! And please send pics and stories of your adventure. Those of us between trips love to hear about other's adventures. Have fun.
I've read your blog for years, and enjoyed it immensely (and all your books), but this is the first time I've felt compelled to comment. I think the fact that you are aware of your great good fortune, and that you write posts like this that might just open somebody else's eyes, and you are grateful, does a lot. You will automatically treat people better because you have this understanding. You will not have a knee-jerk, "well he must have screwed up or he wouldn't be in that situation" reaction when you see someone in a hard spot, becuase you KNOW that "but for the grace of God, there go I." Enjoy every minute of that vacation.
I fight this guilt every day. Oh, and I can really beat myself up about it. I'm solidly in the middle of the middle class (I think). I donate enough to make my husband blanch, but not so much that it significantly affects my standard of living, and I know it. (That sounds like a humble-brag. It's not. I'm conflicted.) I think of the part of Schindler's List when he realized how much more he could've done, and I realize that so many of us have that opportunity every day. And I feel sick. I am so lucky to even be able to feel this guilt, to have truly everything I need and much of what I want. Yes, it would be different if I lost my job, but I have my job, and this is how it is. I was helping a friend by donating to her fundraising campaign*, and I found myself choosing not to donate the amount that would enter me in a drawing to go to Haiti with the group next time, because I know I can't handle the guilt. I have plenty of emotional problems, but this is the one I am considering therapy for. What the heck? I'm happy to hear of any solutions you learn about. In the meantime, I still hope to plan a vacation of some sort with my family this year. Craziness.
*The Adventure Project, started by a pair of amazing women. One of them, Jody, lived in my hometown for a while. We got to be friends despite the fact that she's a pastor's wife, and I'm a big atheist. She has the biggest heart, and in my opinion, demonstrates nearly everything that can be good about Christianity. The organization is one that supports people in desperate situations with jobs in fields that improve their communities. I love it so much. The url I used above is actually The Adventure Project's site, so that they'd get another pair of eyeballs even if someone clicked on it accidentally. :)
I understand your feelings so well. I find myself saying "but for the grace of God," when I'm not even sure that I believe in the god whose grace I'm summoning. But I think that third guilt can be a good one, too, as a motivator to do just the things you mention--vote aligned with my beliefs, donate time/money to organizations that are helping the world in a way that aligns with my vision. Thanks for a provocative post. Enjoy vacation!
I know number 3. It is what drives me to vote in a manner similar to you, to give what I can, when I can.
I volunteer at a supportive housing residence somewhat regularly (becoming more regular all the time) and I try to transform my guilt into gratitude. When I see people who have so little I feel good for helping them and I see what I have, instead of what I have not. I go home full of compassion and gratitude and love.
...and I keep buying organic milk.
I have guilt right now. My dog is sick with something that may be minor or may be life threatening, and we have to decide how much we can spend on her. I feel bad that we can't spend thousands of dollars to have the most expensive, state of the art care for our pets. I wonder if we should have them at all. We can afford high quality food and maintenance type vet care, but not more. Should we have left her in the county pound? Would she have gotten a better home? Our kitty that looked like Millie died in Nov. She was 19. And I still feel bad we didn't do more for her. It's not because they are pets...if we needed thousands of dollars of medical care ourselves, we couldn't afford it either.
Ah, that kind of guilt, I know it well. Especially the guilt of having the luxury to sit at home and make sh*t up all day (most days, I do earn my keep every second week) or never having to scrub my own toilets. Yeah, that guilt.
Some of us have more than others. It's true the world over both in the local minutiae of holidays and organic milk and in the global scale of first world vs third world. I think recognition of that (I don't want to class it as guilt) is a good thing if it propels us to good actions such as a commitment to a charity or a few random acts of kindness. It's when that recognition that a combination of good luck and hard work have brought me xyz becomes guilt over having xyz that I think it's a negative; it seems to spit in the face of that hard work and good fortune and what good would it do the man in the grocery queue for you to not enjoy your bread. My mantra would be to enjoy the good things and be thankful and always to share the love.
Enjoy your holiday - no guilt allowed.
Boy, do I wish I had an answer for you (and me). I agree with everything you said and also feel that guilt is a good thing as long about doesn't make me feel responsible for situations, conditions beyond my control. Not one us can solve all the injustices in the world, alone. We can't help how we are born into this life and many of the things that brought us here to our current situation. Life is a great gift that deserving has nothing to do with. The best I can come up with is to enjoy life's generosities when they come and then give it all back in it's many different forms as we're able. From what I can tell about you from the contents of this lovely, warm and hearty blog, you give back quite generously. Please enjoy your vacation! I hope you come back feeling recharged and loved by life. (and please forgive my soap box preachiness too). Best wishes.
I forgot to add...in my decades of very different types of employment, I have noticed that, by and large, the harder physically a person works and the more hours they do it, the less they make.
I think there is a world of difference between the words "earned" and "deserved." You earned the vacation. Or the scarf. Or whatever. Personally? I cringe to think of truly getting what I deserve as a human being. Fortunately, grace saves us from that.
Also, giving of your time and money to help those less fortunate helps to even up the unfairness of life a bit, in my opinion.
Have a nice vacation. Hopefully we'll have guest bloggers? :D
I definitely understand where you're coming from. I've discussed this with many people and unfortunately some people don't understand that you don't always get everything you work for.
I think that a lot of the self-esteem issue is true, but that's not entirely guilt, it's more like shame. And the guilt is the part where you want everyone to have the things you do, you want to be able to share more than you do or can. I'm not sure what to do with this guilt either, but I think it's an important part of becoming a better person. I think once you let go of that guilt, you start to assume that the amount of stuff you have defines people, not how hard you work, and personally, that's not something I ever want to think.
I don't feel guilty about having more than other people. Not because I know I deserve it. I know I don't. I'm lucky to be born in a first world country with good health and high intelligence to parents who sent me to a mix of good public schools and expensive private schools. I'm good at something that I get paid really really well for and enjoy doing, and I'm lucky to have my job because I went to grad school with other smart hardworking people who didn't fall into the right place at the right time.
My feeling bad about any of that doesn't accomplish anything.
As fortunate as I am, there are many who are better off and I don't see the point of their feeling bad.
I say enjoy your good fortune.
Have you ever asked yourself why the Buddha has a smile on his face? Given that the first noble truth is that life is suffering, you'd think Buddha would look sad. He certainly does not look like he is feeling guilt. I meditate on this question when I am feeling happy when others are not; when I have nice things but others do not.
Steph - thank you for the thought provoking post. Yes, I think many of us have guilty thoughts like this when we come face to face with inequality, or at least something that keeps us from ignoring it. I am constantly torn between the overwhelming feeling that I should DO SOMETHING about it and the inability to give up the cushy life I have.
But, to perhaps ease a bit of your guilt - try to remember than not everyone who is rich has money. There are so many ways to measure wealth or value. Years ago, when my children were quite young, my husband and I made plans to meet up with old friends of ours from college. Our lives had taken different paths, and while my husband and I felt like we were struggling, we were actually doing quite well with our nice house, new cars, and 50+ hour week jobs. Our kids were in daycare, but the cupboard was filled every week and the cable bill was always paid. Our friends had chosen differently and she stayed home and he worked a job he loved but didn't pay that well. And during the course of the afternoon at the beach, the other mother wistfully spoke of the things we had and I remember being shocked! I told her that her children were rich in all the ways money couldn't buy.I'm just saying that maybe it isn't always as black and white as the status symbols we own. Yes, life isn't fair and none of us ever get all the penalty or reward we are due.
Continue to be grateful AND compassionate
Having grown up in several third world countries as the daughter of a diplomat, I try to think of it as good fortune. Some of us are lucky in our birth and you can't control that. I think those of us who are fortunate enough to have good jobs and safe homes and happy families should behave responsibly with these blessings. That guilt that tugs at you when you get a reward that may partly come by accident of birth just keeps you honest and reminds you that there are those less fortunate. It ensures that we won't become complacent and think that we are entitled to such luxuries. But the universe also wants you to enjoy all its beauty and delight! So have a great vacation! =)
I really do hope you are able to tuck the guilt away and enjoy your vacation. I can´t wait to read all about it if you are willing to share it with us.
Yes there is a healthy amount of guilt for the right things and should be based on your own morals. As long as it is not hindering you from doing day to day things and have relationships and keep a job then you are more than fine.
I fight that guilt myself. The only way I can bring it to the plus side is doing something random, like paying for the guy's pasta, apples, and carrots anonymously. Writing the letter to a student's parents who are possibly divorcing that they must be doing a great job as parents because their child is such a pleasure in class. Popping a lottery ticket in somebody's mailbox. Bringing the road worker who drew the short straw and is working outdoors in frigid temps a hot chocolate.
Or giving the fingerless mitts I just finished and wore for the first time that morning to someone who "just couldn't get warm."
I suspect you do the same things when opportunity strikes. And when you take your vacation? I bet you acknowledge everyone who crosses paths with you, because you are a giving human.
Rock on with your good self.
Oh Steph, I laughed so hard with the sentiments about the first day of school because that is EXACTLY how I feel at the end of the summer. I feel that way after a long weekend...LOL!
No guilt on your trip! You bounce from place to place all year, giving and giving and giving. Time for yourself is healthy! Remember while you are wherever you are, that this is for your health. I wish you safe travels and a wonderful vacation, you earned it!
This guilt seems unwarranted. You always blog (tha's work) about your vacations (and we are entertained and educated by your experience/ vacation). Relax, enjoy...and blog.
I don't feel guilty about having more than other people. Not because I know I deserve it. I know I don't. I'm lucky to be born in a first world country with good health and high intelligence to parents who sent me to a mix of good public schools and expensive private schools. I'm good at something that I get paid really really well for and enjoy doing, and I'm lucky to have my job because I went to grad school with other smart hardworking people who didn't fall into the right place at the right time.
My feeling bad about any of that doesn't accomplish anything.
As fortunate as I am, there are many who are better off and I don't see the point of their feeling bad.
I say enjoy your good fortune.
I know how you feel. No matter how bad or good you have it there is always someone who has more or who has less than you. I used to work in the city and I would easily pass ten people in the morning asking for change on my way to work and ten people on the way back. I had enough to give to one. Then it is a question of who do you give it to. Who needs it the most. I made the decision to not
These feelings are important. They are what make us vote for people who will more or less do things my kind of right way. They make us donate money to Doctors W/O Borders, etc and donate time and food at the local family homeless shelter. We are all connected and called to help each other as we can. I can not donate to every good cause, but I can buy the hungry person in my shopping center a meal. We can't do it all but if we all did something, no one would be hungry.
Oops. I hit send before I was finished. I was trying to say that I made a decision to give to a charity than to individuals because it is so hard to decide who deserves it.
Knitters are a special people, we see through eyes what most people take for granted, we see the need and the want and we do things about it. How many other "groups have "Knitters Without Borders", or Blankets Across America." So if we need a vacation to regroup ourselves and remember that there is actually life outside of work and worrying about others,it's okay. Here's hoping your vacation is somewhere warm and far away from the world.
Eloquently put, as always, and prompting me to offer one of my rare comments here. You are so right, I believe, about the correction factor purpose of the internal-standard guilt. Maybe one way to regard that third type of guilt – what we could call social guilt – is as serving a similar “correctional” function as your first type. (That “I deserve it” line is a nonstarter, morally, as you so clearly show us.) To let it remind us to spend part of our time and money – and it sounds as though you do - trying to make sure others have both the basics and some of those treats – the bread and the roses. To remember that this is part of our political lives as citizens, where we can advocate and work for policies and taxes – part of the way we care for one another – that further this aim. To remember, those of us who practice a religion, that a primary focus of our practice needs to be relieving suffering / mending the world / a preferential option for the poor and marginalized – whatever language our particular tradition has used over the centuries. All the while allowing ourselves and those close to us to enjoy those treats and celebrations – within reason – that are part of the joy of life – a somewhat tricky balance, and each of us will weigh the two sides a little differently, and differently at different stages in our lives. Thanks, Stephanie, for raising this for us.
Yep -- like what about the guy who came to my door at 7:00 on friday night. He was probably 40, selling useless magazine subscriptions that I refused to buy. Then he said I could just give him money instead, and was insulted when I offered him a dollar. How is it that he was born an African American male in a bad neighborhood and I was not? I do work hard, but then the path was right there in fron of me, and I think it most likely wasn't for him. Should I have given him 40 bucks? Which I can't really afford, either -- but then I do have a house, etc. Ugh.
Do you feel resentment when you see someone who has TONS more than you do? Who lives in a million dollar house and eats caviar everyday and who would think that your multigrain bread was crap?
Should those people feel guilty?
There will always be someone who has less and someone who has more. Have a great vacation and send us pictures so that we can live vicariously through you!
So, did you ever think that those lovely little things, cashmere and nice vacation included, are all coming your way because of all of those little, nice things you've already done ?
I understand your feelings, and we have them in my house all the time. It's why I always said I never wanted to be rich, because to be rich you usually get there on the backs of others. But where to draw the line? I think if you work hard, and you are a good, generous person who tries to make the world a better place, then it's OK to go on a vacation and eat 12 sprout bread. Bon voyage!
I grew up in a non-religious household. I married in to a Catholic family, and became Catholic. I'm 99% happy with my decision, I feel religion filled a void in my life. But man, the guilt. We just heard a sermon recently about how basically you should only have enough to meet your minimum needs. Give anything extra to the poor. If you have a home, a car, you have more than 95% of the world. And it's true, but should we not have a home, a car? It's all very confusing. I just lost my job. One of the first things off the budget is charity (but it did come after Starbucks). Does that make us bad people?
I struggle with guilt, too. It's an indication that we have a conscience and compassion.
Yes, I have that third guilt and no, I don't believe we get what we deserve. I hope I never lose that guilt, the recognition that I'm not a better person because I'm in a better place.
Here's my answer to that sort of guilt:
Do you live a good and moral (whatever that means to you personally) life?
Do you work hard for the nice things you have?
Do you give back when and where you can to help better the world?
Then no guilt. You can't save everyone. You can't even save most everyone. You do what you can within your means and know that you've done what you can to help make the world a better place.
Every once in a while, though, I'll privately and quietly perform a Random Act of Kindness and buy that guy the 9-grain bread or pay for someone's lunch without them knowing.
Thank you for the wonderful post. I understand every word -- I too was thrilled when school started every fall. Yes, I felt slightly guilty when the phony mothers said they missed their children during the day. Really? I celebrated!
Maggie, 4:34, if you're still reading, I know exactly how you feel -- times three. My thoughts are with you. It's a very hard road.
I donate household goods, clothes, and more because I feel guilty that I have so many things in the house that never get used. I always have a bag or box for collecting items.
We live on Social Security, but I donate to an organization that is near and dear to my heart.
I absolutely don't think men carry guilt as much as women do.
Enjoy your well-deserved vacation.
I'll tell you something about us. My husband was laid off in August 2011. He got a new job in February 2012, not as good as the one he had before. In March 2012, he went in for a routine surgery, had a stroke in recovery, spent two months in the hospital, and is still recuperating. He can't work. I can't work more because someone needs to drive him to the doctor and our kids to school and do all of the other running around it takes to keep a family going, so I work at my same job for now. Without the kindness of our families, and my salary, we would be destitute. And I still feel guilty. And defensive. I know people think things about us. How can we x, y, or z when DH isn't working. How do we get by on what I make. How dare we not be rock-bottom poor when our situation is so bad. And if people think I don't feel guilty about that, they vastly underestimate our mutual desire to be self-sufficient, and our gratitude that things aren't worse.
