Thursday, July 13, 2017

On Shame and Guilt

Yesterday was a tough day.  I just felt down.  Can't figure any way of describing it any more poetically than that.  Up is up.  Normal is in the middle.  Down is down.  It's not really depression.  To describe it as such would be an insult to the truly depressed and what they deal with.  At this point, I think you know what I mean, so I won't belabor the point.

I spend a lot of time metacognitating i.e. I like to think about my thinking.  I like to try to get to the root causes of feelings.  It goes back to the first therapist with whom I worked, Jack, who recommended to me a book - Focusing, by Eugene Gendlen.  I haven't read it in a loooong time, but my enduring understanding is that by talking through a feeling and trying to label it pretty specifically, you will eventually understand your feeling, and there will be a release of emotion, often accompanied by tears.  If Jack had just told me about it before he'd worked through a few sessions of focusing, I would've thought it really cheesy, but damn if it didn't work exactly like that for me.  Anyway...

I spoke with The Wife about it last night.  There were tears.  It made me feel a little better, but there's more work to be done.  What I've concluded is that I'm feeling all the things a SAHD feels from time to time.  I'm tired and I feel run down, but because The Toddler is a pretty easy kid, I don't feel I deserve to feel that way, so I'm ashamed.  Shame is a seriously powerful fucking emotion, and is interwoven through all my issues.

Right now, I do everything around the house, something I do by choice and about which I'm proud.  I will reiterate: I take pride in making the choice to, and putting forth the effort required to keep the house running.  I cook and clean and mow and take out the garbage and pay the bills and weed the garden and on and on.  I'm proud because it sounds like a lot, but it's a lot of tasks, not really a lot of work.  I mean, some weeks it is, but I still *regularly* take a nap in the afternoon.  When people talk about how hard it is to be a stay-at-home parent, I wonder if they have more difficult kids than mine, because I've never had any other job that allowed me to pretty much stay on top of my shit AND take a nap a few days a week.  BUT.  I do a lot of tasks, and despite me knowing full well that The Wife works harder than I do, I get resentful.  On Tuesday nights, when I've got the kitchen cleaned up and my bowl of ice cream and we're sitting down to watch House of Cards and I then remember that it's fucking garbage night, I sometimes want to ask her when she last took out the garbage.  And then I remember that she worked a 14-hour day, same as she did yesterday, same as she will tomorrow, and I instantly feel guilty and ashamed.  A Good Husband would not think things like that.  A Good Husband would know how good he has it and would just grow up and take out the goddamned garbage.  And I do, but the guilt is still there.

So we talked it through, and The Wife was wonderful and supportive as always.  She reassured me that what we're feeling (because, as it turns out, I don't have the market cornered on resentment) is totally normal and to be expected.  She is exhausted, but feels the guilt typical of a working mom - does she spend enough time with The Toddler?  Does she contribute enough around the house?  The most puzzling piece of all this is that we really do work to support each other.  I try so hard to show her how much I appreciate everything she does, and she does the same for me, but it just doesn't always sink in.  Again, I think that's pretty typical.

Where does that leave us?  I don't know.  I think a lot about a marriage counselor.  Not because our marriage is bad, but I'm a believer in emotional maintenance rather than fixing emotional crises.  Our marriage is really strong, but as I said, guilt and resentment are seriously powerful, and the issues that bring those feelings out will not go away, ever.  I need to get out our old copy of The Five Love Languages.  As I said, I try to show her how much I appreciate her, but I also know I could do more and do better.  Sometimes I feel like I don't have any idea how to express my appreciation to her, and guess what?  Guilt and shame.

So that's that.  Another post with no conclusions.