Called to me from the bathroom,
“Babe? Did you run a load of laundry today? ”
I’m sitting in bed reading, and my hackles immediately go up.
“Ok, well, I’m down to one pair of underwear.”
“Well, I’m not the only one in this house who knows how to use a laundry machine!”
Silence from the bathroom.
“Frankly, I think that is it only fair of you to do a load or two anyway….I mean, how am I supposed to keep up with your changing underwear needs when you can’t even manage to get your dirty clothes into the conveniently-placed hamper that I have beside our closet?? And when do you think I have the time to walk around the house, gathering your errant clothing?!?! WHEN!?”
More silence. Then he sticks his head out of the door and looks at me with his “calm down, you’re getting a little crazy, here” expression. But I barrel on.
“LOOK. I didn’t get to the laundry today. But it was a really rough day. The kids were driving me nuts. The baby wouldn’t eat. I feel bad for not making dinner and now you have to bring up the fact that I’m terrible at keeping our clothes clean and organized! I’m sorry that you married such an irresponsible woman who can’t seem to manage a household. But please, PLEASE, stop trying to make me feel guilty about this!!!”
“Um, Babe? Are we still talking about clean underwear? Because….it seems like, maybe….we are really talking about something eeelllse.”
He would be right about that. While he was merely thinking “I want clean underwear for tomorrow” I was thinking, “AHHHH!! I am a horrible wife who can’t keep her husband’s basic needs met. The man just needs clean underwear and I didn’t even notice that he was running low, let alone remember to wash some! What in the world is wrong with you, Liz? He’s right to think that I’m a failure. Only a lazy, irresponsible person could spend as much time at home as I do and NOT get all the laundry done! In fact, unless I convince him that it is his mistake that there isn’t any clean underwear he might start asking about the state of our refrigerator [dirty] or about the boy’s chore list [woefully neglected], or, or, or…..AHH!!!”
And from the morass of this guilt-riddled self-chastisement rises my hyper-defensive arguments about why none of this is my fault, actually it’s HIS fault and why I really am a good wife, mother, person in general.
And the man just wants clean underwear.
Guilt is powerful. Wield it as a weapon, and you can do some serious damage to those close to you. If Paul were truly trying to wound me (by insinuating that I was incompetent…the proof being his empty underwear drawer), he would have been successful. But you see, he wasn’t the one beating me about the ears with accusations of ineptitude.
I was doing that to myself.
When I talk to other women about the relentlessness of guilt, the fact that it creeps up and snares our thinking at some point every single day, I hear in their accounts an undercurrent of weariness. We are tired of feeling guilty. We are weary of feeling like failures. We dread our own self-condemnation. Books, sermons, blog posts, facebook pages, and pinterest boards all have uncanny ability to elicit guilt. Gather together with any number of women (say, at the nursery doors on a Sunday morning) and you will likely run across a conversation topic that makes you feel guilty. It’s crazy. I’ll be in the middle of a mental diatribe before I even know how I got there.
“You look great! Have you lost weight?” (No. I’m just wearing a black dress. But I should have lost like, 25 lbs by now! I’m a fitness failure. . .)
“I tried a great new recipe last night and it turned out great!” (Sheesh, I wish that I had the umph to try a new recipe these week…or to even cook! I’m a culinary failure. . .)
“Are you going to be able to come to the bibles study this Thursday?” (No. I have to work. I probably shouldn’t be working. I probably should be at home…and studying the bible more. I’m a Christian failure. . .)
“Are you going to stop back and nurse Meg, or do you have a bottle?” (A bottle. But I should be nursing her. I know. I’m probably just lazy for stopping at 6 months. I’m a mommy failure. . .)
“Wow, she’s getting big! Her arms are growing right out of her sleeves!” (Whoops. Should have gotten out the 9 month clothes earlier! Why can’t I be more organized! I’m a housekeeping failure…)
Clearly, none of these comments would be designed to produce guilt. And yet I would have immediately felt guilt. After the underwear debacle, Paul asked me why I get these instantaneous feelings. When there wasn’t a viable reason other than, “Um, I just DO,” I began to think that the topic deserved some attention. Thus, I’m going to be doing a little investigative research. I’m looking in the bible looking for insight on the subject. I’ll probably discuss it with Paul pretty soon. Maybe some of my favorite authors have something to say about it. I realize that there are lots of Band-Aid answers because I’ve read about many of t tried using them in the past. However, those mental patches, like Band-Aids, only last for a short time and then fall off and leave the guilt wound open again. There has to be a more permanent, God-designed answer to this problem, right?
So, today I am dumping the description of a terrible problem in your laps without giving you a solution. Hopefully though, I will have an answer soon because I KNOW that there is one. Until then, I stand in solidarity with women (and men) everywhere who feel the unjustified weight of guilt. It can be removed, and I’m on a quest to figure out the right method. And I’ll certainly want to share it with you all when I find it : )