From here, it's much easier to see that whatever other people's situation is, you can't know it from where you are. Everyone is just trying to get by, however they can. If we can afford to be kind, anyone can. It's mostly free, after all. And it's an antidote to guilt.
Guilt feelings are beneficial if they cause you to change. Feeling guilty for things you can't do anything about is useless. Do what you can!
Enjoy your vacation, you will make where ever you go a better place!
I am very well acquainted with guilt #3. I got a new car and didn't want anyone to know that it was mine because somehow I felt badly that I had a new car and they didn't. We are taking a vacation in June and I don't want anyone to know where we are going because it's a beautiful location that we have been to numerous times and people comment that I'm spoiled when they hear that we're going back. It's all just a big ball of guilt that I'd like to get rid of, please.
"I do my best to spread my good fortune around, I offer time and money to organizations that are working for a society I would like to live in - I vote for politicians who are mostly going to do work that reflects my belief that you don't always get what you deserve, and that sometimes circumstances or bad luck conspire against people, and that we all need a society that reflects that."
Here's the thing: What you're doing here, working to change things and acknowledging that what you have comes not just from hard work but some luck and privilege as well, are good things. They're what we should all do. I suspect that the reason it doesn't help much is that there isn't a polite way to call out the people who say that you deserved or earned something when you say it feels unfair**. They derail by trying to make it about your self-esteem, they make it about what other people could or should have done differently, but unless they acknowledge, like you do here, that circumstances and even society can work against people's success what they're ultimately saying is that people at the bottom deserve to be there. They're saying that if people die of starvation, exposure, or disease then they deserve it, or they didn't earn the right to anything better, and that's a pretty crappy thing to say. It's also a pretty crappy thing to go unchallenged.
It'd be nice to just be able to point out the problem with that thinking and have the other person acknowledge it or at least have a civil discussion but it's the sort of thing that always turns into A Thing.
**It's also kind of gross that if you feel a certain way about something and someone else disagrees they try to turn it into something being wrong with you. "Low self-esteem". At least they didn't use the word "hysterical"?
I have always worked very hard for what I have and so has my husband----I do not feel guilty about the things I have and the things that we do----there are plenty of people that have way more that we have and I am sure that they do not feel guilty about it----I do feel bad for some people that seem to be genuinely struggling--sometimes however there are those that are buying more expensive food than I am, more expensive electronic devises and often buying very expensive cigarettes----some often do not apply themselves or look for work----hard working people that make the minimum are the ones that I do feel sympathy for, but not real guilt----Enjoy your vacation and your cashmere scarf, you worked hard for them!
I don't have so much guilt. What I do have is a tendency to belly-button gaze ("Oh, woe is me!" with much whimpering and gnashing of teeth) when, compared to many in the world, I have it pretty good. Thank you for the reminder to lift me head and look beyond myself.
Go. Have fun! The people who know you best know you deserve a relaxing lovely vacation. Just from reading this blog I can tell you do plenty as a mom, wife, aunt, sister, writer, etc. etc. And of course we readers only know a part of your life. So no guilt - just fun! Oh, and promise to tell us a little bit about it when you get back. If we feel a teensy bit jealous, it might give us the kick in the pants we need to start planning and saving for a vacation of our own.
That you are aware at all of privilege, in its many degrees and forms, means you are miles ahead of anybody who says things like "You get what you earn." without respect for the systematic ways that a variety of people are oppressed are denied advantages others take for granted. Your time and money are important, and since you are a writer I know that you are already intimately familiar with the power of words in all aspects of life.
long time reader/lurker, but *had* to comment on this one given it was conversation I just had with my husband last night. One of my favourite teachers of trauma therapy (i'm a psychologist) says, "We're all bozos riding the same bus." Which obviously means we're not different than the guy buying apples and carrots. The only circumstance that separates us is we all get off at different stops. Sometimes our choices about things like education put us at a certain stop, but I think mostly it's that we're all on a different journey on that same bus, and sometimes really awful things throw us off the bus when we didn't want to get off, or we make a mistake or something else happens. Or someone we love gets off and we're a little and can't not follow them, or ... the possibilities are endless, really.
The fact that you are aware that you're really not that different than anyone else, I think, is what generates that 3rd type of guilt. But, you don't need to be hooked into not enjoying what you *have* worked for. I try to acknowledge the sameness and difference in circumstance between me and the other person, wish them peace on their journey (usually silently in my head), and then try to make sure that my choices reflect how I feel about that difference and sense of injustice. Maybe that's what is really is? The sense of injustice masquerading as guilt?
I don't know if that made sense, or if it helps, but you definitely should enjoy your vacation. You totally deserve it.
As the person who counts change to buy a meager supply of groceries for 3 kids, I feel guilt that I can't get more. I guess my point is that, regardless of who you are and what you're doing/trying to do, there will always seem to be "more" that you should be doing. Enjoy your vacation, and relax! :-)
(I celebrate when my kids go back to school in August!!!)
I certainly have that guilt, compounded by knowing people who have given up much more than I ever have to help people in need. I'm sure you know many such people as well. God bless them, and you, for all the good that gets done.
I think guilt number 3 is the kind that (in the best case) leads to empathy for others. You are grateful for what you have and you want to pass it on. It's the kind that means when I buy my groceries I budget to buy a bag for the food pantry at church. Or when I buy some nice wool for a project for me I use the ends to make a hat for a baby in the NICU. It's something my parents taught me (as I suspect yours did you) and something you are teaching your daughters. It's what makes us the humane of humanity.
I totally understand about the guilt thing.
But you totally do deserve the good things in your life.
Enjoy your vacation!!
My husband and I were sitting in traffic behind a Bentley today, and I remarked that I just don't understand spending that kind of money on a CAR. In a way, I suppose I was trying to lay guilt on the man who owned the car... without actually communicating it to him.
But seriously, there are so many levels of "nice things" that people might be able to feel guilty about. Your cashmere scarf, your vacation - balance those against the work you do with the bike rally and Doctors Without Borders, and your hours of work-travel and your wonderful parenting of your children, the joy and laughter and knowledge you share with us, and all the private things we don't know about. You DO deserve nice things. Everyone does. It would be SO wrong not to ENJOY what you both work so hard to have and to provide for your family. Go. Rest. Laugh. Eat and drink well. See beautiful things. We'll be right here when you get back!
My mother is the Queen of Guilt--giving it out at every turn. I don't own any of her guilt anymore as I can't be the kind of offspring she and my father want (a perfect Son) so even if I walked on water, she'd still be sending big bales of guilt my way.
I don't have kids to send off to school, so I don't have that kind of guilt either.
I do have some of the "Life is Not Fair" guilt you write about. The thing is, I knit for others in places of need all year long. I give to many organizations who do much more important work than I can (Drs w/out Borders, for one). My life has not been easy either, so I think I'm paying for many past lives transgressions.
Next fall, I'm going on my first real vacation in almost a decade, so I plan to enjoy it without guilt. Hope you can enjoy yours, too. Otherwise it will be wasted, and that might make you feel more guilty.
Guilt? Yes. All sorts of kinds. And some that I don't think I deserve to have, but I have it anyway, because I can't figure out how to get rid of it.
Guilt is a normal feeling.
Hi I am Jeanie from New Zealand - I don't comment much but so love your blog, books and thoughts on wool and life.
Guilt - yep plenty!
But I don't think you should feel guilty about the holiday. I rejoice for you and hope that you have a great time.
I've been at both ends. I've had to bake bread because I couldn't afford to buy it, and I'm now able to buy bread when I want it.
People have been kind and people don't understand either.
I try to give back to the community, by volunteering and when our local food bank is charity at the local grocery store, I give as much as I can. This makes it easier and it's probably my favorite charity, because I've been there.
I try to remember that I only have to prove myself to myself and that every day I can go to sleep knowing I've been the best person I could be that day, I did all right.
This doesn't mean I don't want to do more for myself, my friends, others, but I've tried to learn that I have limits and I have to forgive myself occasionally when the guilty bug hits.
I too have never commented on your blog, despite being a loyal reader, but I just wanted to say thank you. You captured what I feel on a daily basis so well. Enjoy your time. You deserve it!
I just love the way you think.
Got any? you ask.... ALL THE TIME!! and it's exhausting. But, that's my issue. :-D Have a great time and post lots of pics for those of us who can't leave at the pinnacle of the worst that winter offers (equidistant from last summer and next summer). sigh
I used to think that if I lived a good life and worked hard, and behaved myself, I would be rewarded. Well guess what? Life doesn't work that way. Life is a crap shoot. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. Feeling guilty about it is a waste of time. Enjoy your vacation, because you never know -- in the blink of an eye everything you have and love can be taken from you. Remember, there but fortune goes you or I.
So guilt. I rarely feel it. And for that I can thank my mother. As kids she rarely, if ever, used it on us. I asked her a few years ago why and she said "I didn't have time for that sh*t". She was a very busy working mom who traveled a lot for work and making us feel guilty took longer than just yelling at us and issuing punishment. I spent a lot of time grounded
Even to this day she is much more of an 'ask forgiveness not permission' type of person. And when she tries to use guilt on us my brother and I just laugh. It's a fairly useless emotion. And you don't have time for it either.
I experience the same guilt voice, boy did you state it well! This world could use a heck of a lot more people listening to that guilt voice!
Stephanie, there's a verse in the Bible that says if you cast your bread on the waters--i.e., give what you can to those whom you can whenever you can--it will come back to you in many days. Think of the good things in your life as that bread coming back to you, because we all know you've cast it out there in a million ways.
Steph, enjoy your holiday and leave your guilt at home.
Oh, yeah! I have all the kinds. I loved it when summer vacation ended. I cannot imagine how people can homeschool. I'd have killed them. And as for having things, yes, all the time, and although my daughter says I have way too many things, I look around my town and know that I have clutter (which she hates) where other people have large, expensive, generally motorized toys. I feel really guilty and weird that I retired from a job with a pension. Folks say that people working other places don't get a pension, but they got paid three times more for the same kind of work. Materially, I have what I need. I'm grateful--and often guilty.
Generosity and gratitude. Those are the solutions to Fortune's guilt.
I understand that third type of guilt, as so many people here do. But, I'd rather live in my (relative, and it isn't much) "privilege" with occasional pangs, than be without that guilt. To me it means I am still human, and that I care about others, our community (local/national/global), and, when I can, I try to help people. There are - unfortunately - many people that I think at times ought to feel guilty for how they squander money and time when they could live very, very comfortably with a little bit less, and also make a huge positive impact on others by sharing a small amount of what they have.
Guilt. The great equalizer. It can bring me to my knees, or make me madder than the hatter. I was just sitting here feeling guilty for skipping a meeting. Well, no more of that tonight. I'll sit and knit, enjoying a glass of wine. Yes, I will attend the next committee meeting and probably feel guilty for not doing enough. So, on to the next.......
I know what you mean. I'm excited for you to be going on vacation! And generally, when someone around me feels guilty about something, I can tell them that there's no reason to, that it's perfectly ok for them to enjoy a vacation once in a while, and that they should just lay that burden down and have a nice time. But if it were me, I'd feel guilty too. I regularly avoid buying myself nice stuff because of guilt, especially now that I'm out of work and my husband is supporting us entirely. It's hard to cope with those sorts of feelings and I have no answers for you, except to say that I empathize and I hope you can have fun despite the guilt.
I think the best words I've ever heard about fairness in the Universe (and then the guilt that folks who are on the receiving end of goodness may feel) come from Babylon 5. A character named Marcus Cole said the following:
"I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, 'wouldn't it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?' So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."
It's a little dark but sometimes dark humor is the only way to combat the kind of guilt you're talking about.
Not so long ago I was a starving single mom because my kids' father was a deadbeat and didn't pay child support and because I was underemployed, in an area of chronically high unemployment. Not because I was lazy, not because I was uneducated, not because I didn't want to have a decent job. I used to have a decent job but was bullied out of it to the extent that my health was affected. I lived on bread and coffee for two years,so that my kids could have the nutritious food. I'd done my growing, they were still making strong bones and teeth and all that other good stuff. I couldn't pay my mortgage; my car broke down and I couldn't afford to repair it, so I lost my part-time job. I was that person you write of. Then we won a lottery - a fairly big one, and I got to see the other side of things. People who ask for money all the time when they are already quite well-off, because they know you are suddenly rich. People who need money but are embarrassed to ask for help because they think you will judge. Anyone who has enough for their own needs, through their own efforts, need not feel guilty as long as they also feel compassion and understanding - in our society, there is a very narrow margin between doing OK and not being able to manage. Anyone who thinks that people on welfare are living the high life needs to try raising a family on $1200 a month some time, when the average rent around here is $750. Life gets pared down to the bare necessities in very short order, as I can attest.
The answer for all of us is: do what you can, when you can, where you can. If that is giving a hat to someone who has none, that is a very blessed act. The kindness you do may be the only kindness that person has received in a very long time. Of course you should enjoy the fruits of your labours without guilt. Guilt is a non-productive emotion, whereas compassion is a wonderful human quality that connects us all. Someone who does as much as you do, Steph, for MSF and other charities, who brings as much joy and laughter as you do to friends as well as total strangers, who gives the gifts of time and love and expertise...drop the guilt, it isn't necessary.
This kind of guilt is uncomfortable, but ultimately, proof you're a thinking, feeling person. You are a force for good in this world, and many people have had their cares lightened by you directly, and by the actions and donations of your readers. You've championed many causes and charities here on your blog, and your readers have responded.
I won't tell you not to feel bad, but please don't let feeling guilty keep you from enjoying your vacation. Add to the world's sum total of joy by having fun.
So many thoughtful comments!
I don't think you have anything to feel guilty for - you've worked hard to what you have - and you do give back - far more than many people do. You support the causes you care for, and you also use your influence to benefit those causes as well. It's all about balance - and balance doesn't mean going with out just because someone else doesn't have what you have.
I believe the ones who should feel guilty are the ones who do nothing - who look down their noses at those less fortunate and think "Well the choices he made led him to this - and he could have done better if he wanted to" when they have no idea of what struggles and challenges may have befallen him.
Well said, as always.
I totally understand and I've struggled with this too. My understanding of this issue (for myself) is that it has something to do with worthiness. When I don't feel "worthy" then guilt kicks in. We grew up poor - and I now have a rich sibling and he feels quite worthy of all his wealth and has no guilt. I have learned a lot about abundance from him. He believes wealth is possible for everyone so he's rooting for the poor guy in line at the store to create his wealth too.
Abundance is a good thing. Your vacation, your seven grained bread doesn't "take" from the man in front of you in line at the store. It's not a pie with a limited number of pieces, it's an ocean that expands.
I put myself through college and grad school working in hotels/restaurants. Think how many people you will BLESS and EMPLOY with your vacation - the airline employees, the maids, the front desk clerks, the waitresses. Isn't that wonderful that you can share with them?
When I was a catering waitress I was thrilled that there were plenty of brides who spent crazy money on weddings so I could waittress the events and pay my rent.
Feel worthy. Enjoy it. Bless every dollar that goes out and know all those people you "employ" on your vacation can also now afford 7 grain bread!
