ImPerfect Blog

That's Not What Guilt Is For (chapter 16)

"That's not what guilt is for." my counselor said as she looked across the room with a straightforwardness I wasn't used to. People I knew usually danced around topics of self worth, shame and guilt. 

She could see I was affected. I had been talking nonstop for 20 minutes about how bad I felt for not being able to get it "right" in my marriage, before she made this statement. Now, I was staring at her, speechless.

"Guilt is for when you rob a bank. Guilt is for when you do something wrong." she expanded. "You haven't done anything wrong."

I knew I needed to hear this. My heart felt stunned the moment I head her words. I told her to tell me again.

"Guilt is not for trying and not having it work. "She said again.

The idea of not being guilty for the collapse of my marriage was a life altering thought. It took my breath away.

I felt my story begin to unravel right there in her second floor office. 

My guilty thoughts were relentless in my mind. Thoughts of how I got my marriage all wrong kept pulling on me like a noose around my heart, clenching tighter and tighter until I couldn't function. I was killing myself and I didn't even know it. I must not be any good at relationships. I don't know whats good for me. I can't make anyone happy. I can't get anything right. 

I thought it was my responsibility to fix what was broken, and I thought I was broken. I believed the problems between my ex and I were all my fault and I felt guilty because I couldn't fix them. I felt I deserved every attack and every punishing comment because I wasn't worthy of anything truly good. 

"That's not what guilt is for" she said again.

Hearing the truth in her words, I began to unravel.

My thoughts had been so caught up, tied tight like a ribbon on a package that you have to cut loose. My therapist's words broke that string and I let my blame fall to the floor right there in her office. I had felt at fault for so long, as though I was I to blame for our martial failure, but in this moment, I opened up. I thought to myself, what if I had just tried to make a relationship work that was never an easy fit?

That question felt easy. I like it. 

I had come to a stunning realization the day I left my husband that what he wanted I could not give, and what I wanted he could not provide me. It was simple really, like a math equation, we just were not a fit. There was no one to blame. We were just two people with different values and points of view. No one to blame. No shame.

I notice my thoughts began to tighten as the guilt for not being able to make my marriage work came back to me, trying to tie me up again. I thought that I could change myself, mold myself enough to fit into the world he said he wanted. I thought if only I could become his vision of perfection and that would make us happy together. No matter what I did I was never able to fit that image of perfection. I tried everything I could think of. If effort or trying was the factor that made a great relationship, I would have had the perfect marriage.

"That's not what guilt is for." she said.

Her words gave me permission to allow new ways of thinking to come to me. The thought of not having to be guilty for my actions, opened me to a world free of self judgement. From that space of openness I could unravel the noose of self judgement I'd been hanging myself on. 

I let new thoughts arise. Perfection was too lofty a goal to reach. I didn't need to feel guilty because I wasn't perfect. No one is perfect anyway. We are all human and therefor imperfect in some way. And doesn't that imperfection allow us to access compassion and goodness and love. Doesn't lack allow us to give to those in need. Maybe being imperfect is ok. Why did I aspire to perfection anyway?  

My old way of thinking came at me one more time. I felt like I was drowning again this time in sadness and desperation. I couldn't make him change. He never valued me as me. I couldn't make hime see me, listen to me. I felt devastated not being honored in our relationship. It felt like I was always giving love to a black hole. I always seemed to give more love and it just got sucked away into a bottomless pit. Never returned. Was this my lot in life? To give my heart best I could and have love sucked into nothing?

"That's not what guilt is for."  Her words echoed in my head. 

I unraveled again. Another layer. 

We are not meant to change one another. I couldn't change him and he couldn't change me. We were not meant to change each another. We were both made to be uniquely us. We were both made to be treasured and honored. I could not honor him. He could not honor me. We could not provide a safe space for each other. So together was not where we were best placed and that is ok. Again there was no judgement no shame, no guilt just pure acceptance. These thought were accompanied by new feelings, calm and serene, like a clear glass reflection of a mirror pond. 

I left the office that day and began a new practice. I knew now that I had the power to redefine my beliefs. I knew that having a new thought was accompanied by having a new feeling. And I liked the feeling of peace. I liked the feeling of freedom. I loved the feeling of joy. 

