Guilt. Got any? I know I do, and it’s been a daily part of my life, all my life whether I received a bad test grade in school, or stayed out past curfew. Most recently my husband was angry that I was not home with him, but visiting our son in Los Angeles instead. Of course, when he called sounding upset, I felt that good old heavy sense of depression in my solar plexus: guilt. Why couldn’t I please everyone? My son has been living alone in Los Angeles without any family and just a few friends, working on his acting and music careers. I felt guilty I couldn’t be with Rocco more, especially when he had the flu. Then, I called every few hours to have him check his temperature. All sorts of horrible scenarios ran through my mind: could it be meningitis, or eventually pneumonia? Now, I know what you’re thinking – leave him be. He’s twenty-one and it’s time he experiences being sick on his own. And I suppose you wouldn’t want someone to bring you chicken noodle soup when your whole body aches and you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck? (Here I go..) Almost daily, people tell me what a good job Ted and I did in raising Rocco, and it’s been that way all his twenty-one years. Ted was (and is) the disciplinarian. I’m more - compassionate. But whatever we did, we did it right. Meet Rocco once and you’ll agree. If the worst thing I did as a parent was to be available, then I’m good with that. I have no regrets. No guilt. None. A very close friend of mine recently lost her son, who was a good friend of Rocco’s. Life is short and I cherish every moment I am blessed to have with my child, no matter how old he is.
Now back to Ted.
When people close to us are suffering in even the mildest manner, we feel empathy for them. And if we are the ones to cause their pain (whether or not it is warranted), we are caught right in the middle of the blame and shame game. Ted blamed me for abandoning him (albeit temporarily) and I felt ashamed that I was not fulfilling my moral obligation to be with my husband.
Rocco overheard part of my conversation on the phone with Ted and knew that I was upset when I hung up. Rather than telling me to go home and be with my husband, my philosophical son said, “This is an opportunity for you to practice forgiveness.” Huh? Since Ted was operating from an emotional state it was up to me to manage my interpretation or response. You know what? He's right.
Whether it’s my Catholic upbringing or extreme sports conditioning as a child (2x state champion swimmer!), feeling guilty is a preconditioned response I have to almost any allegation.
Relationships are oftentimes too much about volleying blame and shame back and forth. The truth is, Ted could have come with me to visit our son but he didn’t. We just celebrated our 23rd year as a married couple. It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, quite often it’s challenging, but we have plenty of time to spend as a couple in the future. Another forty years, at least. The time we’ve spent apart has helped us stay together. (Read that again). We actually miss each other when one of us is away. That probably won’t happen if you are with the same person day after day, but quite possibly is the key to our success as a married couple.
It dawned on me that part of the reason I selected this particular time to spend with Rocco was because Ted had booked a hunt away from home, but changed his plans at the last minute. Then, I was made to feel guilty for not adjusting my schedule to his. Feeling a bit relieved at this recollection, I sent my husband a text and threw the blame-ball back at him. Plans changed again, he said. He is going on that hunt after all, tomorrow.