My thoughts: we're human and flawed. If we got what we "deserved", well, I wouldn't be sitting here with the comforts I have. In a perfect world everyone could have what I have but it's not perfect. I am a white, middle-aged woman with education, having been raised in the suburbs by 2 wonderful parents. We don't all have the same opportunities in this world so we need to share. What's mine isn't mine: it's mine to share.
I totally get how you feel and it seems to me that this is the second kind of guilt, but disguised a bit so that it seems different. That man is on his own journey. Life isn't as simple as working hard and earning or deserving things. It's all wrapped up in our particular life's lessons and cards dealt and the choices we make then sowing the consequences or benefits to them. That man may be scraping by, but he also could have pride that he's able to even get that much. His values are not your values and that's a good thing! There is a bigger picture here. That man's child may watch his father struggle and grow up to make changes in our world for the better. (Idealistically) Struggle can be a good thing. Didn't you let your kids struggle when they were younger? Some of us grow older, but never grow up, so we continue to struggle until we figure things out. That Taxi driver that used to be a surgeon could be living the high life compared to where he came from. In this world, some people don't have much in the sense that they don't have nice things, but they have family or a fulfilling career or whatever they've chosen to put before nice things. Enjoy your vacation, enjoy your cashmere and your beautiful family and let us worry about our own journeys. Seeing people in different, more difficult circumstances can make you grateful for a blessed life and that's never a bad thing.
Also, that lady who missed her kids needs a hobby. Did you teach her to knit, by chance? lol
Yup. Just last week. I felt extreme luxury purchase guilt. I finally got up the nerve and ordered my first spinning wheel, the one I really wanted, not the cheap one. And I had the money in my account for this , hard earned money, and knew it was the choice I would be happiest with.... But I still felt like it was the craziest selfish thing I could do. I was so wracked with anxiety about the purchase, that when I called up the very nice woman with my order I failed to add the little bits and pieces to the order to make it complete. I had to call her back today to add some necessities to my "unnecessary" luxury item.
It took many friends who know my passion for fiber, and even my mother to tell me I deserved it and not to feel guilty. Maybe I will be donating handspan hand knit hats next year, not just hand knit ones. I will get over this. You will go on your vacation, get over the guilt, and be ready to face the rest of winter.
What you are feeling is compassion, a need for justice, and an understanding that reward is not fairly meted out. Your comments are beautiful, and to the point. Any one of us can be in difficult circumstances at any time-I know, I have lived the gamut. It does you credit to acknowledge injustice.
Still, I think that you can enjoy your vacation and enjoy a heartfelt gratitude that you have this chance, right now and at this time.
Yes. I know that 3rd kind of guilt well. There's a play currently going at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta that walks all over that word "deserve." It's called Good People, and is well worth seeing.
Great post. First, have a wonderful vacation so you are ready to do more good in the world. I agree with you that many people work harder than I for much less. LIke many of us, I give time and money, write letters and vote to work toward social justice. In this imperfect world, we have to continue to work for good and you do a marvelous job!
As always, you enrich our lives with the thoughts you inspire. It's not the best path to try to measure the material things and opportunities we have or do not have. Life has too many variables to make a valid comparison. What one does (and you have done it, in spades, for years) is to spread love. That overcomes all, strikes through abysmal poverty of things or soul, and grows hope. By going away on vacation, you are recharging. Please, recharge! Enjoy! Rest. And share what you can--we'll be inspired, as always.
And I call that grace ---the difference between what I deserve and what I get. My job is to acknowledge the gift with as much gratitude as I can muster which shows up as generosity. It never balances completely, but as long as I'm aware of that I'm good.
Recently someone said something to me that I really like: if life were fair, half the time the horse would ride YOU!
We'll miss you. Enjoy the break.
It won't make you a better person to give everything away and move into a cardboard box to freeze and starve. You didn't cause what you're feeling "guilty" for, so it isn't truly guilt, it's something else - such as a misplaced subconscious belief that you personally are at fault for everything that went wrong everywhere. That kind of thinking is associated with being an infant.
Enjoy your vacation, return refreshed and able to work some more.
Austin Val's comment (#11 I think) is so excellent! I'm going to try to remember those words.
You expiate your guilt every day by raising three girls who are both self aware and socially aware. It's the best contribution you can possibly make.
Justice is complicated. I'm with you, and think that every person is just as valuable as the next, and that the place and time and family that we're born into has a massive impact on our ability to take up those 'opportunities' that are theoretically available to all in our comfy first world society. However, apparently a legitimate logical argument exists for the other political pole - many people I respect as thinkers fit there, but I can't make the reasoning for it work for me. I'll continue to buy fair trade and organic as often as I can afford it (one of the benefits of a cushy first word existence) and hope that it makes a difference.
I'm glad you're still perplexed by this conundrum, and I hope I continue to be perplexed by it, too.
Enjoy your holiday - holidays are essential for good mental health which helps you make wise decisions about spending money and gives you energy to think about this stuff!
No. I don't have guilt. There's an old Gestalt principle that "guilt is resentment, disguised." Once I worked through a situation where I was feeling really guilty, using the principle, I discovered that in fact I was really feeling resentful. Try it. It's worth getting rid of that hopeless, paralyzing emotion and instead feeling resentful - which one can then work through and be constructive with. You just can't be constructive with guilt. Best of luck.
I've got guilt all the time. I just try to swallow it and treat everyone with as much respect and kindness that I know they deserve. Have fun on vacation and don't forget to tip!!
Guilt? I was raised by a strict Catholic mother who was schooled by nuns. 'nough said.
It took me ~ 15 years after I left home to understand how much of my life was ruled by guilt and then another 5 years to be able to challenge my mom to 'stop guilting me'. And to my mom's credit, she stopped. I know that no one else can make me feel anything but me, but if you've been raised in an environment of guilt, it is really hard to stop that pattern of thinking. I'm not 100% guilt free but I, for the most part, recognize it for what it is. And can react as I chose.
Enjoy your holiday!
Dang. There you went again, writing a incredible piece that made me think (and think hard), and bring out all those feelings about poverty and street people (plenty where I live) and why I feel guilty whenever I don't give them money the second they ask for it. You asked the tough questions, and I don't have any answers that are simple either. It's a long conversation that all of us need to have. But aside from all that, please do go on your well-earned vacation, and enjoy it as you should, and come back well-rested.
I feel very very lucky, not just because of the material things I have. I'm healthy, as are the people in my family. I have personal freedom unlike so many women in other parts of the world. I don't feel guilty, exactly, but I do wonder why me and not them? The basic unfairness of life puzzles me.
Bravo. And enjoy your vacation.
I feel guilt all the time for most of the same reasons. I don't know how hard I work for money things and things I can get through money (like yarn, nice trips, better clothes and food), but I have definitely worked hard for some things that involved just personal time and sacrifice.
In Christan/Western culture "guilt" is used as a primary social control; it's what keeps people on the straight and narrow when no one's around to make them obey the rules. In Eastern culture "shame" is used as a primary social control, and keeps people on the straight and narrow when no one's around to make them obey the rules.
Guilt is associated with "sin", and all its ramifications, including offending God and loss of heaven. Guilt comes from doing "wrong", that is acting and feeling in ways that are not socially or morally acceptable.
Shame is associated with dishonor. Shame is a loss of both status and social acceptability that comes from feeling and behaving in ways that are not socially or morally acceptable.
Depending on the culture in which you were raised, either guilt or shame is a powerful motivator because it is an internalized enforcer of the culture's moral code.
Oh, yes. Most definitely. Thank you for articulating this so beautifully - I really appreciate the distinctions you're making here. I think that third kind of guilt is maybe our mirror neurons, reminding us to feel what that other person must feel, as you do here, and taking that as an impetus to do what we can do, as you have listed, to make the world a place where we all get the basics, where society is ready to support its least fortunate, knowing that that could be any of us.
I still feel guilt about having nice things, wearing a hand-knit shawl when someone behind me at the supermarket is clutching a thin long-sleeved shirt closed, etc.
Then again, I've also had the experience of knowing that we've got enough money for tomorrow, but the next day or the next week? Not sure if we'll be able to afford food.
And yet, I don't feel guilty for moving interstate for work, going down the street to buy myself my first brand-new desk, or stopping at a cafe for lunch, etc. This is because I've worked for this job, I've worked to move here, and I'm still working to unpack. I've been in my new home for a total of five days, and I'm still so tired I don't have the energy for guilt right now!
I wish I had time to read all the posts but I do not. If you feel bad about anything, feel bad that you don't know the whole story to decide how you should feel. In my job, on occasion, work with vocational rehabilitation folks. One specialist told me of a man he met that had no legs, not sure how that came about. This man lived in a beach community and got around mostly on a skate board. The specialist "took an interest in him" and started working on getting him better transportation, assistance with finding a job, training and such. Finally one day the man told the specialist to stop and leave him alone, that someone before him had done all that and he made more money from folks just giving him money than working and in a lot less time and if he worked, the government wouldn't give him his money. He told the specialist to go away as he was interfering with his begging. I am just showing another side of the coin. As many have said, you do the best you can. You can't give it all away and you will never please everyone. As the saying goes "there but for the grace of God..." Enjoy your vacation, you are not taking food from the mouth of (your) babes, as many parents do by smoking and drinking and other sorts of things. Sorry for the ramble. My soft touch is animals (Mark at 4:19) and while I do not feel guilty that I cannot rescue each and every one, I am heartbroken that they need to be and angry that they need to be.
Yes, and I think that third type of guild is really important, too. Yes, I was crazy-busy and a generous hostess, and I deserve the massage my mother gave me for my birthday, but there are a lot of people who "deserve" it even more than I do but who don't have the money or free time to go get one. I think this kind of guilt is crucial to keep us from becoming selfish people out of touch with the perspectives of others. I had my massage, but I've spent the last week trying to be a little kinder and more appreciative and more generous than I was the week before. And I hope that my appreciation will help me remember to make choices--personal and political choices-- that will possibly reduce the social disparities that mean that I have more than many other people. Every newborn baby deserves the best in life, but only some of them get it. That should make us feel guilty, because really, so much of our lives is a happenstance of the conditions of our birth.
Enjoy your vacation. Thanks for the heads up you'll be away. the blogosphere will be fine.
Generally speaking, no. I don't have any guilt...I'm probably deficient in some way. But I don't see that it gets you anywhere - if you think that life is unfair or that money is distributed unevenly, you can do your part to redress those problems. You WON'T help by also feeling guilty.
I think often of what Terry Pratchett said: (to paraphrase) There's not a molecule of justice or a particle of mercy anywhere in existence in the universe.
It just doesn't exist.
So no one's deserving, really, because there's no such thing. All you can do is what you're doing, and clearly so many of us are doing, which is to recognize that and try to correct for it where possible. And also, I think, to recognize that many of the people who have so little correct for it too, in many ways, and we all help each other, and celebrate each other. You wouldn't begrudge anyone else that vacation (well, hardly anybody, I bet), so be a friend to yourself.
Also, about that first kind of guilt? I was roughhousing with my thirteen year old son today and dropped him (I thought he was close to the ground and he wasn't as close as I thought) and he hurt his foot. I've got the guilt monopoly for the Northern Hemisphere all wrapped up tonight. Take the night off ;)
I hope I join with everyone else when I say; Of course you should feel guilty, of course it's not low self esteem, or you deserve it because you work so hard. That's crap and we all know it. As long as there is a hungry baby in the world, WE SHOULD ALL FEEL GUILTY. Maybe if we feel guilty enough, we will have to rise up and fix things.
Its like you are in my head. These are the conversations I have all the time.
A few minutes ago, reading your post and the comments, I had something to say, or thought I did. However, realizing that I have the luxury of the economic and emothional space to see and think about htese things and feel guilty, I realized my mistake. The truth is, I can't believe my luck, and am very. very thankful that somehow, despite the odds, I fell into this safe, warm life rather than another. And really, its not guilt, its responsibility.
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, you go on your vacation and enjoy the crap out of it. You bring more knitty joy to my life than you will ever know.
I thought that this post was going to have a much worse ending than it did. Have a great vacation. Send a postcard.
I hope you can enjoy this vacation as a blessing - it would be a shame not to. And at the same time, work for a world that is more just, more right.
I don't know if guilt is the right word - but caring is.
Well, I imagine that is part and parcel of the empathy that drives you to raise huge funds for Doctors without Borders (could not remember the French for that...sorry), do long fundraising bike rides, encourage others to do the same and raise children of the same ilk. So, deserving or not, please refresh your spirit and body with the vacation.
i have never commented on your blog before, but i have been following it since reading as many of your books as i can find because it all hilarious. enjoy your vacation, i am a family therapist and i say you can't take on the world's problems, so just create your life as best as you can and enjoy the ups and downs of it. just by being you, the world is a better place, believe me!!
I hate guilt. As a small child I figured I would avoid it by trying to do the "right thing" every time. But it can be pretty hard to know what that is sometimes.
I rescued 6 severely abused horses 12 years ago and have had to work 3 jobs,7 days a week to support them and spent every spare moment trying to heal their bodies and hearts.
Recently,I was layed off at one job and my hours cut at another. My adult children pressure me to "get rid of the horses" to ease the financial stress. But I can't even imagine doing it. I'll do without, I have for years, but I feel guilty that I can't help my kids more when life gets hard for them.
You, my dear, are brilliant. You articulate all those things that we think but cannot put into words. Thank you so very much.
Nope. I do NOT do guilt of any kind. I gave it up on my 40th birthday as a gift to myself. If even for the briefest nano second, I think something should make me feel guilty, I remind myself that I gave it up on my 40th and off I go, happy as all get out. Such a much nicer way to live!
Have a great vacation and leave all guilt forever behind!
I live with guilt for many odd reasons that do not make ANY sense when I list them out loud. I totally get what you were saying and it is a quite profound topic to spend time thinking it over. THAT said? enjoy your ding dang vacation girlfriend... :)
you continually astonish me with how incredibly open you are with all of us. it is inspiringly brave.
you do so much for all of us: inspire; teach;remind us all that our foibles & trials make us human.
Enjoy your vacation, recharge those batteries! I hope it is somewhere warm & fabulous with fun umbrellas in the drinks! Bon voyage :)
One part of your post mae me laugh like a loon. I come from a family of 8, and on the first day of school my mom hung the flag out. She said it ought to be a national holiday!
Normally I don't read article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and do it! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, very great article.
It's clear from the number of comments that you've struck a chord. (Again.) There's much in your post that I'd love to respond to, but people aren't reading your blog to read long, rambling posts from me. (From you, they're charming.) I would submit, as many have before me, that your generosity, commitment, and insightful thoughts/discussions on the world you'd like to see it invite many, many people to do likewise. Just remember that all the world's ills are too numerous for any person to fix. But, as you know, that doesn't mean a person shouldn't try in ways available to her or him. I've recently come across this quote, which I love: "Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." - quote by Ryunosuke Satoro
Know that you have done enough for now. Go forth and enjoy thyself!
Me, too. Remember Schindler at the end of "Schindler's List"? "Why did I keep the car? Why didn't I give up this... and that...?" I think about this guilt a lot.
I think this is another good sort of guilt, though. It encourages people to spread the good stuff around, think of others, take care of strangers...
We should chat the next retreat.