I knew that with the power of allowance, curiosity and faith I could wipe clean the self judgement that had mired me in sadness for so long. I knew that by redefining a word I could change my experience and therefore change my life. 

When the tightness of my old belief systems would pop up, I allowed my beliefs to have space to show up. I'd let the thoughts breathe for a moment. then something interesting would happen time and time again, by allowing myself the space for my limiting and judgemental beliefs to be seen and honored somehow they would melt away into a space of pure love and light. Time and time again, I allow a challenging belief to pop up and I am left in a space of peace after i just sit with it for a while.

Through this practice I have learned that I don't need to be "right" I don't need to get it "right" and there is no "wrong". Things happen. Lots of things happen in a life lived on earth. Most things that happen I do not have control of, yet I do have control of how I respond. I know I can never control the reactions of beliefs of another and it is exhausting and disrespectful to try to change them. To honor their uniqueness is to honor life itself.

The more mindful I am of my thoughts the more I can design the life I desire. If I want Joy and peace then I can choose thoughts that align with that reality. If something happens and I want to get upset I can find evidence to support my discontent. If the same thing happens and I want to feel at peace I can choose that too. 

No matter the experience, there is evidence for any feeling under the sun. There is always a choice to be made. I know how to make choices I enjoy now. I can even make a life-changing  diagnosis a blessing.

One Word That Changed My Life (Chapter 15)

More than once one word, has changed my life. 

As a young woman fresh out of college and ready to make my mark on the world, one word drove me. I wanted to "TOUR". I knew I wanted to travel the United States and visit cities and states I had never been. I could not afford to go on my own, so I figure I could get a job that paid for my travel. So this word, "Tour" was the one and only thing driving my job search after graduation. 

I didn't know if I was supposed to become a roadie and go out with a band. That wasn't too much of a stretch of the imagination as I had already worked backstage at concerts as local crew during my college years. It was almost a natural progression to go out with a band, but there was something about the male dominated culture of production at the time that I didn't like. 

I also imagined getting a promotional marketing gig and how I might end up driving the Oscar Mayer Weiner mobile across the country. I was willing to do that, even if it meant dressing up like a weine in Little Rock, Arkansas and dancing around in front of Walmart. It sounded fun. I knew I wanted to tour and I was willing to go wherever that word took me.

Since it was time for a real job, I set off into the unknown sea of possibilities and uncertainty that accompanies attempting any new endeavor. My job search, like many things in life, I began with so much excitement and enthusiasm. I found jobs and applied to anything that involved touring. I searched Yahoo and Monster.com for new opportunities and waited hopefully for responses, certain my opportunity was just mere moments away. Sure that someone would soon see my valued and hire me. . . Nothing. 

I sent more letters. I followed up with applications I'd submitted. I personalized every cover letter and told them about my passion and my experience. I did my absolute best. . . Nothing.

I sent off more letters, found more job and search tirelessly for other opportunities. I waited for a call back, for a letter, for an interview, for something. Nothing. 

Eight months in I was losing faith, I began hating the dream I once loved. My relentlessness toward my singleminded dream of "touring" had focused me on my search, yet it was yielding any results. I was getting really hard on myself. What am I doing wrong? Why am I not good enough for them to even call me? Why don't I hear anything? What skills am I missing? What can I do differently to get them to notice me? What else can I do? What if this doesn't work out?

I had a fall back plan to work at Borders books if I was unable to find a touring job, but the idea of working a minimum wage job felt like a kick in the face. I hadn't spent 16 years in school getting straight A's to go work at a retail job for minimum wage. In my mind I hadn't worked so damn hard and incurred thousands in student loans for a minimum wage job I could have gotten straight out of high school.

I wanted more. I thought I deserved it. I knew Border's was an option, but I thought graduating with honors, Suma Cum Laude, and staying at the top of my class throughout my schooling would have provided me some kind of big girl job opportunity. I was counting on it, but I was feeling like 8 months in I should have a job by now. 

I began feeling desperate. So much of my future seemed completely out of my control. I had made more than min wage in college, I really felt like it would be going backwards to work at the local bookstore, but eventually I picked up an application. 

