Saturday, November 26, 2005

Guilty as charged

My resolutions are going okay. I have been listening to almost all the recommendations you gave (w1ldchild mentioned Jamie Cullum, for crying out loud). Here are my painted toe-nails as evidence of that resolution fulfilled and I have been going outside regularly, if only for a short time. The shock of the cold air makes me feel briefly invigorated after which I need to sleep again. Since I am able to fall asleep in empty baths, under cold showers, in the middle of telephone conversations and the like, I am inclined to get back into the warm as soon as possible.

I have been thinking about this guilt thing. I feel guilty about all sorts of things. I feel guilty about my tremendous good fortune in certain aspects of my life, about the way I feel about and treat other people, about my appalling social acumen and clumsiness which is sometimes as much about carelessness as poor co-ordination. I feel very guilty about the way other people’s connection with me means they lose out in various ways. I feel guilty about my failure to meet expectations.

I feel very guilty about the way I manage my energy levels. I waste so much. Every night I settle down berating myself at the ways I wasted my energy today, the things I failed to do but ought to have, the things I did but were less important. My blog itself is a tremendous source of guilt because it is energy spent on something which could be spent elsewhere. Even when I spend all my energy on my book, I feel guilty because I have unanswered e-mails, unwritten letters, I am neglecting chores I ought to have done, I let everyone down. I simply don’t have enough energy in the day, any day, to do all the things I ought to and need to and want to do. Not nearly enough.

The remaining, perhaps greatest source of guilt is that I get so much more than I give. And the absolutely worst thing is that I am afraid that I get so much more than I am ever going to give. When I was convinced I would be well again one day, I was confident about making up for it. I mean this in all contexts. I would be able to pay vast quantities of tax in order to clean my slate with your good selves who have given your hard-earned cash to keep me in teabags. I would be able to do some job where I was helping others as I myself have been helped over the years so far.

Now I am not just having another moan here, I am trying to address this. Some of the above, I can do nothing about. The thing about energy levels, I feel I ought to act upon but am not sure now. I could cut down on the things I am committed to, but I would feel only more useless and isolated.

However, this last one is something that perhaps some of you can help with – not to make me feel better but perhaps to suggest alternative ways of looking at this. I believe in the welfare state and feel no particular shame in being on benefits. But this lack of shame is conditional; the condition being that at some point I give something back.

Now, significantly, almost all of the other people I know on incapacity benefits have come to this position having done a great deal of work already – folks who have been forced into retirement ten or twenty years early. And they look upon it as retirement; their time is their own, usually their ill health is only going to get worse and they seem to feel no obligation to try to spend what time they have left trying to regain self-sufficiency.

I, on the other hand, am deeply indebted to the collective pot and to be honest, the guilt of the situation bothers me more than the prospect of living in so-called poverty for the rest of my life, never buying a house or owning a car or having holidays – since these were never on the cards. Of course a big part of this is a basic human need to have some degree of self-sufficiency, some worthwhile occupation, which has been eluded me thus far. But it manifests itself in a sense of enormous guilt.

So, apart from concentrating on all the little ways in which I justify my existence by being nice to people, how do you get over this? I know I might get my book published, but unless I was particularly successful, it is unlikely to make much impact on anything. I mean, I will be pleased, but it is unlikely to mean self-sufficiency. And I know I might get better one day, but, I have no idea whether or indeed when.

Does anybody ever get to a point where they really truly come to terms with incapacity and dependance? It is just not fair that I should exist at the expense - in all senses of the word - of other people and never give anything back.


imfunnytoo said...

Just an opinion:

I find worrying over things that cannot change just adds to the types of feelings you describe...

Your book is a useful endeavor on many levels. Plenty of ables write books...perhaps view your income as deserved payment for your creativity :)

And don't feel guilt over the aspects of your life that you see as good fortune...enjoy them!

back over to my side of the pond...

Anonymous said...

I would like to second everything Marmite has said (especially about George Best! I could lose my lunch!). Seriously, Goldfish, you are falling into the Home Cinemas. Take my advice: it's best not to. Guilt itself can be a form of self-indulgence (see, now you've got something else to lash yourself over).

A. You owe the world, far less the State, nothing, OK? Remember the lilies of the field?
B. By simply being yourself you bring happiness to others, obviously AJ or he wouldn't be with you, but also to your friends in cyberspace and in the flesh. Otherwise we wouldn't be around either. Belive me, there are not loads of people out here saying "Oh, it's my tiresome duty to put up with that Goldfish again", quite the reverse. And that is no small attribute in this old world. Moreover, you have not wasted that considerable intelligence of yours but have read widely and deeply and educated yourself: was that a waste of time?
C. Do not kid yourself that other crips feel no guilt nor shortcomings. People might put on the front of seeming quite happy with themselves and their lot and of having come to terms with disablement, but I'll let you into a little secret: that's mostly a facade. If you ever meet someone who is genuinely happy about that situation, introduce me and I'll strangle them with my bare hands. If there's one thing I can't stand it's a little ray of sunshine.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I used to feel guilty when it came to the issue of not getting into work, relying on parents, still living with them and, claiming off the state. I used to voice this guilt over this as well as, it didn't seem right to me.

I've learnt that being in the position I'm still, I shouldn't feel guilty as, my situation isn't as simple as it may appear to many. Especially when it comes to my upbringing in relation to how my family see, special schooling environment etc.

No, you don't have anything to be guitly about even though I understand totally why you feel that way.
Feel even less guilty about writing about what makes you feel this way in your blog. I'm sure your experiencing how sharing this is getting a mighty weight off your chest. I'm sure it's writing about this is giving you some needed relief as, guilt can knock us sideways.

Hmmmm... I wish I could say that when it comes to making up for what you're getting from others, you'll have all the opportunity to put back come the next life, if it doesn't happen in this one. However, you'd need to be a believer in reincarnation to accept that view point.

The Goldfish said...

Thanks guys - most appreciated. :-)

See, I was very irritated at the fuss over George Best, but then I felt very guilty about my irritation!

I suppose there is a time for analysing this stuff and a time to leave it alone, and given that I have so little power over the situation - all situations - just now, I am probably better off leaving it alone.

marmiteboy said...

You were irritated. I was bloody livid. Radio 5 Live reported that he had valiently fought his alcoholism. Bollocks he did. Drinking, after you have been offered a another chance with a liver transplant which loads of other people (who I might add did not cause their condition by drinking a bottle of vodka for breakfast)do not get is not fighting valiently.That is a choice. He liked drinking. I didn't wish him dead but I despair of all this media frenzy eulogising about him. If he had been a person living on the street they would have said he had it coming.

Rant over.