Dealing With Guilt

There was a time when I could say with conviction that I had no regrets. Back then, it was primarily because I was able to conjure up a ton of self-compassion and realize that I was, despite my flaws, always doing my best. And that’s all we really can do.

Right?…

Well…lately that thought hasn’t been able to help my sense of regret go away. At all. The self-compassion was getting pretty hard to dig up.

I’ve been having a lot of guilt around my mother’s death and how I don’t think I showed up the way I’d have liked to. And I really needed to turn that around because it wasn’t serving me or my community to be wallowing in it.

All through the years I called my mom, I texted her, I asked her to move in (but Alaska is a hard place to convince an Islander like her to move to), I’d fly her up to Alaska 7 weeks at a time a few times a year. I even FaceTimed with her the day she died when we were in Morocco, calling her even though I knew it was 2am in California. I told her I loved her…but not like it was the last time I’d ever say it.

But while I was a good daughter on the phone, when we were together I wasn’t always the nicest (we have a complicated history). In fact, even though I always apologized right after, I could also be downright mean. And during my doctoral program I didn’t visit her as much as I normally would have, so she didn’t get to see me or her granddaughter more than the one very stressful 8-day trip we took to Yosemite the last year of her life. And there are so many other ways I was an imperfect daughter that hurt to think about.

In the end, do I think she knew I loved her (albeit imperfectly)? I think so. I hope so.

But when I try to tell myself that I was doing my best, I don’t believe it. It doesn’t seem to be working right now. I go back and forth to all the times I could have visited or the ways I could have responded better when I felt hurt. Why didn’t I coach myself during those times of irritation so I could let go? Why didn’t I meditate more – I know that I am a better person what I do…What if what if what if…

You’ve been there in that cycle of obsessive thinking. It’s exhausting, right?

And trust me – if you’re trying to do some serious self-coaching and change a negative thought to a more helpful thought so that your feelings and actions create the reality you actually want to experience, you better actually believe that new thought you are plugging into the equation.

Telling myself I did my best sounded like…bullshit.

I was feeling lost, my coach wasn’t available over the weekend to help me work it out (yup – believe it or not, most of us coaches have our own coaches!), and I couldn’t find a new, believable thought to help me shift things.

Then, while in a 2-minute meditation (hey – 2 minutes is better than nothing!) I remembered this:

Everything that is happening, that has happened, and that will happen is exactly what is meant to be.

You know why? Because it IS what has happened. It IS what is happening. And we don’t always get to know why. But if it wasn’t meant to happen that way, it wouldn’t have. Really!

Once I digested this, my chest relaxed, my spirit opened up, and my ability to forgive myself started to spark. That’s what guilt and regrets really are: the emotional baggage we have when we can’t forgive ourselves, or when we think we are responsible for other people’s feelings.

Or when we lack the self-compassion to see that we are all human and that life can be hard and hurt and that we are all imperfect. That even when we aren’t doing out best, we are still doing what is supposed to be happening in that moment…for some reason..and we may never know why it was supposed to be that way.

We don’t get to decide what other people’s spiritual journeys are. What experiences they are “supposed” to have. None of that.

Are you having a hard time feeling guilt or regret? Try seeing what happens when you realize that for some reason, whatever happened was exactly what was supposed to happen. In the bigger picture, in the bigger Mystery of it all, it really was.

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