Have you noticed how some people just don’t seem to feel guilt?
When you’re a child, guilt is pretty simplistic. It’s more along the lines of “step on a crack and break your mother’s back” as you skip along the sidewalk.
My guilt then was that I was the burden my great-grandmother had to bear because my mother wasn’t capable of taking care of me.
She had raised 8 children. Then kept taking care of my grandmother, who never matured into adulthood. She had to raise my mother because my grandmother didn’t have the skills to do it alone.
Then me. She lived until I was 13. She never had child-free years. Never had the option of experiencing life without someone to take care of and feel responsible for.
I wore the guilt of being her final burden. Her adult children never seemed to accept me and that didn’t change once she died.
Guilt is confusing for a child. It interferes with the maturing of confidence and the belief in one’s self as being separate. A child withers under the gaze of people who don’t accept them. Who wish they were gone and gone for good.
So I carried what was possibly an unhealthy supply of guilt into adulthood.
Through the years of my life, though, I’ve known people who don’t seem hindered by guilt. They can do damage and keep on doing it without feelings of guilt giving them pause.
Like a lamb to slaughter, I seemed drawn to men who refused to carry guilt.
There never seemed to be a clear line for me. If they didn’t feel guilt, I thought that perhaps it was my duty to absorb it. To tuck it into the lining of my feelings for them and keep it hidden simply because I shared a bed with them.
I would sometimes think: Enough. You need to go. Leave here.
And then guilt would creep in like the poison it was and stop me in my tracks before I ever got a bag packed.
Until finally, at age 54, I could take no more. I could not help carry another person’s resentment that life had done them wrong. Or be the sponge that helped absorb their unhappiness. I was breaking under the weight of it.
As I drove away, the pull that once kept me there began to lessen and I hoped one day I would be free of it.
Once a few years passed and I was far, far away, I saw it all for what it truly was of course. It took time and distance to see the forest for the trees.
Guilt is a funny thing. Some people walk right into the fire of it. Others run away from it.
And some, unfortunately, are seemingly incapable of feeling it at all.