I’m someone who thinks and sees the world in a very black and white way. Even though I know shades of grey exist (50, apparently), I have a very strong inbuilt filter for ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. There’s very little that falls into the ‘grey’ in my head, even though I know its an option.
This doesn’t mean that my filters are correct (I’m sure some Republicans are very nice), and it doesn’t make me a saint (I don’t think saints have my driving record), but it does mean that when I step outside the boundaries of my personal definitions (right, wrong, probably wrong) I get really uncomfortable, really fast.
When I feel like something I did was right, I can sleep at night. But when I know I did something ‘wrong’, that I can’t in any way re-frame as ‘ok’, I tend to mentally beat myself into a pulp. Which I think is the basis of society and stops us all from walking around hitting each other with metal pipes and stealing each other’s mail.
On a good note, this ridiculous internal monitor means I won’t be turning to murder, bestiality or cannibalism anytime soon (phew.. frees up a weekend), but it also means I’ve spent more than a few hours questioning my sanity, my morality and personal ethics (to mental moans of ‘you f-king idiot) over the years. And feeling oh so crushingly guilty. I’m not talking about drowning kittens or hitting up banks with a balaclava and an Uzi, but I as I get older, I notice my ‘wrongs’ more and feel terrible about them in a way that I never did as a kid. It can be as small as saying something mean, hitting ‘send’ on the wrong email, or leaving my dog alone too long… but they all still make me feel like shit and I can’t seem to let it go. Hence I spent the other afternoon beating my head on my desk and calling myself names.
Yes. My neighbors are frightened of me. Funny you should ask.
I’m not sure when this moral absolutism came about but I don’t think growing up with my sister helped. I can recall spending much of my early years proclaiming my innocence of many ‘illegal’ activities, (taking money from my mothers purse, eating a candy bar which wasn’t mine, doing things with boys), only to be determined guilty and punished anyway.
‘But its not faaairrrrrr‘ was my regular cry as my sister suppressed her grin with a saintly look of complete innocence.
Apparently being the older, wiser sister means you win automatic trust from the parents; there’s not much left over for us younger kin which means we’re gilded as black sheep before we’re even out of the uterus. I think as soon as I smiled for the first time my mother thought ‘oh there’s trouble’ and it seem to have stuck no matter what I do.
I have a guilty looking face. I see the same look in my niece and I pity the moment she realizes that looking like she’s having just a bit too much fun at all times isn’t an asset. And if everyone thinks you’re already up to no good, its challenging to keep trying to do the right thing.
Since I already had the mantle of ‘trouble’, by 13 I realized I might as well go with it. Doing the right thing – being honest – wasn’t paying off. And while this didn’t mean I turned to a life of drugs and prostitution, it did lead to me stealing a Mercedes Benz sign from a C230 to make myself a Beastie Boys necklace.
I felt so bad, the next night I crept back in the dark to glue it back on. Yeah, rebel Rachael.
I thought I could be bad. But then so did Michael Jackson and we all know how that turned out. I’m about as bad as Bubbles the chimp.
I thought I could be a rebel. Someone who didn’t care about others and just did what felt good.
But I’m not sure reading past my bedtime really counted.
Sure I’ve told a white lie on occasion and who hasn’t stayed off work that extra day to actually get some enjoyment from ‘being sick’? But anytime it crossed the line between what I knew to be ‘ok’ and ‘not ok’ I found myself wracked with guilt and anxiety at 2am. Clutching my stomach as my moral compass stabbed me in the guts. Nope, I can’t do bad stuff.. my body just won’t let me.
Which brings me back to today. And doing something that feels wrong*. And not in the good way.
I can’t find a way around it and I can’t fix it (I tried). I confessed (those Catholics have a point) and I am truly doing what I can to learn from it. Maybe someday I’ll be able to un-tighten my sphincter and not give a shit, but until then, I’m the one downward dogging her way to better karma and tipping 25%.
* Wrongs I am not referring to include (but are not limited to), stealing, lying, cheating, causing bodily injury, perjury and any illegal activities. Wrongs might include mocking someone’s outfit, parking badly at Whole Foods, farting during yoga, dating more than one person at a time, skipping Cross Fit because of a hangover or leaving a party without telling the host. I’m so sorry. Honestly. I am.