My epiphany was realizing that consumerism seems to be a con game...getting the little people to want, dream, aspire for stuff, stuff that is all about getting someone to exchange some of the short time they have on this planet in exchange for it, and getting the next sucker to pay more for it than you paid
Oh, yeah. Lots.
And it doesn't do the folks who need something, anything, any good at all for me to feel this way.
I try to look at it as compassion rather than guilt. Being willing to see the struggle and be with them in it.
Thank you, Stephanie. More than I can say. And for all the work you've done towards Doctors Without Borders.
There are so many so worse off than we ever were, but my experience was this: my parents built a house in the woods in the middle of nowhere when I was little that quickly grew up around them into one of the up-and-coming suburbs of DC. Many of the neighbors were rich, while my folks struggled at times not to lose the house when Dad's small business struggled.
I am very grateful now for the education those life experiences gave me. "The deceitfulness of riches" was the observation of a certain someone in a certain well-known book, and I have tried all my life not to let things fool me. I too have nice things now--but they do not define me. Being willing to share them in a heartbeat with anyone in need, whether I actually get to do so or not--that does.
Thank you for giving voice to those feelings that remind us to always hold on to our compassion. And for giving us a way to express and put to use that compassion.
guilt is a trip you didn't buy a ticket for. take a deep breath and let it go. doesn't do anyone any good. have a great vacation!
While I would agree that guilt & conscience can provide moral or ethical warning signals, I have never seriously considered that anyone gets "what they deserve," or that the accumulation of wealth (either money or belongings) has to do solely with working hard. Money is transferred from one person to another, & it's too simplistic to believe that it's based on hard work or intelligence. People aren't that straightforward.
Enjoy your vacation!
I believe God let's our lives be what they are because he knows we can handle it. And I believe anything in our lives (what we call 'Good' or 'Bad' and the area inbetween) is an opportunity to make us a more beautiful being stretched to the fullest extent of our beautiful spirit. I don't know how the guy in line felt, but I hope he felt pride that he could purchase what he did, instead of dismay. Sounds like you witnessed his love and loyalty to his child, and that was a moment of his beauty.
So don't feel dismay yourself. Your life is what it is because God knows you can handle it, that you'll use these excellent things to stretch to your fullest beauty. And we've seen that beauty in action quite often. :)
Just want to share a story: one of my favorite moments last week at work was when I saw a homeless, petite, old lady shivering from the cold, trying to use the angle of a building to block the wind. My spirit moved me to go inside a nearby diner and buy her a sausage breakfast burrito. When I gave it to her, she beamed at me like a little kid, had the sweetest smile and said sausage was her favorite. She made my day.
The Dalia Lama said, "Guilt is just a fabrication of your mind. Learn from your past and go forward." So, do it!
I don't think you need to feel guilty about having nice things, or sprouted grain bread, but I DO understand you worrying about other people in worse situations. I totally agree that the person cleaning the toilets as their second job works WAY harder than me, they so deserve sprouted grains. And often its not THEIR choices that have led them to cleaning toilets. I donate to a local charity who provides food and shoes and raincoats for school kids because thats where I think things go wrong for lots of kids, school with no food in their bellies - they may as well not be there at all. We do what we can (and you with your volunteering) and we empathise with those in worse situations, and hopefully we are GRATEFUL (not guilt-ful)for what we have. xxx
I think it's been said several times already, but life isn't fair and we should do our best to even the playing field. Beyond that, I'm not sure there is an answer to how to deal with "I have nice things and they don't" guilt, maybe it's what makes people human.
Yep. I feel this guilt. I try and remember the fact that not enjoying what I have is a waste. That the point is to enjoy those things and commit or recommit myself to doing what I can. Enjoy your holiday (guilt free) then come back and do what you can to give back with a renewed spirit.
Hi, I usually dońt answer on your blog, as far as , well, I do not dare !! but this particular subject touched me more more deeper...I also have a kind of easy Life, or at least, I have enough to be happy...BUT...I'm always not so much happy, knowing that so much people around are in deep need....
But as said, Life is not fair, we each do out best to participate to make it fair, being the best person we can, but we can not résolve, unfortunatly, all this unfair things by being sad during our vacations, that's no use for this purpose, and not fair for your familly you go on vacations with, so ENJOY !!!!!
(From France, so I apologize if my english is not perfect!! I think it is enough to be understood !!)
You ABSOLUTELY DESERVE IT! Have a restful, reaffirming special time. This is selfish on my part- I have your classes all day Saturday at Madrona. I learned Lever style at KnittyHaHa and want to fine tune it. On you respite, you are NOT ALLOWED to think about work. Only knitting for your soul.
I think so much has to do with luck, with being in the right place at the right time, with family situations long before we were born. I can't feel guilty about that but I can try and do my part and help other people. I'm lucky to be able to do so.
I feel the same way. I often boggle at people who live lives of excess. Who really needs a multi-million dollar home, or clothes that cost thousands of dollars? How can they live that way when so many struggle so much?
I, myself, being a young slip of a something and also taking a break from university, don't have much money right now. I work at caring for the disabled and get paid $8.12/hr to do it. I think about some day down the road when I've finished my degree and I finally get a job that pays a decent salary... and honestly, the thought makes me uncomfortable and guilty as all hell. It makes me want to donate all my future money to charity.
What would I really *need* all that money for? I by no means suffer. I make enough money to cover my living expenses and even have room for a little extra, like the Eslebeth Lavold silky wool I bought the other day for a shawl. Granted, I work anywhere from 50-70 hours a week, but still... it's gotten to the point where I almost never want to make a decent amount of money, because I don't think I deserve it when so many have so much less than I do.
I know what you mean.
Yes! This guilt is so hard to deal with. Of course I feel so silly saying that-- oh, poor me, I have so much and I don't feel good about it. I do though. I am in my twenties (this seems relavent because the economic situation into which i graduated means that many of my friends are under employed) married to a wonderful man, and i have a job I absolutely love. I'm not making a ton of money,but I'm comfortable, healthy and happy right now. Ad there are so many people who are not, it makes me a little sick. One of my best friends recently quit her job and relocated to help her parents deal with her brother's life altering brain injury, and all I can do is hug her and try to make the little things a little easier and brighter once in a while.
you just can't even life out. It really isn't fair. You do what you can to help out those in need, and most of all you make sure you are damn grateful for the privileges and opportunities you have right now. It's people who don't realize what they have that are the worst.
I come to your blog to read about knitting and life. I have never commented before, mostly, because I think you cannot read all the comments and by reading a few myself someone or another was already saying a variation of what I would had said. This time is different. Thank you for writing this. I understand what you are saying and I share your feelings. Thank you again, Stephanie.
I don't think it's possible to live with compassion without having such feelings. If no one had them, who would try to make things fairer? Certainly not the CEOs here in the States who want our government to support the poor and barely-making-it with even less so they can sit on ever higher piles of cash.
Am I alone in thinking this kind of guilt is actually kind of healthy? It shouldn't get out of proportion of course (as any guilt shouldn't) and poison the moments of joy and enjoyment of deserved (and even undeserved) pleasures, but it should be there to keep you on your toes so to speak.
It would be way too easy to slip into thinking that you deserve it as a matter of course and other people just don't get it because they are lazy and so on.
What keeps me in healthy balance is one of the dialogues in "Call the midwife" series. A young midwife coming from relatively well off background protected from life's nasty things starts to work in London's East End, among families sleeping four a bed. One of the priests in the neighbourhood explains some stuff to her which she - never having experienced lack of love or respect - was rather blind to (or thought it obvious everyone had a healthy sense of self respect and dignity).
As the conversation goes she says "You must think I'm pretty ignorant" "I think you were fortunate" - the priest responds "No need to apologize for that".
There are some life stories which make me feel guilty for having a roof over my head, and food on my table on regular basis. I always tell myself then there is no need to apologize for being fortunate, as long as I remember I should count it among my blessings and not something obvious.
You do SO much to help those less fortunate. Taking advantage of the blessings one has (ie being able to afford to donate either money or time) as well as carefully save for vacations is a great way to show gratitude for the good things you have in life. Life can change so fast -my step-father recently died of cancer only four months after diagnosis. So now I'm even more aware that life can be so unfair, and even more grateful for what I have and what I can contribute. Which also means looking after myself and treating myself and those I love (within my budget of course).
Enjoy your holiday and best wishes with not feeling the guilt.
Stephanie, thank you for this blog entry. I was thinking about the same just the other day, - that what we take for granted is - for many people - a pure luxus. Charity and "living simply" offer some kind of solution, but there is always this guilt lingering around, oh it is.
Warren Buffett, by the way, has spoken of the "Ovary Lottery". But this doesn't make it right, of course, this injustice of the world. I think one can do what one can do - which is mostly reaching out to those around you, never the whole city or the world. But there are limits to what one can do, there always are, - and the rest is a longing for a better world and for justice, which can never be fully reached while we are still here, on this earth.
I carry buckets of guilt that weigh like cement. Likewise, I also carry just as much thanks for those who have helped my husband & I during this very tough time. Primarily its my parents. If it were not for my folks we would be homeless and dealing with all that comes with those circumstances. I am disabled and waiting for Social Security Disability to come through so I personally have no income. My husband works and pays the bills we can, the ones that are critical like rent & utilities. I feel guilty for the people who have been waiting longer than I have for their Disability and have no help whatsoever. I feel guilty I could never repay my folks for what they have done and also that there could never be enough time to do so if I had the means. I feel guilty that I am 40 and it feels like my parents take care of me the way they did when I was a kid. I feel terribly guilty that they provide more for me than I do for them at the time in life when our roles should be changing. But then Monday & Tuesday come, our knit nights, and I am reminded of all the reasons to lay that guilt down, even if just for a little while. The time I share with my parents and my knitting time with my Mother is irreplaceable. To them, none of the rest matters. So we knit together, share dinners and cups of coffee together & I design patterns and send a little beauty back out into the world because its what I can give back. Yes I feel guilty, but slowly the guilt is being matched with joy. Thanks for such a wonderful post Stephanie :-)
I do like how you write, even if I chose a very different life from yours, even if I disagree most of the time with the choices you make. You seem to be a good person, and I read your blog everyday.
About the guilt : I often feel the "mum" guilt, and try to fight against, and in the same time, make myself a better mom, defined by my own vision of what is a good mom.
The third guilt, I was feeling it some time ago, and feel it much less now that I radically changed my way of living. I deliberately don't work (but I know this is maybe not possible in the U.S as you have very bad social care), I unite my forces with friends and we try to organize ourselves not the way the system would like us to.
I think we cannot say that voting for the "good" politicians will change anything. Nor will the charity organizations, because all this is part of the system, and if we don't start to build something else, if we continue to enjoy in consumering, of course we feel guilty, as we are feeding the system that makes the half of the planet starving, that encourages wars everywhere in this world.
I don't say that all people going on a cruise I don't know where in the world are bad people, or selfish or whatever. But I think, it's normal to feel guilty when you go to this kind of vacation, because it is produced by capitalism which is the system that allows you to have what you have. You're fed by the system the same way others are starving because of it. Since you don't try to radically change this, you feel guilt.
Charity things are there to help your conscious not to feel guilt, but you still feel guilt because you know, deep inside, that this will in no way change the world we are in. Am I wrong ?
I heard about this movement in the U.S. : http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/
And I think this is a way to think together about how to change things more deeply than giving a handknit hat to someone who doesn't have any. But I don't mean either that giving a handknit hat is a bad thing. It's just not enough if what you want is make a "better" world...
Sorry for the mistakes, english is not my mother tongue.
I am far from rich and I have 1 or 2 nice things, but if you ask me richness is not measured in monetary things, its about family and since you always put yours first, you too deserve to have nice things/vacation from time to time too!
don't apologize for rambling about this. i feel the same way and it's lovely to see it written down like this. they deserve it too. and yes, a lot of people who are scraping by are working incredibly hard. and i don't think it's fair at all.
hope you're getting lots of positive feedback.
I've never had nice hair. My hair is very fine, like baby hair. I'm not bald or anything, but I have always yearned for thick luxuriant hair. Some years back I was out with some friends at a theme park when I saw this woman who had the most beautiful hair I had ever seen. Thick, wavy, that strawberry blonde, just absolutely gorgeous. She was sitting on a little stone wall with her back to me and I looked at her and deep inside--I hated her! Why did she have such beautiful hair and I got stuck with such crap? Why did she deserve beautiful hair when I did not.
So there I am, seething with covetousness, when she hops off the wall and I realize, she is a dwarf. This beautiful girl with beautiful hair is a dwarf. I just couldn't tell when she was sitting on the wall. Now I'm not saying that being a dwarf is bad. What I am saying is it presents challenges that most of us do not have to deal with. I thought to myself, how much do you want that hair? Would you be willing to take on her challenges to have her blessings?
Life is a matter of perspective. That guy in front of you on line scraping together pennies to feed his kids, I'd be willing to bet there is a whole lot of love in that family. And that is something worth a gazillion times more than a cashmere scarf or 12 sprouted grains. We are all blessed in some way or another. Yes some more and others less, but it is your perspective in life that helps you cope.
I think what you are feeling on line there is empathy, that is rolling over into guilt. It's not that you think you do not deserve it, but you see someone who does not have what you have and wish you could give everyone what you have--but because you can't, you feel bad about it. I think that sort if guilt is just nature's way of getting us to pay it forward to ensure the success of the species--and make us better people. It is not necessary that we suffer because we see others suffering. What is necessary is when we are faced with the opportunity to give a hand up to our fellow man, that we make the most of that opportunity. If we all did that, this would be an awesome world.
Thank you for letting me know that I am not the only one who feels this way.
Steph, I wrote a blog post in part as a response: www.kimberly-brubaker-bradley.blogspot.com.
Yes Steph, I have guilt. Truckloads. As a single mother with three now mostly grown sons, that I raised without their father (I will not say I raised them alone, their teachers, friends and my network of emergency help and my government's social programs mean I was never truly "alone" raising them) I struggle daily with why I'm the one who was able to get a decent education (with government backed student loans, buy a small house in a respected school district, and make a living wage now. And others don't/aren't/can't. It all comes back to what Buffet and Gates attributed their "opportunities" to: Born White In America. or as musician Paul Simon sings "Born at the right time".
Truly, my "luck" was being born to the parents I had. A total random accident of the universe, which I've passed on to my three sons. Born at the right time.
Take the trip. Tip heavy. If you are going to a developing warm place where folks have very little (Dominican Republic) leave your clothes and toiletries behind for the gals who clean you rooms, they will be forever grateful. And did I mention tipping generously? And enjoy the vacation. We'll all be waiting for your thoughtful, insightful, we wish we lived right next door to you so we could have coffee together posts.
And Maggie @ 4:34... my heart goes out to you as you deal with all the horrific crap you are dealing with right now. Sending warm karmic healing thoughts to you. Hug x 1,000.
For a lot of people, the goal is to be able to meet their own needs (well, with maybe a little icing on the cake) and not be a complete burden to their kids or society in retirement.
My parents worked very hard as shopkeepers, but my dad died just as they were about to sell the last place they owned. No retirement. Mom had enough to get her to the end of her life, with a little assistance (not monetary) from my sister and myself, and there was some money left when she died. She gave of her money and her time to various organizations when she was alive.
I had a cousin who was viewed by the family as both very successful financially and as a good person. I remember listening to him talk about someone in his office who was ill for some time with cancer and who he was able to keep on the payroll for most of the time. I thought, gee, that's really nice, but what about the poor szhlub on the factory floor who doesn't get that kind of accommodation?
