I have always been sensitive. When I was a pre-teen this translated into several failed attempts at becoming a vegetarian and one notable breakdown in the bathroom of an Outback Steakhouse that was initiated by overhearing someone order “rack of lamb.” Oh the horror. When I was even younger, however, before I began to really discern the difference between people and things, I took sensitivity to a whole other level. While the rest of my kindergarten class was learning the basics of toy sharing and kind words, I was struggling with some deep seeded belief that everything had feelings. Literally EVERYTHING.
I can imagine now that this type of irrationality may be what causes some people to become hoarders- saving things like maggot infested food items and decade old newspapers because of a belief that these things keep their world afloat. Me, I was just concerned that trash compactors would be too painful for anyone (or anything) to endure, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason that someone (or something) had to spend the rest of their existence in a landfill. This kind of meticulous caring didn’t stop with my possessions but extended all the way to the foods I would eat. I could imagine that being digested was a horrific experience so I would eat things like Cheerios in pairs hoping this might make the cereal’s demise a little more enjoyable. Strange, I know.
While I eventually figured out that my stuffed animals didn’t need to have my bedroom light on and paper didn’t have the capacity to feel pain when shredded, this feeling of responsibility for the well being of others soon took root in my “human” relationships. Since I have yet to find a way to make myself happy while simultaneously making the rest of the world feel the same way, I now struggle with a gnawing sense of guilt. For someone that feels feelings a little too acutely, guilt is one that I would gladly kick in the face and set afire- a clear indication that nipping it in the bud is probably a good idea.
Being attached to someone that has chosen a (temporary) life of service and currently resides in the hellish desserts of Afghanistan, I have found that guilt, that little sneaky bugger, has embedded itself into the core of our relationship. No, I don’t feel guilt that I am not there living that existence with him (lord knows my complaining would do nothing for their morale), but instead it has taken up residence in the little things. Phone calls, a lot of times few and far between, don’t always come at the most opportune moments so when I can’t sit down and commit my full attention to him, guilt becomes a whole new monster. There is something horrible about saying to someone that is risking their life on the other side of the world “I’m sorry I’m in a bar with my girlfriends and it’s too loud to talk.”
Irritatingly enough, guilt doesn’t even safe itself for the most important relationships in my life. A recent venture into sales (something I’m learning is not my strong suit), has given me a new employer that is adamant about my “hitting the ground running,” i.e. trekking from office to office pushing a product that doesn’t exactly sell itself. Instead of explaining myself and what I will and will not do, I feel that acidic guilt every time we speak. Letting people down, I have found, is another area where this feeling resides.