“The divorce classes this evening were emotionally draining.* I kept thinking of the children. I feel I have failed them. But I have tried to do the best I could. Not for the first time, I am reminded how perversely unfair it seems that I – of all men [given my homosexuality and background] – have had such a large family of children. I wish to love them all, to nurture them all, but it has been difficult to escape the ‘herd mentality.’ I am reminded of thoughts I have had on other occasions: do I get credit for trying?
“ … Guilt. What if I just say, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes! I am guilty as charged! I am a frail, faulty human who has tried to play the hand he was dealt to the best of his ability, but I have failed in some important respects. Yes! I’m guilty!’ What if I just let go of trying to hold onto the illusion of innocence, if I stopped trying to justify myself? Why is this concept of ‘fault’ so all pervasive, so powerful? Is this a desperate attempt by the Ego to excuse itself? Wouldn’t I be a lot more at peace if I just said, ‘Yes! I’m guilty … Now what? How much of my life have I spent trying to justify myself? To escape guilt … for my sexuality and other things?”
These are feelings and thoughts I expressed in my journal [in January 2012] as I tried to process the feelings I had after attending state-mandated divorce classes - one of the last hurdles on my way to completing the legal divorce process.
As I pondered what I had felt and thought during and after those classes, I dimly sensed how feelings of guilt had, throughout my life, pushed me – or rather pursued me – to achieve unrealistic goals and an unreasonable standard of conduct. That’s just it: my life became all about conduct, rather than living. I was an actor on a stage, and my performance never satisfied me or others.
In talking about these things with my partner [my now-husband], he mentioned the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, analogizing that “guilt” is like that pea hidden under all those mattresses, under all the layers of the psyche that one constructs to try to hide the feelings engendered by the guilt.
For obvious reasons, I prefer to re-name the tale, The Prince and the Pea. The analogy has its limits, perhaps, but one is prompted to ask, “If the prince hadn’t been so hypersensitive, he wouldn’t have cared about or been able to feel the freakin’ pea.”
I thus, in this sense, get back to the questions I posed in my journal: Is guilt a function of the Ego, is blame the fuel that feeds it, and are justification, self-flagellation and self-defeating/self-hating behaviors the Ego’s tools for dealing with it? Does the entire Judeo-Christian tradition/religion furnish the fuel that stokes this furnace? Can I escape all this by simply surrendering?
In this regard, a couple of passages come to mind that I read in Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now:
“Instead of having a wall of resistance inside you that gets constantly and painfully hit by things that ‘should not be happening,’ let everything pass through you … Instead of going into unconscious reaction and negativity, such as attack, defense or withdrawal, you let it pass right through you. Offer no resistance. It is as if there is nobody there to get hurt anymore …
“Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender.”
Guilt, for the average gay person who has been raised or otherwise spent a significant amount of time in the LDS Church, is actually more like a boulder, rather than a pea. It sits there underneath so many layers that it sometimes seems we will never be able to find it and remove it.
But until we are able to remove it, we can at least do what Tolle suggests, i.e., accepting the presence of the boulder (or pea) instead of trying to pretend it’s not there, letting its presence cause us suffering, and/or complaining endlessly about its presence. Doing so allows us to examine the guilt, reduce its size and, eventually, dissolve it. This is what I have tried to do and am trying to do, and I know that – eventually – I will be free of it.
*This is a slightly edited version of a post that was originally published on one of my blogs that is now closed.