31 December 2007


In a holiday greeting, a friend urged me to remember those we lost this year, and celebrate those that are still here. We do that around New Year's. That and make new starts, new resolutions.

Generally, for a reason that remains unknown to me, I tend to think of fall, rather than the new year, as a time for resolutions and changes in habit. Probably just 'cause I like to be contrary, more than any other reason. However, since most of the rest of the world does it now, I'll indulge in a bit of it as well.

I'd like to be able to let go of the guilt that I carry around.

That's my resolution, to feel less guilty about any and everything. There's a website I discovered years ago, I don't know if the domain is still active and I'm not about to check; it was called Catholic Guilt, and it was a porn site.

The name stuck with me, though, making me wonder at the time if the Church created guilt in its practitioners, or if those who practice the religion are just prone naturally to more guilt.

It starts young, this whole guilt thing. It varies from parish to parish, of course, but the sacrament of Confession, a Catholic's FIRST confession, takes place anywhere from 8 to 12 years old. Mine was in the 4th grade, at about 9 years old.

Confession is all about receiving absolution for your sins. Now please tell me; what sins could the average middle class American 9-year-old possibly commit? Lying, fighting with siblings, OK, I'll give you those. I imagine that the priests tasked with hearing those first confessions howl with laughter as soon as they're able....the kids are so nervous, and the sins so petty, I'm sure it is an exercise in hilarity for the most part.

I dutifully made my first confession with the rest of my class, but the strains that became fissures, then cracks and finally breaks in my faith started not long after that first confession.

I was about 12, and playing with a new friend in our neighborhood. I'd gone to school with her for a while, and like most of my suburban schoolmates, she was Catholic like me. Her parent's new house was within walking distance of mine, and we spent a lot of time together in the summers.

"I have to go, I have to get to Confession," I told her one afternoon. The local parish had open time for confessions on Saturdays, and I went from time-to-time.

"Why?" She asked, hugely startled. "I don't believe in Confession. How can a priest grant forgiveness? Only God can do that. Priests are human; forgiveness is divine. I don't believe that they really have the power to grant absolution, do you?"

(Yes, we really talked like that. Bright kids, with big vocabularies...dorks...shoot me.)

"Um, yeah..." I trailed off. She was by far cooler than me during the school year, and I didn't want to seem provincial. "That's what they teach us..."

The more I thought about it, the more I decided she was right. How did saying a few Hail Marys fix some petty wrong that I'd done? God somehow was closer to the priests than the ordinary people? With typical pre-teen sarcasm: What-ev-er! And: plur-eze! That was the end of confession for me. I've never been back.

It is a really nice idea, though. That with a few simple prayers, you can atone for wrongs done, whatever they may be. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way for me.

What guilt am I carrying around? Oh, a few things. I feel guilty that I'm not as good at many things as I think I ought to be. That I'm not perfect, which who knows where I got that idea, I ought to be absolutely perfect at everything I try on the very first attempt. Or that I'm insanely jealous of the lives my sisters are leading, I feel really guilty about that, how jealous I am of them, because it is patently ridiculous. I should be proud of them, happy for them (and I am) and able to leave it at that (but I'm not).

The times that I know peace from this cacophony are only when I'm able to enter into a meditative state of some sort; either during my yoga practice, or when I'm running. Both of those things being times when I can concentrate solely on what I'm doing just that second, and nothing else.

Not even when I'm sleeping does it go away; I had way, way, waaaaay too vivid dreams the other night that I feel very guilty about. And yep, there ARE limits to my over-sharing, because I'm certainly not about to share that one.

So the question remains; how to let go of the guilt? And the only answer I can come up with is to increase the amount of time that I spend running and doing yoga. An answer that I like a whole lot, incidentally.

In my spare time (hahahahahahahaha) next year, I am going to get my certification to teach yoga. As well as apply to several graduate programs, after taking the GRE.

hmmm. perhaps the guilt factor comes from setting expectations far too high, then feeling like I've failed when I fall short.


Listening to: Rent soundtrack, Seasons of Love


silver said...

I found your blog because of a bumper sticker. I read it because you're right on and very witty. Nice work.

Welcome to 2008.


Dawna said...

Guilt, ah yes, I don't think my guilt is rooted in being a a survivor of Catholicism like yourself as I have never quite believed in a priest granting forgiveness & rote prayer being the absolution to our sins. I have always believed that forgiveness came from within, but beyond that, guilt comes part of being a woman as we feel responsible for the machinations of the world.

We are taught at young ages, be it by family, culture, or nature, that it is up to us girls to be the glue- the mothers, to everything. When shit ultimately fails; we pick up the pieces, not the men. The men go get the meals, we cook 'em. If there is no food, we harvest it somehow as they sharpen their tools for the next hunt.

When it comes down to it, at the very end of it all, it is the woman's responsibility for everything to work out. Not "God's".

So really, if something goes wrong, you feel responsible, thus guilty. It is the act of being at peace with your decisions which keeps the guilt away. Or well, that's what I try to accomplish. My resolution (not that I ever make 'em) is to be more Zen- accepting my limitations, finding alternate solutions to my problems, and to realize (this one is a toughie) that help will come to me if I ask.

Lucy Arin said...

Thanks so much for reading, commenting, and continuing to come back. It is always thrilling to know that I'm reaching someone new.

As usual, you've got a perspective that I never thought of and one I agree with. Damn, girl! To think, if it wasn't for a television show, I wouldn't have ever "met" you. So glad that we did, though.