Can I Give Up Guilt For Lent?
I’m a big fan of feeling your feelings. Let them out. Discover what they mean. Write about them for other people. Use them to connect to other people. Use them to connect to yourself. DO IT! I do it all the time. I leave parties to feel my feelings. I pull into my driveway and sit in my car after hours of traffic to feel my feelings. I stay up until 5am to feel my feelings. (I mostly stay up until 5am because of my insomnia, but I stay FEELING THINGS anyway!) I feel feelings in my Soul Cycle class (very LA of me, but also very honest of me, okay?). I feel things all over the place.
I read somewhere (I know exactly where I read this, I’m just too embarrassed to tell you) that ‘your body goes through puberty in your teens, and your brain goes through puberty in your twenties’. That’s probably not scientifically true. Or maybe it is, I don’t know. But it sounds true to me, and it makes me feel better about my mental state, so I’m accepting this as 100% real. At the very least, it’s a great excuse for the excessive onslaught of emotions I’ve experienced in my early twenties.
After all of this feeling I’ve been doing, I’ve decided that there are a few feelings that are USELESS. And I’m letting them go. And I want to scream at all of my friends to let them go too, because they’re not helping us, they’re hurting us. It’s not like, “don’t feel negative things”, because that’s not true. Sadness is crucial sometimes. Pain is necessary. So is happiness. So is being grateful. But there are two that I want to be gone, because they’re not giving me anything in return. They’re just stealing my time and honestly, it’s insulting. Fear & Guilt. Get out of here, we GET IT!
I could talk about both forever because they’re haunting and heavy and common. But I can only focus on a few things at once, and right now that’s this Strokes Pandora station that’s making me feel like it’s 2002, this email I’m waiting for and how I want to stop feeling so guilty all the time. So fear, we will come back to. Guilt, we’ll address right now.
I feel guilty 80% of the time. I spent a decade in Catholic school so I’m familiar with what it’s all about. It’s essential for one thing: to prove that you have a conscience, to prove that you know right from wrong (however you define that). But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about feeling guilty for things beyond your control. Feeling guilty for your good fortune, feeling guilty for being selfish, feeling guilty for disappointing people around you, feeling guilty for wanting what you really want, feeling guilty just for fun, because you know, why not? I’ve felt all of these types of guilt, and they’re pointless.
Feeling guilty for your good fortune doesn’t make you any less fortunate, and it doesn’t make people less fortunate than you any more fortunate.
It helps no one. Be compassionate, have empathy, be kind, generous and aware, sure. But guilty? Why? Look at what you have in your life, look closely at all the things that you can’t stand at the moment because they feel unfair to have. Really look at what they are – whether they’re monetary, physical, mental, emotional, whatever – and now embrace them. Feel proud of them.
And now, DO SOMETHING WITH THEM. You have a brain that works? Use it. You have a body that works? Use it. You have the financial ability to do something unique or extraordinary, f**king do it. Holding yourself back because it’s unfair that you have and others do not doesn’t make any sense. That was really hard for me to accept. I wanted to sacrifice parts of myself because the world didn’t feel fair. But the world isn’t fair. It’s the opposite. And me not doing something is never going to change that. The most I can do for people is to take what I’ve been given and use it for something meaningful, for as many people as I can. And maybe today that’s just my friends, my family or myself, but it’s better than nothing. Stop letting that feeling paralyze what you’re capable of.
Feeling guilty for being selfish.
This is the only time in your life when you can really afford to be selfish. Don’t become a crazy evil narcissist, but do what you need to do now to make yourself happy. Set up a life that works for you, work at a job that kills you, but that you love. Make sure all of your time is spent doing things you want to be doing. Soon enough you’ll have real responsibility to deal with. Soak up your independence and do what it requires. Travel and work crazy long hours because you want to invest in yourself, stay up late and talk to your friends for a million hours, say no to things you don’t want to do, live your life how you want to – and don’t feel bad about it. Because you’ll never get to do it again, and all the adults in your life have already done this. It’s your turn now.
Feeling guilty about disappointing people around you.
First of all, you’re probably not. You probably made up what you think they really want from you, when truthfully they probably want your happiness above anything else. Second of all, if you are actually disappointing someone by doing something you really want, FORGET THEM. They’re not worth you choosing to live without something. Do what you want to do as long as you’re not hurting anyone, and whoever has a problem with that has got to go (they’ll come back, though, because there’s nothing more attractive than someone being themselves).
Feeling guilty for doing what you really want vs. what you think you should want.
This is a really common problem for people my age. There is all this anticipation for you to finally start your life, and it’s a lot of pressure. Every time you make a decision you’re not making a hundred other decisions automatically and living with that sort of intensity is really aggressive. No matter what, how many lists you make, how much advice you seek, you’ll never really know if what you’re choosing to do is the ‘right’ decision. You won’t know that until you make it and until you live in it for a while. And then either way, whether it was good for you or bad for you, you’ll just deal with it. So then what do you really base your decisions on? You have to base them on what’s true for you. What you really want. What you secretly want. What you want deep down inside. And then you have to commit, and believe in yourself, and believe in a dream that only you can see. (That last part I stole from my guru of a Soul Cycle teacher Angela – but she speaks the truth, so I’m gonna spread it!)
I sort of used Lent as an excuse to talk about guilt – but when I remembered it was Lent that was my first thought. Oh my G-d, can I please just give up guilt? That would be wonderful. So that’s what I’m trying to do.
I’ll probably have three anxiety attacks before this gets published. I’ll probably feel guilty two more times about advising people to be selfish, because like, does anyone really deserve to be selfish? BUT GUESS WHAT? I’ve decided not to care. And I’ve decided I’m too busy to feel guilty about this right now.
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