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.