’m having myself one of those rare, nice pandemic afternoons. I’ve managed to overcome my incessant urge to surround myself with greasy snacks and disappear into a blur of random Youtube clips. An unfinished book has been picked up, and is currently being read, but not before the apartment was thoroughly cleaned, the clothes washed, and a short meditation executed.
In other words, I am doing what I actually want to do for a change. Which makes me feel good.
At least for a while.
Because there’s this thing, this vague, familiar tightness gathering around my chest, waiting to attach itself to any inkling of attention that would provide it with a chance to grow further. This slimy emotional parasite is a regular, (if an unwelcome) guest of mine, showing up as capriciously as an alcoholic uncle ready to spoil a high school party... I’m suddenly filled up with rotten feelings of guilt.
No matter how these flashes of heaviness surface, they always proceed in the same direction - towards a blunt, generalised background of remorse about not living my life to the fullest. Which is, of course, highly paradoxical, since there’s nothing more life-stifling than wallowing in a big puddle of regret.
At this point I have to clarify one thing; I’m not emotion-shaming guilt. Like every other emotion, it’s a necessary response, especially if you’ve needlessly caused pain. But as you might’ve guessed by now, this blog isn’t exactly in the business of examining healthy psychological anatomies.
No, I’m talking about those spontaneous moments of dark confusion, when I suddenly find myself saddled with an inexplicable, heavy burden. I’m talking about a state of mind which makes my consciousness burst into a sad parade of painful memories, tied together by guilt, serving no other purpose than to cause more pain. And most of all, I’m talking about big chunks of time spent in self-flagellation, of guilt as a way of being.
The curse of poisoning oneself with endless amounts of self-produced venom is something that seems overwhelmingly common, and yet we hardly ever allow ourselves to draw it into the spotlight. Instead, we turn the autopilot on and continue to let torment run rampant… all simply because we’ve accustomed ourselves that that’s just the way we are.
But we aren’t. We shouldn’t be.
So, what’s to be done?
Lately, I’ve come to find that you don’t need to explore the origin of every single problematic behavioural pattern in order to experience relief. You don’t really need to understand how everything works to actually start feeling better, like I used to believe... Sure, rigorous self-examination might help. But it also might not. Besides, you’d need about a dozen lifetimes to come to the bottom of every emotional hiccup that’s pestering you.
But if there’s one crucial lesson I’ve succeeded in squeezing out of this turnip of misery, it’s this - forcing a step back helps. Being able to realise the nonsensical quality of your guilt in the moment it’s unfolding gives you a fighting chance. So does providing context - is my guilt actually justified? Am I thinking about a specific incident where I hurt someone, or is it all just a force of internal, toxic habit?
At least in my case it's overwhelmingly the second...
I’m definitely not claiming I have a cure for cancer on my hands. I do, however, feel compelled to report that every time I point the flashlight straight into the prowler’s nasty little face, he seems to freeze and, quite often, to piss right off. And that’s a place to start.
Which is often all we really need.
at least until the cold rears its ugly head again, Berlin is turning itself into a series of endless open air festivals and parties.Our little hangout reflects this festive mood, at least on the outside. If you were just a random person walking by, you would have seen two mates comfortably sharing a bottle, drinking out of paper cups, chatting away and laughing. It would all look like an uplifting scene from a European indie film.
The truth however, is different. Laurie is my friend, yes, and what’s coming out of my mouth is real laughter, but the unpleasant feeling bouncing around my skull is one of deep discomfort. The truth is I’d rather be anywhere else right now. It’s not that anything bad happened between the two of us, like a pissing contest’s gone sour just moments ago… I’ve known Laurie for almost 5 years and during that time we’ve never even had as much as a disagreement.
at least until the cold rears its ugly head again, Berlin is turning itself into a series of endless open air festivals and parties.
Our little hangout reflects this festive mood, at least on the outside.