Then I hit a proverbial wall, 9 months of searching and I was dog tired of trying to get a job and not getting any offers, and hardly an interview. Everyday I'd go online and stare at the same 12 job postings. It seemed to be the same 12 jobs that were posted the previous week. I would submit application after application and cover letter after cover letter, resume after resume and no one would call me back. I would hear nothing and the silence was deafening and discouraging.

Did they even get my application? Did they fill the position? I wondered day in and day out. Nothing much new came up in terms of opportunities. One beautiful April evening I turned off the computer and went to bed. My 21 year old self cuddled my pillow like a little child hold a stuffed animal tight to my chest. I cried to god, "I can't do this anymore. It's too hard. I want a job, but I just can't do this. I'm tired and I'm done searching. I've done all I can do, help god! I can't do any more. Please help." That night I decided I'm wasn't even going to look at the computer tomorrow. 

The next day I met a friend for a dinner and a movie. As I got in the car to drive to the theatre I noticed the application to Borders on the passenger seat." I'll apply to Borders tomorrow" I thought to myself. And off I went for a night of relaxation and fun.

Upon arriving home I had a message. A company had called me. They wanted me to call in the morning, and they wanted to interview me for a position touring with their marketing team. I felt stunned and excited. I was expecting to go to Borders, but suddenly I was making plans to drive to Los Angeles to the companies headquarters for an interview.

The next day I called the company to confirm the interview,  and called my cousin to ask if I could crash at his place for a few days. I packed my car and drove 5 hours from Folsom to LA.

I told my mom as I left the house, "I'll either see you in either 3 days or in 3 weeks."

Everything depended on wether or not I got the job! The position with the marketing team started immediately.  Within 3 days I was hired, trained and on a plane, flying 35,000 ft high from LA to Washington DC for the first Breast Cancer 3 Day of the summer event season. I felt as high as that plane flew!

The touring job was a dream come true for me. I was living on a bus,  sleeping in a bunk that was about 2 feet high. Life was the adventure I had dreamed of. I even loved it when I fell out of the middle bunk and decided I had better sleep closer to the floor, for safety sake. 
 
I loved traveling to cities I had never seen before. I visited an intersection in Washington DC with a Starbucks on every corner. I ate sushi at midnight in Boston and I even stood on a glacier in Alaska. It was all a great adventure and I loved it.

There were unexpected blessings too. The company I worked for was revolutionary. We produced one of a kind, multi-day charity fundraising events. Thousands of people raised millions more quickly than any other event series in history.

There premise was not to ask the least one could do for a cause, but rather to push people to their limit. We asked them what is the most you can give! Our event participants walked 3 day and 60 miles for Breast Cancer and cycled hundreds of mile over 5 to 7 days to support AIDS charities.

The most stunning thing about my time with PTW was the culture that was created over the 3, 5 and 7 day events. It was a unique environment I haven't seen anywhere else. 

The last person to arrive at camp was ALWAYS celebrated. The journey was more important than the destination and we all lived in support of one another. Kindness was valued and practiced by everyone. Volunteers, participants and staff modeled human kindness in the simplest of ways. We all found ways to help each other.  We even learned there is a respectful way to close a portal potty door. (If you are curious the most respectful way to close a portal potty for is carefully and lightly, trust me its very important to remember at 3 am when people are trying to sleep.) 

I recall the moment I stood in the middle of a closed Pensylvania Ave in Washington DC while the marketing trailer I worked in was framed by the national capitol building, I turned to see 3000 people steam by, celebrating their loved ones, survivors of breast cancer.

At closing ceremonies across the country I witnessed the power of the human spirit. People had raised thousands of dollars, millions collectively. People who were physically exhausted having just walked for 60 miles over the past 3 days, with blisters on their feet, were now celebrating their accomplishment, together. This celebration of humanity happened week after week after week in every city we visited across the country.

It was breathtaking. And I cried every time I witnessed the power of the human spirit and collective goodness of humanity in action.

I also met my future ex-husband working on tour. He was the sound guy for the charity events. Before I even knew him, I felt like something would happen with the sound guy on tour and indeed it did.