The Price We Pay

I was recently invited to write a piece for The Write On Project, a fabulous blogging community featuring some really great writers. I’m quite humbled and flattered they extended me an invitation. The suggested topic of the post was guilt. My post is scheduled to post on their site tomorrow morning, but titled as “This Girl’s Road to Redemption”. On my site I prefer the title “The Price We Pay”. I hope you all enjoy it. I wonder if some of you might even relate, especially those of you I grew up with. Here’s to all the other “survivors of our era”.

The dictionary defines guilt as “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, or wrong, whether real or imagined.” Real or imagined, that sounds about right. Might even be more accurate, at least helpful, if they added a footnote, “Warning: Duration of guilt known to last several years. Atonement not guaranteed.” Now that’s the kind of guilt I know. Come to think of it, I didn’t know there was another kind.

It’s taken me a while, but I’m fairly proud of the now-I-sure-as-hell-know-better person I’ve slowly and continue to evolve into.  Can’t say I didn’t wish I got here sooner, but I’ll count my blessings I got here at all. Despite my early years of stupidity and crazy-as-a-banshee days, I have a hundred things to be thankful for, and I am. Unfortunately, I’ve also got a few dozen mistakes for which I’m still trying to make amends and it only seems right to keep trying until I do.

It really has been quite the journey and the better part it of it not so smooth. I would say I’m a survivor of my era, borne of a generation that’s embraced the excesses of life. Too much alcohol, too much sex with people we had no business having sex with,  numerous bad decisions, and countless arguments with everyone and no one in particular. I’m not at all proud of everything I’ve done. I’ve hurt people along the way, usually because I was too stupid to know better, and then too angry or stubborn to admit I cared. What I wouldn’t do to make those things right, but I know I can’t and that remains to haunt me.

Ten years later I’m just trying to do right by the people around me, ultimately trying to do right by me. I’ve grown up to become the epitome of a mother, caretaker type, ultimate troubleshooter – a fixer. That’s what I do now, I fix things. Actually I try to fix everything; my life, my kids’ lives, my sister’s crap, my brothers’ junk, my friends’ issues. I’d even fix your toaster or computer if you asked. Doesn’t mean I know how, but that wouldn’t stop me from trying.

Friends compliment that my incessant need to repair things and solve problems speaks for my tenacity. Maybe. I tend to believe the reality is I know I can’t afford to make any more mistakes. I’ve made too many already, all of them bearing their rightful weight of regret heavy against my chest. I don’t think I could take the onus of any more, so really, fixing things in the present feels like my only reparation for the errors of my past. Only no matter how much I fix, I never seem to get any closer to my penance.

I think that’s the problem with mistakes. You never recognize the gravity of your offenses until you’re reaping what you sow, until your deeds are done, permanent and irrevocable. And by the time you’re ready to make amends with anyone you might have hurt or disappointed, including yourself, often you’ll come to find forgiveness isn’t such an easy thing to ask for, and depending on the immensity of your offense, an even harder thing to believe you deserve. Sometimes you’ll carry the breadth of your mistakes like a scarlet letter blazing across your chest, infinitely burdening you with guilt as if your atonement relied on it. This is the kind of guilt I know, this is the guilt I live with.

They say no matter how much you change you still pay a price for the things you’ve done. Knowing this I have to wonder if the magnitude of my remorse will never subside. Or, if one day, I might be so fortunate to discover that guilt only paves a part of the road to redemption and learning to forgive yourself paves the rest.

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  1. March 6, 2011 at 1:05 AM

    You’ve got the moral compass, Maria. You might go off-course from time to time, but you will always be able to sail back to a true heading.

  2. March 6, 2011 at 1:58 AM

    This bit was spot on:
    “You never recognize the gravity of your offenses until you’re reaping what you sow, until your deeds are done, permanent and irrevocable.”
    It’s that not-thinking, in the moment behaviour that mucks me up. Really enjoyed the honesty and open-ness in this post.

  3. March 6, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    This was beautiful. But I also think it’s important to forgive yourself of these mistakes we make along the way. We can’t be expected to be perfect and I think we learn the most invaluable lessons from the mistakes we do make.

    Although I understand this incessent need to fix and solve. And I’m not even Catholic. Why do we carry so much guilt??

    Excellent post.

  4. Jennifer
    March 6, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    Love, love this post Maria! Keep writing and I’ll keep reading!

  5. March 7, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    I was a total goody two shoes growing up and I still have lots of guilt. In my case its inherited… go figure, but my mom was the same, she’d feel guilty whenever she did something for herself. When my daughter was born I would feel guilty whenever I did anything for me that did not prioritize her. You can just imagine what a struggle going back to work was. Still working on it….

    mistakes? bah, we all make em, that is what life is for

  6. ventamatic
    March 8, 2011 at 6:00 PM

    the more i read your posts the more i want to meet people like you, so far as i can see, the lessons you have learned in this life really have made a very colorful rainbow that is always around you . i better stop before i get too fluffy here, big big hugs too you !, ya i can relate to some of this

  7. March 23, 2011 at 6:04 PM

    Don’t beat your self up about the past or mistakes that you made in the past. Everybody makes them. It sure sounds like you have it right now. I have made a bunch of mistakes…but I just have always tried to be nice to people & help anyway I can (like your saying you do now)…just raised that way. I was the one that always took up for kids that got picked on even though I was always the smallest one. You have it right now…just keep it up & it will outweigh the guilt! Great post & Congrats on being asked to write it for “The Write On Project”!

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