See, you can find guilt anywhere. Catholics and Jews (both represented in our household) don't have a monopoly, but they approach it differently.
Enjoy your vacation. If it recharges you for your support (of all types) of your family and organizations that do good, it will be worth it, and you should leave your guilt at home.
What we have, and what we don't have, is such a curious blend of effort and luck. Try to counteract your guilt with gratitude. And, of course, pay it forward. But you already do that and that makes you are an example to us all.
Wow, I could have written this myself! It exactly captures the way I feel about the good fortune my family enjoys compared to other people who seem to be equally/more deserving, hard-working, etc. There's no better description of what motivates the way I live, vote, and spend my time and money.
Enjoy your vacation.
A long time ago, I heard on Oprah/Dr Phil that feeling guilt means you KNOW you did something wrong and did it anyway. If you felt fine about what you did, and then after felt bad, that's regret. You're just labelling your feelings wrong. You don't feel guilty for taking a well planned, deserved, legitimate vacation. You feel remorse that you can't take all of us. I doubt that in your life, you've felt something would be wrong and did it anyway (other than casting on a new project). That's guilt. Change your wording to make their true meaning. "then realized that I hadn't told you because I feel guilty that I'm getting something nice" becomes "realized I hadn't told you because I feel blessed that I'm getting something nice; something nice I totally worked for, saved up for and earned and deserve and I feel remorseful that not everyone else can do that".
Your bit about the taxi driver is sort of my situation. I knew since I was little I wanted to be a teacher. Went through the 5 years of university with a high debt load as I spent most of my time helping my family (sick father and a very young brother) rather than getting a "real" job. Then, just as I was graduating, Mike Harris got elected and school boards pretty much stopped hiring (unless you were French, Catholic, or computer studies and I was none of those). I did everything "right" but no one knew about the election the year before...if I had deferred even a year or two, my life would be SO much different now. Am I guilty? Of what? Listening to my mentors? Following my heart? Not becoming a one-woman campaign to defeat Harris? I have regrets, not guilt. Change your words and you'll have a lot less guilt in your life :)
From someone a little bit past middle age, please remember that is very dangerous to judge your insides by some else's outsides.
When I find myself feeling guilty for having nice things, I know it's time to do some giving.
For me, its a matter of "there but for the grace of God go I." My husband and I live comfortably thanks to choices we've made, but also the blessing of having an aptitude for skills for which society pays well and sheer dumb luck. Who among us hasn't made bad choices that they got away with? I try not to feel guilty, though, because I think the more productive feeling is gratitude. Guilt just makes me feel bad, and I suppose if I'm not helping my neighbor and sharing my blessings I should. But, if I'm doing the things I should (and we've made lifestyle choices that ensure we can), then what I should feel is gratitude. Gratitude for the life I have, the comfort my family lives in. Gratitude that recognizes we didn't get here all by ourselves, and so we'll pay our taxes, vote for fair social policies, and give where we see need. And I will be grateful that I can take our grocery budget for granted.
Yes. I totally get it.
I grew up poor. Like, trailer park, eating pasta every night, never having new clothes (or really, anything) poor. And now I'm not. I have a bigger house than I really know what to do with, and it's not because I stumbled and fell into a large pile of cash. I DO work hard, and I did get a good education, but damn it if I don't feel guilty about what I have versus what other people don't. Especially when it comes to family and friends. Like you said, even though I can justify WHY I have those things, it's still hard not to get all wallflowery and mumbly when people compliment me on those nice things.
The other day a disabled man told me he wanted a cookie from the bakery where I was buying my croissant and coffee. So I bought him one and then he was angry because I assumed that he could not pay. Go figure. I also make it a point to give away knitted goods. Vacations are for germinating joy. Then you bring it home to share. That is your work.
Very well said. The only way I know to deal with this, is to imagine their is one large cosmic balancing system. That my volunteer work or donations go to someone in more need than myself. It's the "pay it forward" principle and in my effort to practice random acts of kindness my hope is that someone else will be helped as well.
There's really nothing tricky about karma. You do good things and good things happen to you. Feeling remorse because you can't fix it all simply shows that you care.
I look at your numbers in Knitters Without Borders and am grateful that there is someone like you "out there" reminding us all that we're all capable of being and doing just a little better.
Those numbers also remind me of the scene from Schindler's list when they use a quote from the Talmud: "He who saves a single life saves the world entire."
I have no doubt that someone (and probably more than one) is better off somewhere in the world because you are the person you are.
Take your vacation. Rest and recharge. Don't forget to show us the pictures.
Ive got guilt, boy do I have guilt. It's bugging me so much I had a hard time getting throughg this post without being twitchy. I'm involved in a really great non profit. We do great things for special people. I'm thrilled to help and volunteer. Then some earth shaking info came to light right before Thankgiving (US). The community came together. I thought things would settle down and we'd get back to business. Then more info came to light. Then the founder and board started fighting amongst themselves over fundraising and several other issues. The founder asks me to help, I do what I can. More drama inducing info comes to light, I tell the founder I'm not comfortable assisting her anymore. She can't seem to take "no thank you" for an answer. My guilt? I'm guilty of avoiding her phone calls for the last four days.
It takes a few generations of hard work most times. That's why we have to put a lot of energy into our kids, so that hopefully, THEY will be the ones to move into that next realm of luxury.You work hard for your future family and to make a better life for them. The guy in the grocery store, he's a generation or so behind your family. He'll get there. They will get there. All we can do is just keep on and do our best and do what we can to help them get there.
My mom used to say "life is like a sine curve -- when you are at the top, know there will be a down, but also know that when you are at the bottom, the top is on the way". She was very wise. Rejoice in your good fortune and have compassion for those who do not.
Very well said Stephanie and many of us feel as you do. Another way to look at this issue, aside from pure luck, is some people make poor choices and are living with the consequences for the rest of their lives. Enjoy your vacation!
I am so familiar with that feeling of guilt. The way I get through it is to realize that one person can't possibly fix it all. You do what you can... but we all need to pull together, as a society, as humanity, to fix the big problems. So in addition to making the contributions to it that I can make, I try in the nicest possible way, to advocate that we all make those contributions. Take a look at the MSF sidebar on your blog if you need external confirmation that not only do you do your part, but you help others to contribute too.
And additionally, thank you for your "ramblings" about the difference between guilt #1 and #2. I'm going through a tough time personally right now, and I have guilt that makes it harder on myself, and it's entirely guilt #2. Never heard it put so succinctly or clearly, and it helps a lot to be able to move towards letting go of it.
I guess you never know how you're going to help someone!
Enjoy vacation, relax and be thankful. :)
I had to laugh about the kids going back to school. Truly funny because not only do I have kids but my hubby is a teacher. So all summer long, when I am quietly leaving the house at 5:30 a.m., they are all sleeping. I am planning my retirement for a year before my husband's so that I can have one year where I am the one rolling over and going back to sleep while he goes to work.
We always will have guilt but think, even Jesus said that "we will have the poor with us always." There will always be those who have and those who don't and yes, some of the people who have, in truth, don't deserve it, just as some of the people who don't have, also don't deserve it.
The thing is that if you work hard, you are as entitled to your life as the next person. Is it fair that the next person is just scrapping by? I don't know.
As to your cashmere scarf. Its not like you went out and spent $300 on it. Instead, you bought yarn and made it yourself.
And, in the grand scheme of things, your vacation is the same thing. You worked hard, save your money, planned and scrimped and planned and worked and saved, taught classes, travelled and were away from your family with your work, and now you get to enjoy the fruit of your labors.
Enjoy your vacation. Without the guilt.
Thanks. I have been having the same conversation with myself -- I have a better job than I thought, enough money, super kid, great house, etc etc etc. Thank you for articulating a tough, complicated subject. I broker an uneasy peace with myself. It always has been an uneasy peace. Likely, alwyas will be.
I understand how you feel and feel the same way. As I scrolled to the bottom to add this comment I see that many are echoing your sentiments.
I do appreciate the measure you gave me about how to measure the first two types are guilt. This has always been a problem for me and I will now use the "other lady" yardstick. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful column.
I believe God wants everyone blessed, honestly, and those of us who are blessed more than others are blessed to be a blessing. I know you're not religious (I don't feel I am, either, actually), but I think you are blessed and you ARE a blessing. You have used your celebrity to raise over $1,000,000 for Doctors Without Borders. Others gave the actual money, of course, but you were the rallying point. How could it have been done if you weren't in a place to be the inspiration for this thing?
Sometimes life just sucks. It sucks for others more than for others. I used to deal with this kind of guilt, too, but I don't anymore. Again, this is based on my personal belief in a God who loves us all, so you might need to bear with me. I'm not at all trying to preach, just to share what I felt from a life experience.
I took my boys to get their flu shots a few years ago. My older boy is healthy as a horse, never sick, and strong. My younger son has allergies and deals with sickness and issues with some regularity. They had introduced the spray that year, where you could get the immunization through a spray in the nose rather than a shot in the arm, but you have to be really healthy to do that for some reason. My older son got cleared for the spray, but my younger son, because of his allergies and such, still had to get the shot. I had a moment of crisis, where one child was getting a better deal than the other, and I think my older son felt that guilt, too, because he looked over and said, "Mom, if he has to get the shot, I want to get the shot, too." I had this kind of lurch inside of me (I almost started bawling right there!) and I looked at them, both of these boys I love with all of my heart, and I had to look at my older son and say, "Sweetie, you getting the shot isn't going to make his hurt any less. I don't want you to have this pain just because he has to."
I honestly felt like I'd just had a spiritual experience. Again, based on my belief in God, I feel like He loves us all the same. Some of us have less pain than others, and I think He's happy about that. Some people have more pain, and He wants that to go away. I don't feel like those of us who have more should have less just because someone else does. We give a pretty huge portion of our income to projects that help people locally and all over the world. We live in comfort and I have some cashmere things, too. I think, at the end of the day, I know that I AM making a difference. My being poor wouldn't help someone else who is poor. My being blessed and generous is what helps them.
Anyway, that's how I think of it now. Oh, and when my younger son got the shot, my older son was right there to comfort him. He gave him a piece of gum and hugged him and made him feel better. And, yeah, I think that's what it's about. I know this was a huge response, and you may not agree with a lot of it, but I hope it helped.
I agree with the thought that guilt is a warning flag that you did something wrong. Of course life is hard and unfair, but you only earn the guilt if YOU have made that other person's life hard. Instead of guilt, try replacing that uneasy feeling with compassion and ask yourself if you can help this person right now in some small way. Maybe offer to buy the pasta, apples and carrots. Guilt for having something is only appropriate if you deliberately stole it from someone else who had earned it.
Repeat to yourself: I did not steal this from anyone. I am blessed AND I worked hard and I'll help anyone when I can.
Maybe you'll see someone who really needs help on your vacation and you'll be there to do it.
I'm one of those people who is scraping and scrounging. My husband has started his own business which is not going as good as we wish it would. I'm the mom of that kid; buying apples and carrots.
I pretend that I prefer to knit with acryllic; while I really long for the expensive yarns most of the other ladies at knitting group use.
I do without so that the kids can have things.
To those around us, the tightness of our budget doesn't show. We keep how desperate things are to ourselves.
We help out other people in any way that we can. We're just waiting patiently for the world to turn around and treat us right. :)
But, I'm glad you are getting to go on a trip. Go, enjoy, soak up some sun, get warmed up - it's been a cold Canadian winter lately. Don't feel guilty. Feel blessed that you are able to do this. Have some wonderful adventures to share with us :D
I totally relate to what you have said in this post. Totally.
I'll offer a couple of things. First: It would be really great, at least to my way of thinking, if we could all share all of the nice stuff so that nobody had significantly more or less than anybody else. How to make that happen, though, is another story.
Second: Have you ever heard the phrase, "Don't compare your insides to another person's outsides"? I've found that people get different "gifts" based on what they need most (or at least this is my belief). The guy at the supermarket buying the apple may have the most loving family ever, or the best boss ever, or something else great. He may not. The point is that you can't know much about someone based on his or her ability to buy nice things, particularly that person's happiness or satisfaction level. Things may or may not be as bad for folks as you imagine, and some of them may be just as happy as you are or moreso, even.
I was REALLY broke for a long, long time (up until I was about 45 years old - I'm 58 now). I was a single mom of 2 with no child support and a job that didn't pay much. I thought I would always be really broke. Eventually, though, I got really lucky and got a promotion, then another promotion, at about the same time my kids moved out, and *poof* I wasn't broke any longer. I see this as sheer luck, while many others will tout my talents or abilities or stick-to-it-iveness or whatever. I see it as luck because I know plenty of people who are talented, able and "stick to it" forever without getting a break. I don't know why I got lucky; I just know that I did. And I don't know why some people do and some don't.
I do know that every time I buy a $25 skein of yarn, I'm grateful that I can do so. Many times when people ask me to knit things for them and want to pay for the yarn, I'll ask for $10 then make them something out of 3 skeins of that $25/skein yarn just so they can have something really, really nice. I do this because I really enjoy the fact that I can. I couldn't for a long time, but now I can, and for this I am immensely grateful.
Wow, how's that for a long ramble out of someone who usually uses only a few words? Whew! Thank you for your ever-thoughtful posts. I enjoy every one of them immensely.
As someone with a master's degree and a job that pays about 1/3 of what I'm worth, I wholeheartedly love this blog post. I only wish people who are my oldest brother's age could look at life like this.
You shouldn't feel guilty for your income because at least you have the good sense to not judge the poor and assume they're all stupid people who made poor choices. I went straight through grad school and expected an excellent career/salary upon my completion at 24. What I've had is one piss poor job after the next without enough income to even move out on my own, let alone consider starting a family. It sucks in this world if you don't have a hook up to an excellent job, especially in the state of the current economy.
Yes - thanks for putting my feelings into the written word. Like a voice says "The world is not fair" and the little voice in your head says "why not". But...you are probably not really going on vacation! If like last year, I believe, you are going to continue to post and tell us of your grand adventures...then, Dear Heart, you are working!!! We need to live vicariously through our favorite Harlot. Loved your trip the other year with your Mum, and nieces and nephews(I think they were). You worked very hard to bring us pleasure!!!!! :^) Really! Travel safely!!!
I don't guilt well, which many people have found difficult to deal with. Many years ago I learned that guilt was anger turned back on myself. If I begin to feel guilty, I ask myself what it is I'm angry about. Many times it's just plain silly, sometimes it's something I can handle in a different way. At least it's not anger coming out sideways!
Enjoy every moment of your trip! You may feel you have earned it, but other than the financial part IMHO you didn't need to earn a vacation!
Wow, I've heard that self-esteem comment before, too. But I feel precisely the same way. I recognize that not everyone gets what they deserve and everyone deserves to make a living wage, have health benefits, and not have to work more than one job to get them.
That said, Steph, go have a LOVELY vacation! And, if you get some cool pictures, I'd love to see them. :) You deserve it.
You have guilt because you have a conscience.
I feel the same way, but it's because I have lots of clean water to drink and wash in. Every time I turn on the tap, I can feel it.
wow. i love this essay.
life is complex.
though we all feel guilt at one time or another, i think it better to focus on compassion for self and others, not to judge ourselves or others too harshly, etc. there's so much situational stuff out there, so we just gotta be and do the best we can.
hope you have a wonderful time!
