Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tired of Feeling Bad

I am so blessed. I know it. I have pretty much nothing to complain about. But often times I begin to feel guilty, like why should I have such a great life when other people have it so hard?

Sometimes I wonder if it's the actual circumstances of my life or if it's just my point of view. I have a Mary Englebreit plaque that I just love. It sits on my computer desk. It says, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. -Abraham Lincoln" I know people can't will themselves into better health or more financial stability or determine their relatives' behavior. But I know plenty of people who have crappy circumstances, and still consider themselves blessed.

So why do I allow myself to feel bad about things over which I have absolutely no control? My family is all healthy. My husband has a really secure job, making a decent amount of money. I am able to stay home with my kids. I get along pretty well with my in-laws and my own parents and all my siblings. I have a very satisfying faith life at church and at home. We have no financial debt, except our mortgage. My husband doesn't drink or gamble or fool around. My kids like to eat vegetables. I've never had any problems conceiving.

Yet I can't get past the initial jolt of hurt feelings when I read a blog about infertility, and the author claims that she is "sick of pretending to be happy for her pregnant friends." Or the heavy weight of guilt that hits me when I see friends who are in dire financial straits, not because they've made bad choices about their money but because they (and sometimes their spouse, too) has lost their job. Or even the sadness I feel for other moms in the playgroup who are at the end of their rope, trying to figure out what to do with their out-of-control children. As crazy as life has seemed at times with Linus, I know he's a walk in the park compared to a child with moderate to severe Autism or Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or something worse.

I don't know if it's because I grew up Catholic, and feeling guilt was just a daily expectation; or if I just am the type of person that chooses to take on the pain of people around me. But whenever someone I know or meet is hurting in some way, I immediately feel ashamed at my good fortune for not suffering whatever that person has to endure.

Am I the only schmuck who feels this way? What is wrong with me?

13 comments:

Mama B said...

I don't have anything wise or witty, but I feel that way too (maybe we should be blaming the fact that we were raised Catholic!).

I feel bad, I pray for them and if there is nothing I can do to help their situation, I try to move on...what else can I do? I can't make myself miserable just because others are.

Bridgett said...

I was also raised Catholic. I don't feel this way. I feel incredible sympathy for folks going through things that I haven't, but I don't talk to my friend with the child with Aspergers and feel guilty because my kids don't have it. Or the friend who never got pregnant and announced her infertility (and the end to the attempts) in the middle of my pregnancy with Leo--I didn't sit there feeling bad for being pregnant. I don't know.

I feel bad for them, yes, I listen, I think, I pray, but I don't think I've ever felt bad because I wasn't in their situation, like you say here.

But I don't know why one might. So that's no help.

Gigi said...

I too am Catholic. I feel really really bad for folks who are in tough situations - but I don't feel guilty. I'm sure we all have burdens to bear - some more than others - why, I don't know. I just try to be there for them and do what I can. And, of course, count my blessings.

Jennifer said...

You've just been blessed with an empathtic spirit. I bet you make an awesome prayer warrior. You can feel people's pain, put yourself in their place and really pray for them. That isn't a bad thing. But I can see how it would be a burden at times.

StaceyC4 said...

I was raised Catholic, too, and used to struggle with guilt. I don't anymore. You just have the gift of empathy (agreeing with Jennifer). Praying for those who are struggling is much more productive than feeling guilt.

Jen said...

I too have feelings like this. It sucks sometimes. But it shows that you have a big heart and really do care about people.

Emily said...

It sounds like you're a really compassionate person. An admirable trait. I feel bad sometimes too and it sucks and it's hard to know what to say or do about it.

Christine said...

Wow, I guess being raised presbyterian was a blessing after all. I really think this is a personality trait. My sister is a very compassionate person and feels for everyone, I on the othr hand tend to be a really logical person. I have to have a reason for any feeling or emotion to feel empathy. It just has to do with our personal traits. You are lucky to be so very feeling, because I know i can sometimes come of as cold when someone shares are heart wrenching story with me.

Aleta said...

You feel bad because you want everyone else around you to feel the contentedness that you have. You can't change their lives, but you want to feel a little worse about your life in order to even the balance, at least, in your mind. You don't have to though.. be joyful for what you have, even during the hard times and it will shine on to other people and help them as well.

Having a friend who is happy with life is a good thing, so be that friend and leave the guilt for someone more worthy of it. :)

Stacie's Madness said...

Not a Catholic...but I think anyone with empathy feels this way...

Cascia said...

You are not a shmuck. I grew up Catholic too so in a way I understand but unlike you my husband does not have a good high paying job, he has a job but it doesn't pay well. I have a very challenging three year old daughter, we live in a high crime neighborhood, I'm very unhappy...so I can relate more to the other moms you mentioned. I wish my life were as easy as yours. You should be thanking God for all his blessings.

stephanie (bad mom) said...

I used to have these feelings when working with at-risk students, but I realized very quickly that just because I had/have a Pollyanna world doesn't mean I don't have serious doubts or concerns, and it also doesn't mean I can't empathize with those who have a harder life.

I've talked frankly with my students about this outlook; we've all gotten pretty accomplished at saying "This part of my life sucks (grades, divorce, abuse, drugs) but THIS part (music, art, sports, teachers :D) is alright." And we do one day at a time.

You (and I) = not schmucks.

fiveallmine said...

I feel the same way as you!When I got my pregnant with my first child it was immediate-my best friend had been trying for 3 years. I felt incredible guilt and didnt really have the same relationship with her afterwards until she got pregnant herself. there was so much I couldnt share. Anyway, I am sick of feeling bad too-Ive decided I say 'sorry' too much and Im trying to stop. Ex-someone bumps me with a shopping cart and I apologize!!!!What is wrong with me??? Ive got the always be nice syndrome!