A few weeks ago, I shared my “dark cloud” experience with you and ended the post with a promise to share how I was able to let the light back into my life. Below is what I journaled the evening I shared that post with you. It’s long and a bit raw, but I do hope that it is helpful for others who may be experiencing something similar.
Last night, I moved away from my computer and analytical tasks to work with my hands. I spent time alone in my office with the lights twinkling outside packaging single cards for Two Rubies (aka my little paper dream). I peeled tiny labels off adhesive paper, folded envelopes just right, collated each card with the proper envelope and slipped them into a clear bag. Over and over I repeated this act. It felt like deep meditation that I didn’t want to end. I was immersed in the moment, focused on the beauty of a dream realized, and the person that would open each card. I said a little mantra for each card when it was complete that felt so important (like this little mantra would be heard and felt by the recipient): “May you feel loved and worthy, safe to simply be.”
After completing 50 cards, I noticed a shift within me. I felt a bit lighter and a realization came upon me: Why am I not giving myself this mantra?
The reason: I have been stuck in cycle of guilt—a personal guiltcation (my name for the “guilt trip”). I thrive in routine so returning from my trip to an overwhelming email inbox and a to-do list that could take the remainder of 2013 to complete left me feeling paralyzed and just plain guilty. And I let the guilt percolate. I allowed myself to think about who I was letting down all the time—never letting myself question what I may need or why this guilt exists or if I’m possibly letting myself down. My focus is extrinsically focused, even when I’m hurting and especially when I’m filled with guilt.
But what I realized is that I can’t let this guiltcation be permanent. I need to focus on the present rather than dwelling on the past. I need to acknowledge what I’m feeling guilty about in order to let it go and move forward.
At the root of guilt is a lesson, especially if the guilt serves no rational purpose (i.e., most guilt). For example, one of the things I feel great guilt around is my ability to respond to emails in a timely manner. I apologize for my email habits about 20 times a day, everyday. Clearly, something needs to change. I am going to face my email and examine how I can focus on responding to important emails in a timely manner. Most often, I don’t respond in a timely manner because I feel so guilty about all of the emails I haven’t responded to and get stuck either trying to respond to these old emails or feel paralyzed and don’t respond to any at all. Writing this for others to see makes me feel strange and vulnerable; however, in order to begin transitioning from this guiltcation (it’s no Hawaii), I need to acknowledge this issue and make myself more accountable (why not tell all of you, that should up the ante!).
Now, that I’ve recognized one of the roots of my guiltcation, I need to take action. I don’t believe in setting goals that are too lofty, especially for someone prone to feelings of guilt. Rather, the goals should be realistic. So I’m going to goal storm until something feels doable, and maybe a little easy.
I’ve been resisting the problem, increasing the guilt surrounding it—stirring the anxious pot. Naming the problem is empowering. It allows me to take back the reigns, to see where my actions may be askew and redirect how I move forward.
This I know: I want to live my life with intention. Guilt will not be the captain of my ship.
Do you experience the guiltcation? How do you overcome everyday feelings of guilt?