I believe this emotion is felt by most caring people and honestly i feel the same way too. My one saving grace is that I will make sacrifices in my budget to help others and I know that you put a great deal of effort and have helped a great many people. Maybe your post will encourage even more people to do something for someone and that will grow - then there would be fewer people without - if we all shared just a little something. With me I give food and knit for people in need.
I was in the Peace Corps, then out of work for a long time. A string of crappy jobs later, I now have a good one where I help refugees find jobs. What I have figured out, from my time crying into my pillow saying "I work hard, I did everything I was supposed to, why can't I catch a break?" and now watching those surgeons clean toilets here in the US: You can work as hard as possible, and sometimes you get what you deserve. But mostly that is just something said to make us feel better. Mostly it is an accident of birth, and you do the best with what you have. There is no point in feeling guilty that you were given something you had no control of (in my case, I was born white into a supportive family in the US). The guilt comes if you do not take advantage of that, and try to help those who were not so lucky.
As the woman who started "Knitters Without Borders", who does a grueling bike ride for AIDS, who has created a community that means more to some of us than words can express, I think you have fulfilled that and then some. You have taken advantage of every opportunity you have have, you have made more opportunity, and you have used those opportunities to help others.
So, have an amazing time on your vacation, and we all look forward to some great pictures!
The sine wave advice is cool. But it still doesn't answer why life doesn't come out even; an unlucky person's wave-top never reaches as high as a lucky person's wave-bottom. Please tell me Karma isn't the reason why some babies get cancer and others jet-set through life on their grandparents' tab.
These guilt twinges are good. 1. They make us extra grateful for any luxuries that come our way honorably. 2. They remind us that ease is ephemeral; it'd only take one crummy break for things to change. And bad breaks happen eventually to lots of people. That, or just regular old age.
As a once-recipient of compassion we sorely needed, let me say that I deeply appreciated the non-judging helpfulness of fellow humans offered. A few people like Stephanie, who added just enough hope and reassurance when everything seemed impossible. I didn't resent their good luck one little bit.
Thank you for the reminder that many of us are so blessed to be able to enjoy privileges as well as the guilt that often accompanies these privileges. I also work hard and make financial choices. However, that is not what separates me from those less fortunate (well perhaps sometimes but usually not). I have enjoyed the benefits of good family, fine education and the opportunity to work in a field that provides a more than living wage. I think it's great to enjoy some treats (as you are about to enjoy a well-deserved vacation) but I should never confuse my privilege to enjoy them with the idea that I am somehow "better" than those who are not so fortunate (not that you think you are better -- BUT but some privileged people, for example the thankfully losing republican ticket in the recent US presidential election, do believe that they are better than the poor or the takers or the 47%). Thank you again for a thought provoking post. I so enjoy reading your blog.
Totally. But also I agree it is a checking point, and that is good. The "moral line" is helpful to remember, thanks. Sometimes, though one does need space to recharge--hope you have a renewing (guilt-free) vacation! Happy trails!
Guilt...tons of it, for exactly the same reasons. I would be happy if we lived in a society where everyone had at least "enough". Where food and warmth and someone to love you were not a bargaining chip. Where you don't always get what you want, but you get what you need. I could live with that.
Thank you for your comments. You reminded me that guilt has its place when it reflects my moral line. I'm willing to listen to that guilt. I nneded the reminder to recognize other guilt as unhelpful even distructive to me. Thanks.
Steph, A BIG HUGS for you. You are where you are because you worked for it. Don't ever think differently, when there was a stumbling block, you found a way to make it better, even if you had to borrow a big truck! You move on to make LIFE just a little better for those around you.
GUILT should not be in your life,because someone else has self pitty, that is their bag to carry.
I have lost so callled friendships because of what I've accomplished and now what I have. I worked, prayed, loved, shared.Now the end results is mine to enjoy.
So NOW enjoy your life and vacation..
It's hard to cope with the guilt of seeing those that are doing without and you're not. But just like those of us who want to adopt all the kitties in the shelter one has to realize that we're just one person and can't do everything. With that, doing one thing is better than doing nothing and every little bit matters: the visit to the housebound; the meal to the neighbor; the donation to the charity; the time spent filling food boxes.
With all that you do for our entertainment and knowledge, you deserve what you are getting. Because you do a lot. You put together a freakin' sock knitters convention! Twice! That deserves good stuff.
Have a great vacation!
I get this, boy do I get it. What I don't get, is those people who have a lot and flaunt it, whether it's material things like a fancy vacation home or their kid got selected to be in the "select" group of whatever (the gifted class, etc). I don't understand the attitude of "I deserve this and that guy scraping up pennies to buy an apple for his child, well, if that guy just smartened up and got a job, he'd have what I have." That attitude I just do not understand. Thank you for exploring this topic.
I feel the same way. My mom works for a janitorial company, and raised my sister and I with that money. Now that shes getting older (she's almost 60) work gets harder and harder for her. She works her rear off and has a lifetime of struggling behind and ahead of her. I work for a political figure that works around 20 hours a week, and he makes about 5 times what my mother does. Not to mention the comped trips that the city pays for, while my mother has been on one real vacation her whole life. It's not his fault, or your fault. But the world isn't right.
The social guilt you're feeling is normal -it's where a lot of volunteer burnout comes from, actually. Take care of yourself.
On the mom front, I very clearly remember my mother spending lots of summer quality time with her 3 kids, and then being quite happy when we were in school. She used to say you can love your kids, and leave them too!
I agree with everything you said in this post. We need our society to be better organized so everyone who works hard can at least afford the basics of a decent rent, food on the table, enough clothes, etc.
I live in the U.S. and I think the economic unfairness is worse here.
Nope, no guilt here. No. No. No.
I am glad I am not alone. Thank you
I felt guilty on a very cold day recently when I said "no" to a down-at-heel woman who sounded inebriated and wanted bus fare. Then I felt guilt and remorse for being so judgmental. Like everyone else, she deserved to at least be in a warm, dry place. So I went back and gave her the bus fare. She thanked me ever so profusely and then said, "I really need the money so I can take the bus to pick up my dentures." So, she wasn't inebriated, just toothless! That feeling of guilt made way for another lesson: to stop judging people on first impressions, and be grateful for what I have (which is bus fare and a whole lot more).
I'm not sure deserved is part of the equation. work, pay, yes, but not deserved.
and, well, that's why the bible says give 10% of all incomes and blessings away. and have some at the edges that can be taken.
and why saints are the ones we point to as amazing, when they get generous.
it's not a 100% me, 0% you game.
One of your many thought-provoking posts--this really hits home and is great in helping separate out the "good" guilt, so to speak, from the bad.
I think the religious view of life, at its best, can help make us feel that we're not here to get what we "deserve" but simply to do what we can. This doesn't help with the unfairness, and it doesn't help if you're the one with the cashmere scarf, but it may help to live through the unfairness if you are the one buying apples and carrots. You can of course hold this mindset without being religious, too. You seem to be one who does it very well. And who does a lot.
I have the 3rd type of guilt as well. My thought is that you aren't having those feelings because your self esteem is low. You are having them because your empathy is high. That's a good thing. :)
Thank you for an incredibly thoughtful & insightful blog post. Sadly, the "life is not fair" cliche is true. What I do know: if everyone shared your compassion & empathy for those who have less, our world would be a much better place. Thank you for sharing your perspective with us!
I think the whole "work hard and you'll get good things" message is a myth. I think it's more accurate to say "work hard and you have a chance to get good things". No guarantees. No assumption of "failure to work hard" if said "good things" fail to occur. No assumptions of who does or does not "deserve" good things.
Everyone deserves "good things", and sometimes life conspires to make that happen. Sometimes circumstances conspire to prevent that. It's not fair, because everyone deserves good things. The only thing we can do is share and work for social justice if we're lucky enough that circumstances allowed us to be recipients of good things.
You're doing it right. There's nothing wrong with having good things. It's just that hard work doesn't guarantee them. Sure wish it did.
maybe I'm just too much of a skeptic, but I fail to see why people need sweet, snacky things like "paleo cupcakes" or "paleo pancakes." candy cigarettes, if you ask? me. . . on a lighter note, the recipe book is a great idea, and I hope you see a lot of success with it. I am loving seeing paleo become so mainstream. now if only the US government could notice this boom in popularity and these real world results, and give the rest of the country a new food pyramid.
Thank you so much for putting to words what I often feel.
Oh, oh, oh...yes. You have done it again. Put my own messy,confusing thoughts into clear words. Thank you. I am right there with you.
Just count your blessings and be thankful - and give what you can. If every person gave a hat - or a dollar - or some food... shared their time - if everyone did their part, this world would be a lot better. Not every problem solved, but still improved. Next time, if you can, pay for the mans apples and carrots. Do what you can and then let yourself be blessed. (I know that's very hard.) None of us deserve our blessings. They're gifts.
PS. Re: kids - absence makes the heart grow fonder! A little break from your kids and the hustle and bustle helps everyone!
Yes! I know this guilt sooo well...but I try to be a taoist about it: do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Then let it go. For me, it was volunteering with hospice, sitting with the dying who had no one to be with them, and now that my hubby has alzheimer's, I'm home with him and knitting. (I was always knitting, anyway...) I want to share hats, scarves, baby things with those in need in my community. what I can...with what I've got...where I am....
Beautiful post! Guilt, got some? Yes, for sure. Hard to live with, but like you say, it's a motivation towards helping to create a more just world.
Bless you for this post. I've been struggling with similar feelings, and it was serendipitous to find your words here this morning.
I bet that we all need a vacation, so you should enjoy the heck out of yours. You deserve it. Just take lots of pictures, please.
thank you for this beautiful, thoughtful post, articulating what many of us also feel. How dare I want a new vehicle, or even new pyjamas when there are millions without food money? Thank you for encouraging all of us to be better people. Have a fabulous holiday!
Raised and recovering catholic... Guilt, oh yes I have it. I now drive a city bus and feel bad every day for those less fortunate. I always have a spare hat or two that I give to folks in need. I volunteer, vote and all that too. But I still feel bad. I try not to judge but some days it is so hard. Just this morning I was driving by the methadone clinic, which was a mob scene, and couldn't help thinking... If they can get up this early and make it to the clinic why oh why can't they get or hold a job. Then I saw the guy with his underpants on outside his clothes and wanted to slap myself for thinking such a thing.
"I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, 'wouldn't it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?' So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe." -- Marcus Cole, Babylon 5
I have this guilt at times as well. We work hard, we do without a lot of the things that everyone in western civilization thinks they're supposed to have. We also have a nice, warm home and plenty of food to eat, and enough set aside that a random furnace breakdown won't totally derail us. And in the back of my mind, I'm thinking that we're one bad medical diagnosis or long-term job loss away from being one of the people I'm feeling guilty about.
I try to practice daily gratitude and thankfulness for the good things. But I do feel guilty for not doing more for others. Instead of being overwhelmed by the black hole of all the neediness in the world, I need to concentrate on what I can do. Thanks for the reminder, and enjoy your vacation.
This Sunday we had a visiting priest who works with the homeless and addicted and what he said really made me think. Now stick with me for a moment because I'm going to use a word that makes a lot of people go cross eyed. He said Jesus didn't come here to reduce poverty, he was rather poor himself. He also didn't come to feed the hungry even though he did do that once or twice. Probable others were feeding him.One of the main things he did was to acknowledge the poor, and outcasts and show them respect and caring. Let them know they are as important as anyone else. So when we see someone begging on the street look into there eyes and say something don't just look away. Smile and say hi. I'm not saying this quite right and of course he's not saying not to help these people in other ways if you can, but making someone feel human is so important. I hope you get what I'm trying to say. Jesus didn't come here and change anyone's social status.
I have this kind of guilt too. So much that 20 years ago when we built a new big house I felt so guilty that even though I had 3 kids and worked full time I started taking in foster kids and for 15 years I filled our big house with more and more people because there are so many people who don't have a home at all. We adopted 4 of those foster children and now even though I've been parenting children for 34 years I still have a long at least 10 more years and many more to go...My youngest child is only 8 years old. I love them all desperately but I will admit that I am tired and yes, I still feel guilty about well, just about everything. Thanks for your post.
Dear Stephanie, Guilt is bad, makes us feel bad and really has no answers. Conviction is good and leaves us hopeful and maybe even with a direction! Never feel guilty about the blessings you enjoy because of all your hard work!! You bless many and we appreciate all that you do. If you sow love and goodness...you reap love and goodness. It's the way nature works, seed time and harvest. Love Ya, Josie
As far as guilt from others, I've always liked what Eleanor Roosevelt said: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
Guilt from within? Yeah, it's complicated. We all have the same basic needs, but wants are uniquely personal... the penny-scraping guy at the supermarket may have been dreaming of cheeseburgers and a ticket to the big game, not cashmere and sprouted-grain bread. I am totally confounded by the things people spend their money on (injecting poison into one's face comes to mind), but no doubt they would feel the same about some of my choices. If you spend your well-earned income on things that genuinely bring you happiness, try to make peace with it, because those things are where they belong.
I think our work ethic has somehow gotten twisted. I don't think it started out as "Work hard so you'll be entitled to good things." It's more like, "Work hard to get to the places where good things happen, and so you'll fully appreciate the ones that come your way."
But life is unfair, and always will be. It's hard to accept that some people's basic needs are not met, but that's a vacuum that will suck out your soul if you let it. My approach is to give regularly to charitable organizations (regular giving helps them budget), give more in crisis situations, and help individuals when and if I can. And yes, I need to get back to volunteering... oops, there's that guilt again.
Guilt is like salt - a little bit helps us appreciate, but too much ruins everything.
I know just what you mean too, especially today! I have mostly been in the category of barely scraping by and recently have started to get things together for my family much better, but today my husband just got an enormous raise that means that the combined income we have now is going to be how much he's making by himself! I am over the moon but feel tremendously guilty at the same time! It's something I want to shout to the world because I'm so overjoyed and yet don't want to talk about because I know how it feels to be on the other end of all of it just wishing upon wish that you could make things work for your family. We are now going to be in a position we thought we'd get to ten years from now. I am so happy I've cried today and yet feel so guilty for all the people who don't get to have this feeling and deserve it just as much as we do. Why us? It's wonderful but leaves me feeling like I need to be very responsible and somehow give back with this blessing. Complicated feelings.
Successful people have 3 things going for them. Brains, hard work and luck. If you are missing any one of the three, your lot in life is going to be far less.
I don't feel responsible for these things in other people. In myself, I can try to make all three work for me. I would feel guilty if I did not work hard, or I didn't use my brain for the hardest possible job. Luck, well, I can make sure I stay open to opportunity.
I think you are doing a good job. There is only so much help that you can give someone, so don't feel bad. Everyone needs to make their own luck.
Molly : )
You Dirtbag!! There, do you feel any better??? Suck it up my Girl, you don't always get what you deserve in this life, sometimes you get worse & sometimes you get better. Life ain't fair, it's all a crapshoot! Get used to it & enjoy it when you win.
Stephanie, I seem to recall a similar degree of angst last year just prior to that vacation. And you went. And had fun. And came back refreshed and relaxed. And while there enriched the lives of your mum, aunt, sister, and Hank. And you sent us blog posts so we could share the adventure.
Go, have fun, tip well. No guilt.
