“You’re abandoning me for the summer? Is that what you’re telling me?”
I reel at my mother’s response when I tell her we have parked the motor home at the lake for the summer season. This is the place she always goes to: how it affects her and I feel the talons of guilt closing around my throat.
“Won’t you miss your grandchildren?” my daughter asks, triggering a tighter hold.
If I could just banish guilt from my conscience, I think I might have a real chance at joy, however; like a bird of prey, it hovers overhead waiting for just the right moment to attack : when my vulnerability is peaked.
Guilt is an overgrown, black crow, who pecks at the shiny places and mocks my sensitivity. She rides along beside me goading me into action, then cackles with delight when I stumble. I am her trained pet and I don’t know how to untether myself.
… we may wrap feelings of guilt and self-blame around ourselves like an old familiar blanket. Many of us feel guilty if we are anything less than an emotional service station to others.
– Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Anger
I once thought my ability to Intuit other’s pain was a super power – that Crow magic allowed me to infiltrate and alleviate suffering. I became the Responsible One, setting aside personal need to save the world. I lacked awareness of how I was feeding the bird of guilt.
How does meeting my own needs negate the needs of others? Is the question I should be asking myself. Why should I have to justify making a choice that supports my own well-being?
“I can always count on you,” my mother told me often as a child. “You are my rock.”
Meeting the needs of others ensured acceptability and, if you can call it that, love.
I was also deeply aware of the danger of ever becoming a burden to anyone…and then…disability struck, and now…I am all that I feared: dependent….and I am the embodiment of vulnerability…and Guilt, that voracious bird of prey, smacks its treachorous beak in anticipation of the feast.
Except…I am angry. And, I’m no longer willing to sacrifice my own health – body, mind, and soul – for what really amounts to interference in another’s life.
Yes, you read that right.
If I am brutally honest with myself, I never saved anyone. As long as I was willing to rescue my mother, she didn’t have to learn to be assertive – a skill that would have served her well in life. Being strong for my older sister only ensured her continued weakness, and so on.
Guilt would have me pass on the lake this summer. Stay home so I can attend to the needs of others. Sorry, you old crow, but that is not going to happen.
I have found a place of solace and respite with the promise of actual healing, and should anyone care to come visit, my door will always be open.
No crows allowed.
Writer, avid reader, former educator, and proud grandmother, currently experiencing life through the lens of ME/CFS. Words are, and always have been, a lifeline. Some of the best adventures, I'm discovering, take place in the imagination.