Guilty Pleasures

Posted on: December 14th, 2017 by

These days, I’m feeling guilty.

My father is faring badly hundreds of miles away. My mom’s anguish is palpable. I’ve been frantically advocating for him and trying to calm her down. All by phone.

I have to be prepared to leave to Florida at a moment’s notice.

But lately, and — this is the crux of my guilt — I’ve been having fun. I feel I’m a poor excuse for a daughter for experiencing joy at a dark time in my family’s life. While my father suffers and slowly approaches the end of his life, I’m enjoying life.

My daughter and I are doing so many fun activities together. Don’t get me wrong; she has seen me cry in grief and despair over my aunt and dad, and I think that’s a healthy thing for her to witness.

Nevertheless, lately, we’ve had all sorts of fun. We are having a blast shopping for presents for others. Play dates with Ari’s friends fill our schedule. She’s been ice skating. Lately our obsession is a ceramics place, where we choose bisques and paint them with all sorts of colors and designs. The art studio then puts the pieces in the kiln, and oila! A beautiful vase, holiday decoration, bowl, and so on. Ari and I are in love with this place.

Painting bisque pieces

Painting bisque pieces

In the near future, we are going to our favorite art store to buy canvases. I’m going to paint a landscape, and she will be painting a puppy with a kitten. We also mold clay into all sorts of interesting objects.

Lately, we’ve been playing with dreidels and all sorts of Chanukah and non-Chanukah games. We drive around our neighborhood, marvelling at all the houses sporting gorgeous Christmas lights.

Ari is fun. She brings out the child in me, makes me happy, and we enjoy each other’s company.

Despite all the fun activities — or, rather, because of them — guilt gnaws at me. My dad can no longer enjoy fun activities. While Ari and I enjoyed dinner out this week at a yummy restaurant, my dad was hardly eating his puree. My mom is understandably depressed, and worry has diminished her appetite. Before my dad broke his hip a few years ago, my parents used to ballroom dance two to three times a week. (In fact, before I was born, they won awards for their dancing talent.) In fact, my dad enjoyed dancing so much, that he has danced non-stop at friends’ weddings — often dominating the bride’s dance time. Poor groom.

Now, my parents no longer can go dancing.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying all kinds of music and dancing with my daughter. And, somehow, I feel rotten that our dancing is so enjoyable. My guilty mind is killing the joy, replacing it with anguish. But I continue to partake in fun activities, even though I know my parents are suffering. I do it for my daughter, I tell myself. But I’ve been watching Curb Your Enthusiasm on my own for selfish reasons: to laugh and relieve the stress. Truth is, I feel I have no right to be happy and laughing while my parents are suffering. I don’t deserve to have a good time.

In fact, I feel like a horrible person that in spite of what’s going on with my parents, I’ve found significant moments of pleasure.

I feel guilty I never moved to Florida to take care of my parents.

In fact, lately guilt rules so much of my world, that I usually feel horrible after Ari and I have fun. Still, if it weren’t for Ari, I’d sink into a horrible depression. The girl is my salvation.

But in the courtroom of my mind, I try, convict, and punish myself for being guilty as charged.

Do you feel that you experience/have experienced joy when you should be/should have been grieving? Feel free to share your experience(s) and perspective.

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6 Responses to Guilty Pleasures

  1. Scott Johnson had this to say about that:

    OK, the other side of this is feeling awful when there’s no reason in the world to be unhappy. There’s probably some mathematical proof that says a person can only take on so much hurt before it either twists you up into a helpless tangle or worse, makes you indifferent. You and Ari could build a not too big, but comfortable little house for for your guilt. Then lovingly make cookies for your fretful friend to leave by the house door every day.
    Read a sentence the other day that seemed very discouraging but liked it anyway: “It gets worse before it gets better” and the key is in the notion that it DOES get better.
    Merry Christmas Artsy Ladies!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Scott,

      Thank you for your encouragement. I know that life has its ups and downs, and the downs I feel are temporary. Thanks for the holiday wishes as well. I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas!

  2. Elizabeth MacKenzie had this to say about that:

    Beth, that sounds excruciating. Guilt, like cancer, is the “gift” that can keep on giving. It is also a normal but painful part of grief.

    Much love to you. Xoxox.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you, Elizabeth. I really appreciate your insight. As you can tell, I’m grieving in a big way, but I’m just taking it one day at a time.

  3. Nancy Stordahl had this to say about that:

    Oh Beth, you are going through a difficult time of transition, so it’s normal for your emotions to be all over the map. How could they not be? And it’s extra hard when you’re far away distance-wise from your dad. Remember, it’s totally fine to feel joy mixed with sadness. Or sadness mixed with joy. Life is so complicated, as are emotions. But you and Ari enjoying yourselves during these difficult and emotional times, is a wonderful thing. Of that I am sure. Ditch the guilt. Easier said than done I know! Wishing you and Ari a lovely holiday season. Hopefully guilt free. May 2018 be kind to us all. xo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you, Nancy, for understanding and your words of advice. Yes, emotions are very complicated, and I know you have had your share of grief.

      I will do my best to get rid of the guilt. This is really a killjoy emotion, and it has no place in our family. Life is often mixed with joy and sadness, as you say.

      I hope 2018 is a good year for everyone. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

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