Tuesday, April 3, 2012

G is for Guilt Manifesto

Mood: Calm, for now
Listening to: Random Hindi songs

I’m trying to follow the A-Z blogging in April. I’m already a little behind, but I’m hoping to catch up today. I was going to wait to post this, but I don’t have an “A” post ready….so we’re going to sub in “G” for today.

I’m sure that this post will offend at least 1 person. To that person, take it or leave it, it is what it is. I really don’t care either way.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about feeling guilty and why people like to make you feel that way. Make no mistake, there are actually people who like that, and not passively. I feel there is definitely a place in our lives for guilt. Without it, society would devolve into a hot, steaming mess of brutality and anarchy. We all have parameters in which we need to abide to make life in a community setting possible. I am not referring to the type of guilt and social obligation that constrains us from boiling each other in hot oil for giggles.

I’m talking about the type of guilt that other people impose on you to make you fit into how they see the world. You know the one, the insidious, anxious feeling that is programmed into you from a very young age, working its way into your psyche so that you end up feeling guilty all on your own. The one that seeks out original ideas and brutally kills them for daring to be different. The one that makes you second guess your every move according to what other people expect of you.

Due to some really tough home situations, I have had thick skin since my teenage years. I’ve compared myself to a rhino, and I tell you, it’s not really that far off the mark. It takes a LOT to make me feel upset or guilty at anything people say. Certain people’s opinions (my husband, my mother) matter more to me than others, but for the most part, I can confidently say that I am happy to march to the beat of my own drum without feeling bad about it. I also have been blessed with a husband who has helped me by always encouraging me to be proud of who I am and always try to become a better person.

I find guilt imposed on you by other people to be almost useless. If you look at the other person’s motivations, you will most likely find that that their intent was to make your behavior easier on themselves to palate. What I would like to know is why this is so important. Life is hard. People are in fact individuals. We just do not all fit the same mold.  Why would it seem like a good idea not to celebrate who someone is, but rather guilt them into acting how you thought they ought to. This is the place where creativity and individuality go to die.

Another thing about guilt that absolutely pushes my buttons is people who expect you to feel guilty for being good at something or having something good happen to you. Most likely, it will be people close to you who do this. The averted eyes, the “wow, how great for you” with a less than sincere tone. I get it, no one likes to listen to bragging and sometimes, you just can’t avoid jealousy. Even with this caveat, the people closest to you should not be the ones trying to drag you down, even though this happens all too often.

I mentioned this in my blog post “Baby Mama Wanna Be.” A synopsis – my best friend has 4 kids, 2 boys and 2 girls. I would give my left arm, leg, and possibly boob to have at least 1 more kid. After hearing that she was expecting her youngest 2, it was almost physically painful to hear and congratulate her and try my best to be happy for her. But I did it because I love that girl and I genuinely AM happy for her. Why in the world should she feel guilty about those blessings because of a want in my life? The answer is, she shouldn't.

So no – I won’t apologize for being a white girl who knows how to drape her own saris, and cook Indian food. I won’t apologize for preferring to shop in the village and walk there by myself. I won’t apologize for taking life by the balls and enjoying my stay in India and not hating all of the uncomfortable things. No, I absolutely won’t apologize for being smart and reading big complicated books. No, I won’t apologize for my taste in clothes, music, or my pictures on my wall.  I won’t apologize for being musically able or all the years I took piano lessons. I will not apologize for being quiet when I have nothing to say or just don’t want to talk and I will not apologize when I don’t smile because life is hard for me. I absolutely won’t apologize for the way I’ve chosen to raise my children or conduct my marriage. I will not apologize or feel guilty for having shoulders broad enough to walk, talk and think on my own. I will not apologize for being strong enough to stand on my own, even if I choose to share my life with my spouse.

I am the way I am because I have gone down the roads set before me in life and took some of those experiences and used to them to shape myself into what I am today. I am this way because I decided early on that I wanted to be proud of myself and develop things in myself that I admired. I did not land up on earth how I am now, it took years of stumbling and pulling myself back up to get here. I am not perfect, but I am damn proud of all the hard work it took me to get where I am. For that reason alone, I will not ever apologize for who I am. If it makes you uncomfortable, I will understand that, but don’t you dare try and make me feel guilty for who I am and try to invalidate all the work I did to get here. I’m definitely not done either. It only gets  better from here.


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