Sunday, May 24, 2015

Future Guilt

Name it; claim it. 

I am going to identify this harmful habit and hopefully begin to dig it out of my life. 

I bought a cookbook yesterday and stopped by the grocery store to buy a few ingredients to make a frittata and a broccoli salad. As I walked from the car to my door I heard myself say, "This is the sort of thing I should do all the time. Ugh. Why am I so bad at cooking good things for myself? I'll never be able to keep this up."

This was as I was walking into my kitchen with the intention of making a delicious meal!

Another example: the other day I was feeling lazy and shlubby and decided to exercise a little. Afterwards I heard myself say, "Ugh. I need to do this more often. It won't make a difference unless I workout regularly."

I have named this destructive habit Future Guilt. It begins in the feeling that I may not continue indefinitely the "positive" behavior in which I am engaging. And that feeling frustrates me and makes me feel hugely guilty. This is a problem for several reasons.  

Future Guilt is shockingly ignorant of my basic way of being. I am a creature of cycles. It is so. There are times when I am active, motivated and inspired. These are paired with times of quiet, introspection and stillness. I hope to quit attaching a negative/positive label to these two ways of being. In the world in which I live, active is positive! Always. And when I am quiet and still, I beat myself up for not being in the active side of my cycle. Hence the Future Guilt. 

Down the rabbit hole we go! Even as I talk about cycles, I found myself using the word dichotomy to describe these two states of being. Dichotomy means the difference between two mutually exclusive things. Are those sides of me really polar opposites? No. They are not. Next I tried duality, which is very similar to dichotomy, but seems softer to me - the having of two parts. So far, so good. Except ... they aren't really separate. They fulfill one another. They rise out of each other. Cycles, remember? It reminds me of a reference book I own called Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom. In it, the author talks about the menstrual cycle in conjunction with the cycles of the moon. When I first saw it it was one of those aha! moments that helped me explain myself to myself. Here is the picture:

This feels so natural. It rings true in my body. Thank goodness someone writes these things down so I can read them and understand myself!

Which brings me back to Future Guilt. As I move into the active phase of my cycle, I can get angry that it will eventually phase out and I will return to a quieter, less motivated state of being. Living in cycles means staying keyed into my present reality. Finding satisfaction in the activity (or stillness) of the moment. This is something I am working on. I want to be able to enjoy my active and inspired phase. It's fun!! I loved the hell out of my little kitchen and frittata last night. I took pictures, danced when it started to smell good in the oven, and bragged about it to my husband. I worked at appreciating my cooking in the moment instead of feeling guilty that I don't do this all of the time. 

This motivated phase will wane. I don't know when, but I will go make broccoli salad while it waxes. No pithy closing remark. Just a satisfied feeling and a desire to eat some broccoli. 


  1. Wonderful writing, my friend. I, too, find my body's cycle from active and inspired to rest and reflection an important one with which to be attuned. It's natural! It's good!

  2. You are a loveable and lovely person in activity and in stillness.