• author
    • Terri Connett

    • September 19, 2013 in Columnists

    Guilt from the grave

    Oh how I envy psychopaths.  Lacking any sense of guilt or remorse; they rationalize, blame and deny it all away.  OJ, Casey and Jodi sleep like babies.  While I pop Ambien the way I eat brownies, one half at a time.

    I used to think guilt was unique to women; rooted in Catholicism.  But my self-condemned male, Jewish, Lutheran and agnostic friends have cleared that all up for me.

    Alice Miller, author of “The Drama of Being a Child,” states “Many people suffer all their lives from this oppressive feeling of guilt, the sense of not having lived up to their parents’ expectations… no argument can overcome these guilt feelings, for they have their beginnings in life’s earliest period, and from that they derive their intensity.”

    For me, guilt can lie dormant for weeks.  And then my best friend fails to sign off with “Love” on an email (xox is not the same) and I’m worried I somehow offended her.  Or a complete stranger in the express check-out lane casually glances at the illegal number of items in my cart and BAM!  I’m paralyzed.  I tell myself to get over it.  But I can’t.  So I take a walk, read the happy parts of The New Yorker (Shouts & Murmurs and the cartoon captions), journal my hypersensitive feelings and eat three brownie halves.  But it’s still fucking there!

    When I just can’t shake it – I give in to it.  In the way I imagine how people drown. They struggle and fight and gasp for air.  But at the end, they give up and quietly float to the bottom – peacefully and serenely yielding to the sea.

    My surrender is the image of my mother in her casket.  (Might as well go for it, right?!)  There she was, 22 years ago, the age I am now, all primped for her private viewing.  This is such a strange custom.  Why is it necessary to see the dead, well, dead?  Lying in a box, fully clothed, wearing glasses with their eyes closed.  It’s unnatural and morbid.

    My sister and I were summoned to the viewing room to give our approval.

    And there was our mother, sleeping with her glasses on.  My first thought was “what jackass decided she should hold a nosegay of wildflowers?”  Then I remembered it was my idea, to signify her love of gardening.  But it was pretty obvious she didn’t just skip in from the meadow.

    I was about to ask for a prop change when I noticed her earrings.  Pretty little garnets and diamonds.  A Christmas gift from me.  Oh shit, the stylist put them on her upside down and sideways.  Mother would blame me for assuming the funeral home knew they were not inverted triangles.  No big deal, I thought, I’ll just give them a twist.  I turned the one closest to me and accidentally touched her ear.  It was cold as ice and felt nothing at all like skin.  I froze.  I guess that was the first time I ever touched a dead person.

    I’d had a few days to get used to the fact she was gone, but for some reason touching her cold, little earlobe made me realize she was never coming back.

    Just then the funeral director walked up, cleared his throat and actually gave us a “thumbs up” gesture, to see if we could get this show started.  I couldn’t bear touching her again so I gave a little nod, knowing full well the other earring was pointing straight to hell.

    I sent my mother to eternity, lopsided.  And, once again, I let her down.

    • Oh, my, dear Terri… You didn’t leave your mother lopsided… you sent her off in perfect balance. The alchemy symbol for fire is a triangle. The alchemy symbol for water is an inverted triangle. Placed together, they symbolize not merely perfect balance, but the whole of the universe. In Pagan circles, “the All”. You unknowingly bid her farewell with perfect balance, into the perfect All of the universe. I can’t think of a more perfect way for her earrings to be.
      Here’s an image of the alchemy symbols:

    • You may also notice that the symbols, placed together, will also form the Star of David, another sacred symbol. Very cool.

        • Terri Connett

        • September 19, 2013 at 9:46 am
        • Reply

        Thank you, Debra! This is really cool and also comforting. You knocked off a big one …now if I could just send you the pages and pages of my other guilt issues . . . 🙂

        • It is fall… and the perfect time to let go of burdens and spent things…. let them return to the earth or float away on the breeze. 🙂

    • Terri, all I can add other than what Debra already said is to give yourself a break. Take only a few minutes one day a week for your guilt and then sweep it away. Literally imagine a broom sweeping it away. It works. I am almost all guilt free now at almost 65.

        • Terri Connett

        • September 20, 2013 at 6:30 am
        • Reply

        Thanks for the broom idea, Madge. I’ll give it a try!!

      • Maya North

      • September 21, 2013 at 12:37 am
      • Reply

      I can only imagine how tough it was to feel your mother’s icy skin — how unbearably that must have made it. I will tell you, as the mother of a grown daughter who is marvelous and human and strong and quirky that she will always still be me sweet, fuzzy little baby and that my love for her would not and will not depend on earrings or flowers or even if she puts me in my plain pine Jewish box in puce with giant orange flowers. I don’t know your story, but I know from your writing that you are a lovely, loving, greathearted woman with nothing to feel guilty about. Be at peace, love. You did not fail her. Big hugs…

        • Terri Connett

        • September 21, 2013 at 10:37 am
        • Reply

        You are so very kind, Maya! This has been great therapy! 🙂

      • Quinton Santini

      • October 16, 2013 at 1:12 pm
      • Reply

      Best article of the bunch. We all can identify with these feelings.

      • Michael Maxin

      • October 30, 2013 at 11:51 am
      • Reply

      I love Terri Connett, Michael Maxin

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