Is there any stronger emotion that exists?
Of course, there probably is. Fear and love are rather strong (and for me tend to come together…), but to me nothing makes me feel as emotionally drained as guilt.
I’ve been carrying so much guilt already in my life, it sometimes feels like my shoulders are so fucking heavy. Like many people, I’ve been carrying guilt that doesn’t even belong to me, as well as guilt from things I fucked up.
Some of the guilt in my sometimes heavy baggage came to light after some of my travels. Exploring the world made me see that I was so lucky to have been born to a peaceful and quiet country. Lucky enough to have been given supportive parents and having never lacked anything in my early life. I was fed, clothed, had tons of toys and learning experiences. Not everybody is so damn lucky.
Even in Canada, there’s a lot of people living in poverty or abusive households. And as I ventured into the world, I became ever so aware of my sheer luck to having been born in the place and time I did. The guilt came from the fact that I in no way deserved any of this more than anyone I’ve met. Actually, I’ve met many people way more deserving than me. Which brought some oh so familiar feeling of guilt.
Now I do know it is silly to feel guilt towards things I don’t have any control over. But as most of our human emotions, they are rather irrational.
I’ve also collected guilt in some of my relationships with some friends and family members. What I think is the usual amount of guilt when it comes to friendship and not being as present as I could be. There’s this sentiment that life will always go on and that we will have more time. So we push that phone call further down the to-do list.
In a similar fashion, I’ve experienced, and still strongly feel guilt towards one of my younger cousin. She had a hard life. A lot more difficult than mine. She grew up in a rather dysfunctional family, with an absent dad and a not so present mom. While growing up my parents would often take her with us on our monthly visit to the capital city. She was like a sister to me. We were really close growing up, even through our teenage and young adult years, however, when I moved to British-Columbia I decided to focus more on reinforcing my relationship with my boyfriend and making a life for myself there. I stopped answering her calls. And when I did I was always busy and wanting to hang up quickly.
My cousin grew up with a lot of medical issues, having brain operations when she was very little and throughout her life. She was the most kind-hearted person I’ve ever met. Most people would probably give up on others, but she had tremendous amounts of love to give and simply wanted to be loved back.
We drifted apart, not because she wanted to but because I wanted to live my own life and put some distance between my old life and my new life. She needed help and someone to talk to but I wasn’t there. She never blamed me for it. But I do.
In the last few years, she had a lot of complications with her brain problems. She had lost a lot of her memory, was very confused and convinced she was going to go back to school. It was really painful to see her believe it all when we knew she would have to be put in a home. And last year she died.
I was actually in Canada last summer, but I couldn’t work out the courage to go and see her. And that is where most of my guilt lay. I should have been there for her when she needed me. It’s easy to be there for people when everything goes fairly smoothly. It’s something else to still be there when the person is not even there anymore. I know full well she would have never blamed me for any of it. She was just simply happy when we would think of her, see her and love her. Her love was limitless.
The anniversary of her death is coming up, and while there’s nothing I can do now to be more present, I will definitely try my hardest to be more present for the other people I care about.
We often think we are present because we are somewhere physically with someone, but I now make a conscious effort to leave my phone in my bag and take the time to truly listen to my friends and family when they speak. I’m not saying it’s happening naturally all the time, but I do not want to have that regret with someone else in my life. I want Alex’s life to have been worth it and to have made a difference.
Guilt is a very strong emotion, but since I carry it, I might as well try to use it to grow instead of drowning in it. And maybe with time, it will fade away.