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Sunday 20 November 2011

Evidence Based Guilt

Have refereed (rather badly) WW III breaking out over privacy and possessions this morning, I finally vocalised my guilt.  I said it.  I laid it bare before the family and I feel better.

Guilt is a funny thing.  When I hear it, I always think of the Catholic Church or Jewish mothers.  Stereotypes, to be sure.  However, it occurs to me that maybe these two veritable institutions deal with assuaging the guilt better than an uptight, Protestant English woman because they allow it to be vocalised, examined and discussed.  Maybe, my upbringing doesn't allow the buttoned-up me to express my guilt, for fear that I may make my nearest and dearest uncomfortable with sharing my burden.  In much the same way, I find people stroking me uncomfortable, rather than comforting.  Is it good manners that prevent me from jumping up and down shouting "Me, Me, Me". Or is it my upbringing?  My nationality?  My personality?  My star sign?  My age?  My role as a mother?  As a wife? Adaughter? A sister?

So what is this guilt that you verablised, I hear you ask?  Well, it's about my cancer.  I told the family, somewhat incoherently due to a snotty nose and tears,  that in the darkest depths of my 3 a.m. self-indulgent, sob fests, I blamed myself for getting cancer.  What if I hadn't drunk, smoked, stayed out late?  What if I had eaten properly through my 20's, got enough sleep, not stressed myself about stuff that didn't matter?  What if I hadn't married and then divorced my first husband, hurting terribly a good man?  What if I had learnt then what I know now - that money doesn't make you happy, that shit happens, that people die, that a dog is not forever, that my parents aren't perfect, that crying is  OK?

I absolved my family's guilt at thinking the same thing.  Of course they, in their darkest moment, wish that I had done things differently.  That I had taken care of myself.  That I had been less stressy and worried.  That I had not got cancer.  It's OK for them to think that.  By discussing this openly, as a family, I absolved myself and them. I hope.

I spend a lot of time on the Forum telling people that you can't change the past but you can shape the future.  This has to be my mantra too.  I shall have it tattooed on the inside of my eyelids, so that at 3 a.m., all I have to do is close my eyes to be rid of the guilt.


  1. I'm not going to be able to talk you out of your evidence based guilt any more than you can me out of mine and we're stuck with being English, so I'll just leave you with the thought that perhaps one day they'll discover that tattoos cause asthma in the grandchildren of those that have them.....

  2. Oh my dear Charlotte - the big G for anything negative (and these health conditions are) that come into our lives - yes, you need to voice that feeling/thought, rather than let it eat you up alive.
    The truth is that we don't really know what life will bring us especially when we're young and feel omnipotent.
    And there are plenty of people who get cancer who have practiced stress-reduction, ate healthily, didn't smoke, drink etc.

    It is normal to grieve and normal to let out your feelings. This is a growing experience for you and your family.
    I know that my D is able to appreciate me more knowing that I have feelings, am not perfect, and try to make changes when I need to.
    You have as well. Hugs to you