On Guilt

Dear quarter lives,

They say guilt is a feeling. They say it comes from regret. And regret only comes from a time that has passed. For guilt to arise, one must be living in the past. For guilt to pass, one must arrive to the present. Guilt is a train inviting us to journey away from our past and into the present. But to ride the train of Guilt, one must be prepared to travel light. We cannot carry anything or anyone from the past, and that includes ourselves. And that is the hardest part. Leaving ourselves behind. All the selves that no longer serve us. All the selves that are too young or too old to be present. How harsh it is to leave a child behind? How brutal it is to leave a sick person behind? How evil it is to leave a hungry one behind? How heartless it is to let all those people die? 

But you see they have all already died. Yet you carry them with you refusing to honour their memory and forget about them once and for all. How heavy one dead body can be, imagine carrying ten. It is very difficult to forget something that was once alive. We feel by forgetting those parts, those people, it would be like they never existed, like all that happened in the past never was. By letting go of all that was, we risk forgetting who we are. We risk forgetting that we were once loved, that we were once happy, that we were once in pain. But laying something to rest, laying all these aging parts to rest is the only way to survive the present. One cannot live their life scattered all across a timeline, for what purpose does that fulfill except shield us from the guilt we are afraid to confront of leaving someone behind. The guilt makes it feel like we killed them. But it is just time that has. Time washes away every memory, every person, until nothing remains but a clean slate more fertile, more rich than the one before. Trees don’t feel guilt over the leaves they shed. They know it’s a necessary part of the process if their soil is to become richer and their roots stronger. The earth needs to eat too and the earth is also what feeds them. A leaf must fall for another to grow later. Trees trust that new leaves will grow once again but first nature has to run its course. This is not to say that loss is not significant or the guilt of moving on is not real. It is just to say that nature has a system for dealing with loss and so let the guilt carry you through her system. Let it carry you and support you in the process of shedding. It is hard to throw anything out let alone loved memories, loved ones and our beloved young and old selves. So feel the discomfort of guilt, it is ushering you into the present. Guilt is how you know you need to shed. It is signaling tool telling you you need to move on. Guilt, too, carries our grief with it because sometimes it is much easier to feel guilt than grief. Guilt, itself, is training you to shed Guilt. When you finally reach the last stop on the train, the hardest part will be getting off that train and leaving Guilt behind. But by then you will be ready, for you will have shed much more precious things than Guilt. Finally, you will experience your present without being seduced and guilted by anything from your past. And perhaps a new seducer might come visiting from the future, but by then you will know the drill and another journey shall begin.