Friday, June 25, 2010

Survivor's Guilt

Sometimes it seems as though all the news is difficult. The oil in the Gulf of Mexico just won't stop spilling. A dear friend of mine who has been struggling with chronic pain for months had surgery a few weeks ago to relieve it and is healing much more slowly than she wants to be. Another friend's mother is dying, more quickly than they anticipated. I have family members who are struggling financially and when I turned NPR on this afternoon, they were interviewing a 55 year old woman who has been out of work for two years after being laid off of a job she had for 30. Still another family we know is struggling to understand what is wrong with their daughter after years of invasive testing, and coming to grips with the harsh reality that 'recovery' is not an option at this point.

When I open my email or check the news website I like the best, I often brace myself first, awaiting the body blow of a possible morsel of bad news. I feel incredibly impotent in the face of it all. From my perspective in the Pacific Northwest, the water I'm drinking is clear and the beaches tar-free. My family members are all in good health and we are lucky enough to have sufficient food on our table and enough money to pay the bills every month for now. I know that this could change without warning, but with every bit of difficulty I hear about for those I care for, my life stands out in stark comparison just a little more.

A therapist I once had reminded me that making comparisons is a dangerous business and she was right. When I look at strangers and imagine that they are infinitely more capable, intelligent, centered individuals than I and beat myself up for inviting drama and tragedy in by being useless, I am falling in to the comparison trap. But it occurs to me that I am doing the same when I look at my relatively stable, carefree life in comparison to those around me who are struggling. Do I wish we were struggling, too? Just to make it even? Just to not "rub it in" that we aren't dealing with illness and death? No, not really. Do I wish that my loved ones, friends and family and strangers in Louisiana and the other gulf states weren't dealing with these difficult times right now? Yup. Certainly, but there isn't really anything I can do to change that.

So for now I think I'll just gather up the extra love and light coming from my clan, scoop in the strength and resilience we are lucky enough to be enjoying right now, and offer it up to the Universe. I hope she directs it to the right places. I trust she will. Feeling guilty for my happiness right now isn't helping anyone. Maybe this gift, the only one I truly have to offer, will.

6 comments:

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Replace all guilt with gratitude. That's my unsolicited advice.

Anonymous said...

My dearest friend, I like you not for what you are or are not going through, not for any struggle you or your family might be going through. I like you for who you are, for your compassion, your empathy, your understanding and your generosity. When I want or need to see you it is not to look for something similar to what we are going through, it is again just to see you and get the hug that will make me feel better, see the smile that will brighten my day and having a loving listening ear. I do have friends that share similar struggles as us, this is our common link and we are friends linked by a common struggle but they are not the friends I would share anything with. We mostly help each others in our specific fights. The fact of sharing something in common do not make them better friends, just different. You have special gift to offer, this is the gift of love and it is very precious.

-Isabelle

fullsoulahead.com said...

Never feel guilty for doing well.

Rock on sister.

Deb Shucka said...

Carrie said exactly what I was going to. In love and gratitude, you contribute to the healing of the planet. Thank you for this reminder for us all.

Anonymous said...

Are guilt and gratitude so incompatible? As the Mom of a medically struggling daughter I have oscillated between both feelings, feeling of guilt of being sad and scared of our own situation while my friends daughter is in a medically worse situation; feeling of guilt that I cannot show the compassion I should to a friend dealing with common parenting dilemma, being just too tired myself. At the same time I am beyond word grateful that our daughter is stable en enjoying life and it requires a lot of strength to recognize and accept that you just cannot help everyone.

-Isabelle

Miss Devylish said...

You have enough love for a thousand people and then some.. You certainly make up some of the weight many others refuse to carry as well and you shouldn't.. but it's nice to offer up your positive energy to whatever direction it needs to go. You're one of the most giving and unselfish people I know. That's your gift and it's plenty. Love you. xo

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