Sunday, December 23, 2012

Working through the guilt

I'm having a hard time getting in the mood for Christmas.  I have the bitty tree up with the lights but no ornaments or other decorations.  Yet.  Maybe I won't even bother.  The gifts are bought but not all wrapped and we have 20+ inches of snow on the ground but I'm just not enthused at all.

I'm sure part of it has to do with the killing of kids in Connecticut.  My daughter lives a couple of miles away from the school, but apparently her son doesn't go there.  I think he might be in private school.  I don't know since I'm not a part of their lives.  Which is her choice and I support it.  I'm no longer upset about it in light of the shaky relationship I've had with my family all these years.

And speaking of parents are both in the hospital for different situations.  My mother is on dialysis these days and my dad has COPD.  She also suffers from some dementia and can't be left alone.  My younger sister has to shoulder all the responsibilities, which doesn't seem fair but I can't just pick up and drive down there.  It costs a great deal of money to drive 10 hours away and it's money we just don't have.  My family doesn't understand not spending money you don't have.  At least my sisters don't.  They pick up and go wherever they need or want to go even if they don't have the money.  Or maybe they do have it.  I just know that we don't have a spare $20 a month, let alone money to go on a trip.

There have been times I couldn't go down because I had to drive Zach to school or a job.  They don't understand his disability either.  Invisible disabilities are often treated as character flaws:  you're lazy or you just don't try hard enough.  Sometimes we only had one car and there is no way I could take the only car down there and leave Tom without a way to get to work.

Plus, talking to my parents long-distance is fine.  In person they tend to be hyper-critical of me and my choices, my kids, my husband...everything about me.  The last time I was down there I had to leave a day early because I was so miserable.  And they were doing it to Zach as well.  I just can't allow that.

So now my sister is shouldering all the work and the guilt-mongering is beginning.  I think my older sister is getting some of it, too, because she's remarried and is living further away and can't drop everything and come home anymore.  They have plans to travel to his family's place after the holidays and she was worried she should cancel and go to visit my parents.  She was just down there last month so it's not like she doesn't visit.  She just can't go down there and stay.  Neither could I.  And a visit won't give my younger sister any respite at all.

My younger sister said something last night about having to do it all as if we wouldn't come down, not that we can't.  I let it slide because I know she's tired, but I also know that in my family, the martyr complex is learned early and used often.

So the guilt is weighing me down right now.  I can't go down there.  I do talk to my parents often on the phone but I can't go down and be their caretakers.  And truthfully, as much as my parents have done for the people in their church, it's time the church started helping them.  Someone there could take my parents to appointments or help with other transportation or other needs.  But then, I've noticed that it doesn't seem to work that way.  Another reason I'm no longer in a church.  The elderly get ignored and abandoned.  The poor aren't a priority unless there is something in it for the congregation.  And there is a clique-system that occurs in churches, meaning the favored few get all the help and attention.  The rest get ignored.

But this also creates a problem for me as a Pagan/Heathen.  Family is a huge part of the concept of Anglo Saxon religious practices. I feel a bit pressured because of that to sacrifice what little money we have and any opportunity for my son to get a job to go down there and take care of my parents.  And I resent the pressure even though it's coming from within and not from the outside. I resent feeling like I have to do this in order to be a good heathen.   It reminds me too much of the pressure within Christianity to strive toward perfection and keep falling short of the goal all the time.  But in all honesty I suspect that any heathen would tell me that my responsibilities are to my immediate family, to taking care of my husband and son.  That taking away from their resources wouldn't be the best way to honor my family.

And they would be right, but there is nothing like Baptist guilt and since I was raised on it and lived it for more than 50 years, it doesn't go away easily.

Still, it's putting a damper on my celebration gene.  I hope it's better by tomorrow night when we exchange our gifts.


ETA:  It occurs to me that it looks like I am bashing my younger sister.  I don't mean to say that.  She's fucking tired.  I'm upset with the community that doesn't seem to offer her any respite because they think it should be only family that does things.


  1. I'm sorry honey. Guilt is horrible heavy emotion that we all feel at different times of our lives, some more than others. It's usually a phase for me but other times it's the same circumstance that keeps creaping up. I've got some guilt I'm going to throw in the fire come the new year, and I suggest you do the same. Hugs and kisses girlfriend.

    1. I do more damage to myself than any outsider could. I just haven't figured out how to stop beating myself up. Throwing it into the fire sounds like a great idea. But I suspect I would have to do it hourly right now.'s a good start.

  2. Guilt is a nasty weapon. If you really can't manage to get down there and help, then don't worry about it. I have it on excellent authority that even the God of the most devout Muslims does not order them to starve rather than break food taboos. (good friend of mine who is one of the more liberal sects of Islam says this interpretation is universal. If only non-acceptable food is available, don't starve yourself.) And one of the first things we start getting drilled into our brains as emergency responders (police, fire, EMS, all of it) is that you only take acceptable risks. Stupid-heroic actions only create additional bodies- yours.
    The point being that you do have to take care of yourself. If it's not possible, don't let it eat at you. Call as often as you can stand to and don't let them wear you down. If the money for the trip comes you way, take the trip. If it doesn't, then the trip just isn't going to happen. It sucks, especially when you are on a path that focuses so much on family, but it's reality.

    1. Thanks, Lady. You're right, of course. I do hope to get down there this summer, using the tax refund we get. Last year we had to use it to buy a new stove as ours tanked. It's always something.