I have to say that feeling guilty is in the top 3 of the list of Things That I Am Really Good At. I have mastered the art of feeling guilty, acting like I feel guilty, performing to appease said guilt and taking on inappropriate guilt. So much so that I make a pretty easy target if you're looking for someone to make feel bad. Some of the people in my "inner circle" over time have figured this out, even without me telling them, and have used it to their advantage. I can imagine how nice it would be to live with someone who is willing to take responsibility for anything. And everything. You wouldn't even have to try hard with me. I jump at the chance to feel guilty and find a way to recompense whatever perceived perpetration.
A long time ago I heard a sermon or read a book about two types of people in this world: the Adams and the Eves. In the Garden of Eden, when the serpent offered up the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, and the Primary Couple take it and eat, they are confronted by God. When pressed, Adam's response is "it's not my fault. The woman YOU gave me gave it to me, and MADE me do it." Adam is especially awesome because he has TWO layers of blame shifting in his historic first excuse making speech. Eve, on the other hand, responds with: "Yes. The serpent made me an offer I couldn't refuse. I took it. In your face. I disobeyed and ignored your warnings. And I gave it to that pansy over there who is a sucker for me 'cause I'm naked. I am guilty." The polar opposite of Adam's response. Eve is a self admitted rebel. And as god hands down the Curse on All Mankind, I can't help but feel like Eve got the flipping short end of the stick for her blatant honesty. I mean, I haven't seen any men doubled over with menstrual cramps or shoving small humans out of their entirely too small pelvic openings. So, really? What. The. Hell (literally)? After I heard this whole Adam/Eve distinction of response to sin, I knew right away I always have been and will always be an Eve. Not that I haven't cranked out a pretty awesome justifications from time to time, or an excuse or two for my frequently bad behavior, but as a rule, I'm an almost unapologetic line-crosser who takes more than my share of responsibility for the Bad Things in life.
Apparently I've been doing it wrong. If I couldn't glean that from how easy Adam got off (i.e. You have to be a farmer now?), shame on me. But after 37 years of trying to own my own crap, I think maybe it's time to take a different approach. So here goes:
Mom and Dad: It's all your fault. If you hadn't homeschooled me. If you hadn't been so strict. If you hadn't spanked me or kept me from dating or kept me from marrying The Handsome Prince with the Heart of Stone, if you had only told me about things and exposed me to more and let me "find myself"... By now I'd probably be... In jail. With 6 kids and 8 baby daddies. I'd probably have set a world record for food stamp consumption and welfare fraud. I'd probably never have even gotten a GED and definitely wouldn't have gone to college, let alone finishing it. Or maybe I'd just be living in your basement knitting doilies and dating onljne, if you would have just taken it easy on me. So thanks a lot. It's all your fault.
Ex Husband: I blame you. If you hadn't shown me bitter disappointment and dysfunctional love, if you hadn't broken my soul into a thousand pieces. If you had just been a good man with integrity and self control, I would definitely be living in an unfinished shack, barely scraping by with 6 kids and no money and no hope and no adventures. I would be continually attempting to toe the line of acceptable, submissive wife behavior. If only you hadn't been such a jerk.
To The Church: you know who you are. If it weren't for you I'd have a healthy perspective of God's Holiness. If you hadn't controlled me and worked me over I would still be able to believe that One Pasty White Guy with a beard is the only hope for billions of human beings that God created in thousands of different variations, and I would probably be campaigning on the Bearded Dude's behalf, telling the wretched world what is wrong with them. If you hadn't manipulated and condemned me I could still be a submitted woman. I could be modest. And silent. As Women in The Church ought to be. If you had just embraced me with the love of Jesus like all Christians should, I could be a shining light of useless piety, damning the beautiful and unique hoardes that rebel against a judeo-Christian value system that will surely save us all.
And my kids: why did you have to ruin my life. Get in my way. Slow me down. If it wasn't for you I could have nice, peaceful holidays at a pristine resort. I could have a clean, quiet, anti-septic house and life. I could have no pictures cluttering my walls and refrigerator. No boring band concerts, track meets, dance recitals, volleyball games. No tears of pride to stain my cheeks. No panic attacks when I feel like I can't protect you. All would be calm. Serene. Dead. Why did you have to make my life, life?
Best Friends: (you also know who you are) If you hadn't continually reminded me how strong I am. How brave. How capable. How WORTHY I am, I could still be in a soul crushing marriage. A mind bending church. I could be painfully unaware of Everything I am Missing. If you hadn't held me together when I fell apart, or stopped my hand when it was bent on destruction. I could be resting in peace by now. If you hadn't awakened the parts of my soul that had been bled to unconsciousness with a steady infusion of unconditional love and support, I could be numb by now. And not know the difference.
I don't think this is working, y'all. Everybody that screwed me over actually helped me out. And everybody that helped me out helped me out too. Maybe because I chose to take responsibility for my choices, all of the things that "happened" to me were actually ABLE to be for a purpose. Maybe Adam got a better deal, but I'm pretty sure I'd take menstrual cramps over not being able to live with myself. Or anybody else. But who knows. It takes Adams and Eves to make the world turn, doesn't it? Victims and perpetrators. Guilty and justified. Rebels and pacifists. With any luck we can find a balance in the accountability that we bring to each other. Because really, in the end, it's everybody's fault and everybody's purpose, the things that happen. And hey - we're all in this together.