I can't say that I never feel guilty -- when I fall short of what I expect from myself, it's natural, I think -- but I don't often experience the "third kind" of guilt you're describing.
Helping someone who's in a bad way is both compassionate and useful. Feeling guilty because someone's in a bad way and you're not is neither.
Go on vacation and stop feeling guilty. Do any of us feel guilty about not telling you that we are going on vacation and where we are going? Everybody needs a vacation and if we spend a little more one year, we deserve to treat ourselves after a hard period of work.
This post was timely. I recently quit my job rather than return to work at the end of maternity leave, and now I'm home with a 3.5 year old and a 6 month old. I've taken the 3 year old out of his 45-hour-a-week daycare, and now he's in a morning preschool for three hours a day, Monday through Friday. And I have so much guilt floating around -- for not working, for outsourcing some of his care (even though I think he really likes/needs a classroom and other kids his own age, I still feel like I'm not being a full time mom somehow). Your first three paragraphs are balm to my soul right now.
If it helps to have another voice in the choir, I think you do not need to feel guilty about telling us about your vacation. In fact, if I may offer a twist: you bring so many people joy through this blog. Vicarious knitting, for those of us who are slower and less adventurous. Interesting stories and perspectives, or household debacles. Thoughtful pieces like this. Inspiring communal efforts like the Doctors Without Borders fundraising and the knitting olympics. And you'll come back from your vacation and write a post about it, or the knitting you did while you were gone, and it will cheer so many people's day. So a vacation for you is actually a very GIVING thing, looked at in the proper light. :-) WE certainly don't mind.
Imagine a world where everyone had exactly the same amount of good fortune. That sounds like a very scary science fiction world to me.
I want a world where everyone shares, spreads random acts of kindness, gets up every morning and tries to be the best person they can be, and is OVERJOYED to see other people having a special time.
I believe most people are happy to see other people happy. Happiness is catching. So, be a good, happy person and spread the love. "No" to guilt.
I think about this all the time.
Our society has a complicated relationship with entitlement. Almost everybody professes to condemn it, but if nobody buys into it then why are they still targeting advertising at it? "Because you're worth it." "Go on. You deserve it." "Give her what she deserves this Christmas." "Give yourself a break."
My theory is, people are meant to feel this type of guilt. It's both a consequence of, and an important contributing factor to, life in a community. There are people who have less than we do, and we DO have a social responsibility toward generosity. I believe that denying the usefulness of these guilt feelings, or struggling to "overcome" them, would be wrong.
Really good post.
I thought you were leading into an updated MSF appeal. They phoned me the other night to thank me for a recent donation and ask if I couldn't give monthly (no thanks, don't like debits from my bank account for any avoidable reason).
They asked me what sparked my choice of MSF and I said, "I'm a Knitter Without Borders!"
The empty space of a penny NOT dropping.
So I told the woman about our phantom family members for whom we "buy" Xmas prezzies at your suggestion. When I told her how much you've helped them raise she sounded a tad more impressed!
If you or your lovely assistant had a couple of spare days to rub together it would be epic to see what our current total might be. Yeah, I know, ask a busy woman, but you're a busy woman who fits in plenty of good works so I think you can ask the guilt to give you a pass.
Have a lovely time and a good rest! And Thanks, Joe!
Someone once asked the Dalai Lama to define karma for Westerners. He summed it up in 5 words. What goes around, comes around. You have such a good heart, Steph, and do good things for others. Your vacation is the universe paying you back. Jettison the guilt and enjoy the moment.
Please remember that the money you spend on this vacation will create income for someone else. If you do not spend, they cannot earn.
Stephanie - I know just where you're coming from. I feel guilt on a regular basis for the same reason, and it's directed at my Mum. She has worked SO very hard all her life, but has been dealt the short end of the stick time and time again. She's currently 57yrs old, going through a nasty divorce, working 2nd shift (plus another part time job), and barely able to pay her bills (mostly she has to short one bill to pay another). Although my husband and I are having a rough time with me being a SAHM and living paycheck to paycheck, I feel so guilty getting any luxury at all. Family sticks together though, so we are all in it together!
Get over it! Seriously! The things that you do, and the things that you buy contribute to some other individuals ability to make a living. This is how things work. You live responsibly, you give back, and you contribute, and if you have a budget that you have to live within, you contribute enough! Get rid of the guilt, it does no one any good.
OMG Are we twins separated at birth? I feel guilty when I bring my kids to daycare in the summer because I'm a teacher. I don't tell anyone that I'm going on vacation, when I do. And I'm a knitter with many UFO's and startitis more often than I would like to admit!
So often you put my life into words. Sometimes it's a little creepy. Please get out of my head.
Best on your vacation!
Qute frankly...I am tired of false guilt. There is good guilt..the kind you talked about at the start of the post. That kind of guilt is not enough in the lives of modern persons. Folks think that they can do anything to anyone, hurt anyone's feelings and not see any problem with it. There is no feelings of remorse for stealing, lies, acts of disgraceful personal behavior, violence, hatefilled and hurtful insults, personal attacks on character, and the list can go on.
But to feel bad because you are taking what you have earned!!? Come on Steph! As it is, many of us are being told we do not deserve what we have earned and it need not be our right to enjoy the fruits of our labors. This is false guilt!
None of that for you my dear! You go and have a good time...PLEASE GO and have a good time.
We will patiently await your return and then...it's back to the fiber!
Amen. And have a safe and happy vacation, and don't forget your sunscreen!
Well, THAT'S a helluva note to start vacation with! All we can do is the best we can do in our own lives. Send good thoughts to people, help where you can. Be happy. We're all here to learn and to grow.
Have a well-deserved, joyous rest...
Even the Good Samaritan went on to tend to his business after seeing to the injured man.
Enjoy the vacation - wish I could go!
I thought you were going to end your piece by saying you had just seen Les Miserables. Because I just saw it, and it made me think similar thoughts.
Go on the vacation. Where you are going the people need the business you bring them. The people that work in the hotels and restaurants need to make a living and you will be helping them. The conveyances you use have many people behind them that will be helped with your business. Drivers, repair persons, cleaners, builders of these conveyances. Go on vacation you are helping many people who need you to be on vacation at their location. Have fun, feel good, get recharged and then share it with us when you get back.
You've certainly earned a little time off. Stephanie, when you start feeling guilty, think about this: You have single-handedly inspired women world-wide to donate over a million dollars to MSF/DWB. You did that.
Yes, I feel guilty when I look around and see how much yarn there is in my home. I feel guilty when I talk to people who have to save up for every skein, even for Red Heart Super Saver (shudder). But I'm not Mother Theresa (or the image we have of Mother Theresa, which is not the same as the woman herself). I can't take care of everyone. SOmetimes I'll slip a skein of nicer yarn to someone who can't afford it. Whenever they're collecting for the food bank at Giant TIger (which I work next door to), I buy a few dollars's worth every time I walk in (a bit more on paydays). When I'm buying my kids their winter clothes, I'll often buy a few extra pieces for the Snowsuit fund (and I knit hat after hat for them each year, because I like knitting hats and my kids don't like wearing them).
Small gestures mean ever so much more than giving up everything you own so that others can have a marginally better life. And you, my dear, make small gestures every single day. And that's the best thing you could ever do. So let go of your guilt and enjoy your vacation :) And take lots of pictures and share with us when you get back!
I'm with "Just me". Your vacation (pebble) causes an infinite number of financial ripples in the locale of your vacation. Please relax and rejuvenate, you must take care of yourself if your going to be able to take care of us!!!
I love you for this post. That is all.
Have a great time! We'll miss you, but we'll still be here when you get back.
Are you sure you weren't raised Catholic? LOL Go have fun!
So, does feeling guilty for not feeling guilty for having nice things count?
Sheesh, didn't we go through this last year? Buy some carbon credits to offset the way the plane destroys the atmosphere, and go. And enjoy yourself. Guilt is a completely unproductive emotion.
Yes, oh yes, I have guilt. I have similar guilt and lots of other guilt.
There are so many things that I think should change in this world and despite my letter writing and voting and giving to charity and teaching my children to have compassion, etc, I often feel like it is pointless and not going to change. Then I feel guilty for not trying harder.
I sometimes weep and mope over my first world problems and my real world problems and wish things would get better and then feel guilt about the very people you have described. I know there is a balance in the Universe, but I often struggle to see it. I know that there will always be people that get exactly what they deserve and that will also always be people that don't. There will be those that deserve to have food on the table and a warm place to sleep and oh ye gods that keeps me awake nights. There will be those that deserve to be publicly flogged and driven down the streets between throngs of people throwing rocks that won't be and that keeps me awake too.
I have to believe that these things will be fixed eventually. Some things will just naturally work themselves out. Some will be fixed by us, people that try and make a difference in the world. And the rest will be fixed by God, in His own time.
In the meantime, I keep looking for my magic wand and do my best to not let other important things in my life slide because of that effort.
It is so hard to know that fundamentally fairness is a made up thing. How to reconcile? How to bear witness to the suffering around us? How to remain grateful? How to not harden our hearts because its easier o do that then o feel the kind of guilt you write so eloquently about. Hard. Maybe just kindness?
It seems to me that you are at the intersection of compassion & gratitude & that you may be confused about which way to go. You can go both ways & it's ok. The guilt is a problem because it only increases suffering, & it isn't the "productive" kind of suffering, so it only leads to more. I would encourage you to do several things: omit the "shoulds" from the way you deal with yourself; try to avoid the concept of what people deserve- that's not up to you; continue to practice the compassion I know you already feel; and try to start a daily gratitude practice. We are all trying to make our way through this life- the best thing we can do is to try and help each other.
Enjoy your vacation. I can't wait to hear all about it. Blessings!
This third type of guilt is why I will always be happy to live in the UK, and pay my stupidly high taxes. Because it helps to support those people. Yep, some people take advantage of the system but I don't care - as long as it also helps people who have to make choices as to whether to feed their children or themselves.
I know exactly how you feel, and thank you for writing this. It's particuarly good to hear when society is victim-blaming and free marketing (otherwise known as ME first)as a philosophy, and even my 5 year old nephew isn't allowed to do that. All you can do is do your best in the opposite direction, which you do.
Enjoy the vacation, take pictures(will there be actual sunlight? I live further North than you).
I love you for talking about this. Have you read Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers"? I am guessing you may have. I know you are a big reader, and he's so good. If you haven't, he talks in his beautifully lucid way about the reasons why some people end up really successful and others do not, and "I worked hard, I deserve this" turns out to be far from the whole reason (as you say, so many of the apparently unsuccessful work incredibly hard as well) and it is a marvelous book. I call it success if a person manages to find meaning and satisfaction and brings up children well no matter how much money they have or don't have. But it is hard, miserably hard, to do it in poverty.
I am with Renate at 1:46. I have been keeping a notebook for the last four years, where I list all the good things that happen to me each month. It helps me remember them, and I can go back and feel the joy again. If I stop and think of all the blessings I have, I keep that gratitude in the front of my mind. If I take what I have for granted and stop feeling blessed, that is when I feel guilty.
Thanks for being a thoroughly human being. Enjoy the time off.
Ah! Yes these feelings are extremely complicated, and the false guilt about where we lie on the scale of material wealth, and the false notion that we have because we deserve, is where the model of relative morality begins to break down. In a society where one's worth is largely determined by what you have, what you do, or how you look, it is easy to feel guilty on the good days. It forces me to wonder where exactly does my worth come from?
I agree with those who believe that gratitude is a big part of how to deal with being human. Mine is directed primarily to God.
Now that I've rambled, too, I'm confident in diagnosing your ambiguity about vacation to be false guilt - be thankful and enjoy!
BTW, the only thing you should feel guilty about today is that you didn't include any yarn porn in this post :)
Another one of my fiber heros, Anita Luvera Mayer, wrote a book(let) years back titled "I Don't Do Guilt Anymore." Highly recommended for the mom/daughter/wife/volunteer guilt...
The best (and possibly only) advice my mother ever gave me was, "If you feel guilty about something either do something about it or just stop feeling guilty"
I find it fascinating that you're consistently able to take what is all jumbled up inside my head, sort it out and use the perfect words to make an organized, concise and clear statement all while being funny, too. I think you should move in w/ me and do all my talking for me. Thank you for another wonderful post!!
Coming late to the table here. Just read the post, and I hope I have something to add here.
For reasons other than the guilt you describe, I have developed an attitude towards choosing a luxury or non-luxury item that has nothing to do with what others have or don't have. And it works very well for me. I have learned through experience that when I treat myself to luxuries all the time, I don't appreciate them much. Whereas, if I stick with very plain accommodations most of the time, then occasional luxuries (of any size) seem all the more enjoyable. This is true of big things, like vacations, and tiny things, like tea.
When I stop getting jazzed about something nice, that's when I back off and go back to more commonplace amenities. When the cashmere stops giving you joy (sadly, it can happen!) go back to plain, middle-of-the-road, non-specific wool for a while (or--gasp--acrylic!), and that single precious skein of cashmere or alpaca or whatever that you get for your birthday will seem like a dream.
If you only take one or two vacations a year, they will seem wonderful. If they tend to be to "ordinary" places, then the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Costa Rica or France or China will be truly life-altering.
Thanks for the post, and enjoy your time off!
We are the caregivers of the world and we are always going to see the inequities of society with sharply focused lenses and wish to the heavens that we could somehow do more, be more than we are to balance the scales. No matter how hard we press, lean, pull, push or bounce on it, we're unlikely to affect it much when it's just us. But along with myriad other big-hearted folk, we do make a difference - each kindness, no matter what the size, is felt, even if just for a single fleeting moment by a single other soul who recognizes in that moment that there's really no such thing as "other". Love you, Stephanie - but stop making me cry when I'm at work and supposed to be working instead of reading your blog, okay?!?
You're overthinking the vacation thing. (I know, because I do this sort of thing all the time).
Try replacing guilt with gratitude and compassion.
YOU are FABULOUS. Enjoy your vacation. Thank you for all that you do. Were only the whole rest of the world so mindful of the dichotomy between who gets and who doesn't, and the complex lines of both choice and happenstance that create those situations for us all.
I do the same thing -- don't tell people things until the very last minute (which makes me look flaky half the time), because i feel guilty.
I think you could have been writing this out of my head, Steph. The third kind of guilt is what I think of as social guilt, because we know we're all in this together and should all get a fair share of what's going, instead of some getting far too much and a lot getting far too little. Even if we could all get a good education, we'd still need people to clean the toilets and do all the essential and under-valued jobs that keep the whole show on the road and they should be paid a decent wage because we really, really need them to do what they do for the rest of us.
Enjoy your holiday and don't feel guilty about it. You work hard and you need some relaxation time.
Are you kidding me? Guilt, it's written across my forehead! You would think I was raised by a "jewish" mother! Not being crude to others who are jewish, my best friend is!! That's how I know about jewish mothers! I love her mother, not only does she take on the enough guilt for everyone, but she wants you to feel it too!!! I say enjoy your vacation, you've earned it! I am happy for others who get to crawl out once in a while!!!!
One good rant deserves another, right? ;o)
No apologies necessary for this post! We all need to talk about these kinds of things much, much more often. Our world is SO full of injustice, on so many levels. Add in taxes and subsidies, corporate interests, power hunger, selfishness, extravagance and greed, and you have a really messed up world.
I personally believe that if the guy scrubbing the toilets does a bang-up job, he ought to be paid a good living. None of this minimum wage song & dance for "unskilled" labor. Any and all labor is skilled. Just as me about the untrained grocery baggers who have ruined hundreds of dollars of organic, life-giving produce over the years. No matter the job, skill should be rewarded.
I wish that more people in the world had generous hearts. That those who have in abundance would use their time trying to find ways to really and meaningfully help others . . . instead of indulging in every kind of extravagance. Rich folks employing all kinds of people is a GREAT thing (you know, cooks, housekeepers, et al), but it needs to go further than that. It seems like it only makes sense that with all of that free time, those rich folks should spend the time given them by their wealth to help others help themselves. Private charities, programs that help educate people out of poverty (which is a generational mindset, not just a lack of diploma). I wish there was a better way for the wealthy to find ways to help those in poverty.
Everyone can and should enjoy lovely things, healthy food, clean air. We should provide for ourselves well, enjoying the things we earn. So long as we don't cross the line into chronic indulgence and extravagance, I can't see where guilt should come in. Those who work to prevent good, basic necessities of life (including wool coats and soft scarves!!!) being attainable are the greedy ones that should feel guilty. And now I'll stop . . . ;o)
I see where you are coming from Steph...I have a hard time with having or wanting nice things too. And sometimes I even see it from the Taxi drivers point of view. I sit there and think of friends who afford going on trips or buying a new car and wonder why cant we do that? Don't we work just as hard and plan out our budget carefully? I know these sentiments of mine come from a particularly hard time my hubby and I had 5 years ago after a sever car accident left us in a very big hole. We would get so frustrated because we were doing everything right, so we thought. We were following the rules of society. Yet we felt trapped somehow. I know now it was just a bad case of Murphy's law, but at the time it felt like the world was against us. However I dont think its wrong to get those vacations or new livingroom set when you work hard and can get them. Having the guilt over that is a hard thing to balance, but so long as the world
keeps having good people like you Steph, who think about things like that and how to make the world a better place, all things will work out.
Heck yes! I just made an appointment (and paid for) a tummy tuck and breast lift. I've been waiting 20 years to do it, worked a job for nearly all that time, raising the kids who helped with the sagging that made me want said surgery, and I've had to work really hard to get close enough to my goal weight to make it worth the money to do it. And for the first time in my life I feel I deserve it. But I can't bring myself to tell anybody about it, because I'm absolutely guilt-ridden over spending that much money on me, just so I can feel good about the parts of me that nobody else sees...
I'm still doing it, though.
I definitely have the mom guilt, as a working mom, asking myself if I'm with my kids enough. Then I focus on the quality of time we spend together and consider that my working shows them a positive example, and we explain that mom and dad work to pay for our house, our warm clothes, our food, our cat, their sports. and I've tried being at home when unemployed and it just doesn't work for me. Do I feel bad about buying myself yarn or a massage twice a year? No - because I give so much of myself to those I love and those I barely know. I give away so much knitting. I spend so much time caring for others, I have to replenish the well. I choose to believe that we all work hard, regardless of our jobs. The floor sweeper is just as important as I am, and other people are more important than me. I've been unemployed, struggled to pay the mortgage and buy food. So I'm grateful every day that I have a good job, even if others have better jobs. I am grateful for what I have. I try to spread kindness daily, with a smile, a cordial comment, or listening. So many people are not happy and not loved. Maybe I'm the only one who smiled at them today. Then there are the food pantry donations and clothing and toy donations we make with our kids, explaining that not everyone has as much as we do and we need to share. I ask God daily to help me go out in the world in love and service. Is it enough? Today, it is enough. Enjoy your hard earned vacation. You totally deserve it, and cashmere, and sprouted bread.
There is such a stigma against poverty, as if people deserve to live that way for one reason or another. The older I get, the more people I meet, the more I think about this, the more I lean toward socialism and helping people without judgement. Thank you for writing about this ... and enjoy your vacation!!!
Wow, this is exactly what I needed to read today. I was struggling with the kind of guilt about good health. I recieved great news about my dad's health today, and immediately felt guilty, because I have several dear friends who are struggling with the lose of parents and spouses from cancer. Also I sometimes feel guilty for having a healthy baby on the way, when some of these same friends haven't been so lucky. Such a complicated guilt! I too, struggle with the guilt about those less fourtunate, though I too feel that I live modestly and work very hard planning and budgeting, I still feel that much of the advantages of my daily life are a result of luck, being born into a fortune situation that has helped me my whole life. what I'm trying to say is, great post!
If I were you, I'd post that I was going on a spiritual retreat, like this guy does. http://blog.backbulb.com/2012/04/spring-spiritual-retreat.html
Leave it at that. You don't have to tell where you go or what you do.
I will have to say that the guy paying for the carrots and pasta with pennies is richer than most. He is showing his son how to live on a shoestring buying healthy food for a little money. He is not spoiling his son with boxes of ring dings and twinkies to his detriment. He is showing him how to be resourceful with what he has, not living beyond his means, what a great lesson! This little boy will learn what gratitude is and not take things for granted.
As long as we live with humility we should not feel guilt for having specialty bread. Should we put our values onto others and imagine that they, too want the specialty bread? Maybe that little boy's favorite meal is pasta and carrots. Regardless of the fact that I've been in the percieved shoes of that little boy, I struggle with feeling guilt over these types of things as well. This is something I've been working on for years and it makes me akward inside when around situations that I've put my judgement on.
Although I know and have felt EXACTLY as you talk about, it's my 93 year old mother (who is not senile or has any form for dementia) says, "Guilt is the most useless of all emotions!" I try to go by these words of wisdom, but it doesn't always work. Sigh.
I am a "thinker" like you. I became a Social Worker. Some days I wonder what if would be like not to think so deeply, feel guilt, analyze everything... would I be happier or would I feel empty? I will never know, but often times guilt doesn't feel good. Feeling thankful for my blessings is the closest counterpart I have. Enjoy your vacation! You deserve it! Froofy drinks help!
I am unemployed and looking some crazy-kind of poverty right in the eyeball. Please please take this vacation with joy and peace and have a fantastic time! Life brings everyone highs and lows. Take the highs with an easy heart! You give me hope. A lot of hope and inspiration. I wouldn't trade my hope for your guilt in a million years.
Interesting post. Mysteriously, we are not all the same, nor are our circumstances. Try to think positively of the joy of nice things and the extra energy they give you to share with the world. All the people in Dominican Republic benefit from your travel--tourism is a clean industry that helps make a difference. It's OK to receive as well as to give, and I'm sure you do your part in the giving. And thanks for sharing with all of us.
Ah, guilt. I know it well, though it's changed as I've gotten older. :)
I think when we're young, our personal moral compositions of right & wrong aren't very developed, so guilt isn't felt as often or as heavily. As we get older, and we realize we're not each the center of the universe, we feel the weight of our place in the world... we feel more acutely that what we do has a ripple effect on those around us. That weight comes with guilt: did I inadvertently cause harm? am I doing all I can to be helpful & kind? is my good fortune coming at someone else's expense? etc.
I don't personally feel guilt over my good fortune or of the "luxuries" in my life, but I am mindful of and thankful for them. I'm aware that my good fortune would evaporate in a snap through just one major catastrophe (such as job loss, health decline, act of nature, etc.) and it wouldn't matter one bit that I've worked hard or tried to live a "good" life by my definition of "good."
I guess I don't think of my good fortune as something that I "deserve" as a result of hard work. To me, "deserve" correlates to a sense of entitlement, and I don't have that sense of entitlement so much as a sense of thankfulness that my efforts have paid off in such a way that I can have & give a little luxury. With the thankfulness & mindfulness comes a reminder to myself to spread the joy around & to use my good fortune to improve things for someone else when I can.
And the luxuries aren't all tangible - when life is especially hectic, it's a luxury to have 30 minutes of complete peace & quiet in a hot bath while enjoying a glass of wine & a trashy romance book. To give another example, I have the luxury of good overall health while my husband - through no fault of his own - lives with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that is destroying his connective tissues. He's incredibly hard-working & deserves a body without a traitorous immune system, but he doesn't have that luxury. So while I don't have guilt over my good health, I am very mindful & thankful that I have it.
Thank you for this thought- and conversation-provoking post. I hope you truly enjoy your vacation.
No. Gave it up. Makes my life too hard. I work hard, earned what I have. I also share what I have and work to make others' lives a little better where I can. Guilt does nothing but make you feel bad, it does not solve anything. However, if that type of guilt motivates you to do something different to help those around you who need it, good.
I completely get that guilt. I often wonder and feel so selfish if I even make something nice for myself when I know there are so many others who need things more than I do.
Take the Vacation Steph, don't feel bad. Enjoy it.
Oh Steph, sometimes I feel like you're the voice in my head. I was in TO this week for some fashion shows and photo shoots. I get paid, well, it's not obscenely vast sums, but more than I feel is reasonable for just walking and pouting and being tall and reasonably genetically well endowed. Why do I "deserve" more than the security guard who lets me in and keeps us safe, or the cabbie who drops me off, or the sweet Indian waiter who serves coffee with a smile every day? I've waitressed. I KNOW he works harder than I do. I tip well, but come on. What's a toonie going to do to make his life better? It's even worse to feel magnanimous about giving someone something that small and thinking you're helping, or balancing out the cosmic crapshoot that put him there and me here... like, oh I'm such a good person, my generosity has had such an impact...
I'm in my late twenties and honestly, I have terrible guilt about my job, and about how I never felt this guilt when I started as a teen. I'm paying my way through grad school and I don't know how to do anything else, but it keeps me up at night. I can see, just from the younger girls now, what it means to participate in this shallow, cruel industry, and how awful it is to have been part of an industry that exists to breed guilt in young women, destroys their self-esteem, and makes them feel worthless unless they're stick thin and buying $700 spike heels.
I think my moral line has moved, and it hurts.
Anyone that hung up on spelling should not be constructing random strings of words (I hesitate to call them sentences) out of other people's comments. Or something like that. Also, if your posts were in fact rife with spelling issues I would notice. Trust me. But I digress.
I've felt that way too. I make roughly four times what I did as a McDonald's grill cook to sit at a desk and arrange words. Being a grill cook was way, way harder. (In part because of the 16-year-old male sexist oinkers I worked with, but again I digress, trying not to console myself with the thought that they probably make less money now than I do, because that would be mean.)
I think if you work full time you should make a living wage. Full stop. And I think somewhere along the line greed stopped being a deadly sin and somehow became a virtue. I have no idea how to change that, and I doubt if it's even possible.
I think everyone who works hard deserves a beautiful vacation. That means you. I hope you had one.
I've been thinking about this all day. I also feel guilty about having some of the luxuries that I've gotten used to like cable, internet and well lots of yarn.
My one thought to share is what about the people that sell the nice things you are feeling guilty about getting? They very well may depend on their sale to support their families. For example my husband just started a small business and it is definitely not a luxury that we could ever afford but it doing well means we finally feel comfortable about starting a family. Just a thought.
We need not feel guilty for what we have, but should be glad for it. And thus, this should make us better as people. And perhaps, we can make a better world because in the end, it is people who make our world. We are all responsible for our existence without blame or shame. Even in the worst of circumstances, we have the ability to find within them opportunity, wisdom, and finally victory.
The universe is neither profane nor sacred. It is a blank canvas and you are the artist.
This could not be more timely for me, personally. I really appreciate you articulating this, because it's exactly what I was feeling, and couldn't seem to say. I am absolutely swamped in other people's moral lines right now, and getting judged for it hardcore - by myself and others. I teach at a school for students who have experienced severe trauma and abuse, and many of my coworkers seem to pride themselves on being unprofessional - I got a talkin'-to because I was wasting time by not lesson-planning during class. And I felt guilty for it....? Even though I know absolutely that my personal morals are totally against dividing my attention during what little class time we have for kids who are used to being overlooked. At the same time, I feel that same sense of guilt for having nice things when my students feel ridiculously rich for having hot pink walmart shoes. Or having shoes at all, really.
I think I have started to forget which morals are mine and which belong to those around me, so I just pretty much feel guilty all the time. Thanks for the ramble - I think by naming the beast, you make it easier to tame.
I do know how you feel. But that kind of guilt I feel is well placed. It means I am paying attention to the state of things and others. It is what makes me more compassionate and caring. It makes me work for two years on a campaign to insure the person in office is someone who cares as much. It is what fuels my volunteerism and my drive from the birth of my daughter to service others. As you feel about the other two kinds of guilt it is a nudge to say, "Hey, stay humble, stay grateful, stay engaged, it is not all about you." I am not religious but I want my time here to be meaningful. That pang makes sure I stay on course. For years I was a single mom that had to shake the change jar out to buy milk and bread. I have had the lights turned off, the water turned off and the car repossessed. But I worked, found opportunity and am now blessed beyond what I could have imagined. I came from Cuba. We lost everything. My dad was a vet that came here and had to start over sweeping floors in a factory. So her is what I know. Your circumstances are not who you are. It's all ephemeral anyway. Both good and bad fortune or circumstances come and go. At the end of the day what is important is how you move about the world and how you plan to leave your mark. Who will you help? Maybe you are here to inspire. You inspire me. You are frugal, caring. You champion causes and incite others to do the same. You are a good steward with what you earn and that too is an example. So don't lose the guilt - I won't. Just use it to inspire and course correct. But don't allow it to steal your joy of the gifts life brings your way because that would be poverty of the spirit.. Being grateful and able to enjoy gifts of the universe is important. Enjoy your vacation Steph.
Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard
against hackers? I'm kinda paranoid about losing everything I've worked hard on.
I have the exact same guilt, and I'm currently supporting myself on part time work that is just barely above minimum wage. But I still know how good I have it, how little so many other people have and how spoiled I am. I know I earn this stuff, but I still feel so guilty!
Who says we deserve anything we get in life? We are all on our own journey. Put one foot in front of the other; enjoy the good times and keep them in mind when things get tough (as memories or hopes). The universe is an amazing provider. Every moment in our lives happens to grow ourselves and those around us. It was possible for you to come out of lean times and it is possible and probable that the man you saw will as well. Compassion is one thing; guilt is destructive.
I agree completely and am glad to hear it put in words so eloquently. (Besides, misery loves company.) Sigh. Still, hope you enjoy your vacation so you can keep sane and continue to do well what you do. Recreation is a good thing - Re-creation time to rejuvenate yourself. We all do what we can to offer what we can to the world.
I would like to read your guilt blog in the Readers Digest! It seems just what they would be looking for.
Just last Sunday, my pastor said, "Step out of guilt and step into gratitude. A deep, profound gratitude." I think when we are able to do that, good things just flow from us and empower us to do more for others. Guilt paralyzes and is an ineffective use of energy.
it's not guilt...it's compassion, empathy & caring..& that's a good thing - feeling empathy for ourselves & others is an essential part of being human - we have to roll with the bad days & appreciate the good ones & try as much as possible to contribute to a better society that looks after those in need, irrespective of why they need help - & when a good thing come our way (like a vacation!) then great! have fun! it gives us energy to get through the tough times, ours or those of others that we are helping...
You know how, on Ravelry, we use the "agree", "disagree", and "Love" buttons? Can we ask Ken for something like that? As always, Steph, you have "nailed it", and clicking on a button would leave so much more room for new comments!!!!!Thank you so much for all that you do!!!!