Monday, November 24, 2008

Guilt or Guilty?

One of my guilty pleasures in life has always been the slow, methodical dunk of the Oreo cookie into a tall, cold glass of milk. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of attaining the perfect texture and saturation. Yum, Oreos… Now, my guilty pleasure is the slow, methodical dunk of the Reduced Fat Oreo cookie in an 8oz cup of cold, Lactaid Skim milk. Blah. It sucks getting old…

Why does this matter? It doesn’t. Not for any practical purpose that is. But when has this blog ever served a practical purpose? Easy now… That was a rhetorical question. However, it does make me wonder about the meaning of the word Guilty as compared to the feeling of Guilt. Here’s one definition of the word Guilt:

In psychology, as well as in ordinary language, guilt is an affective state in which one experiences conflict at having done something that one believes one should not have done (or conversely, having not done something one believes one should have done).

I don’t want to get too deep here but is it possible to feel Guilty without being Guilty? I’m not quite sure. To me it seems like you don’t necessarily have to do something wrong to feel Guilty. All you have to do is have a conscience.

I personally feel Guilty ALL the time. This could be related to my upbringing. I’m sure some of you out there have been exposed to the “Guilt Trip” once or twice, growing up. I actually feel guilty writing this. I certainly don’t want my Mom, Dad or Grandma to think that I’m referring to them. I also wouldn’t want them to think that I would imply that the Guilt I feel is the sweet and subtle styling of “Jewish Guilt”. Ok I’m probably in trouble now.

I can honestly say that I don’t do a lot of things that would make me FEEL guilty. I’m not Guilty of anything specific or terrible. I live by some pretty high but simple moral standards. I think my problem is that I’m always feeling guilty about things that I should have done but didn’t or couldn’t or forgot or whatever… I don’t remember feeling all this Guilt before I had kids. It’s hard to feel Guilty when you have no real responsibilities. Forgetting to lift the toilet seat when I was single was hardly a reason to cry myself to sleep on my pillow.

Now it’s different. Really different. When you have a wife and two daughters, you ALWAYS forget to do something. You ALWAYS forget to say something. You ALWAYS manage to could’ve, should’ve and would’ve. Sometimes all in the same day. Half the time I don’t even know what it is that I’m feeling Guilty about. Sometimes when I’m not feeling Guilty at all, I start to feel Guilty about not feeling any Guilt. So it goes…

During any given week, I see my girls in the morning before I leave for the office. Its like clock work. I get up at 6am. I tip toe through the house in the dark. I close everyone’s door so they don’t wake up. I grab a low carb Monster from the fridge. I open the gate to the upstairs (a stark but accurate metaphor to the gates of hell). I climb the stairs. I work out like a zombie, while I watch ESPN or CNBC. Flipping channels and sweating. Flipping and sweating. Then I shower. Then I get dressed. Then I eat a low sodium rice cake with reduced fat peanut butter and a half a cup of Lactaid skim milk. Oh my god. I think I just made myself cry. Sometimes I tell my wife that I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. My mornings are my routine. But the highlight of that pathetic and equally boring routine is the time I get to sit with my girls. Usually they are all snuggled in bed with my wife waiting for me to come down. I only get about fifteen minutes or so but it always does the trick. I think they look forward to it just as much as I do.

This past week was different. I had to be at work very early on Tuesday, so I skipped my routine and snuck out of the house before anybody was awake. That made me feel Guilty. On Wednesday I was flying to Chicago on Business very early in the morning so I had planned on getting home at a decent hour on Tuesday night to have dinner with my family and say goodbye. Unfortunately I got held up at work and missed my window. By the time I got home, both my daughters were asleep. This made me feel Guilty. The next morning I once again got up way too early to see my girls. I felt so Guilty that I wrote a note to my six year old explaining to her how sorry I was that I hadn’t seen her for a couple of days and that I had to go away on business until Friday. I taped the note to the sink in her bathroom so she would see it if she actually brushed her teeth. I thought this was a sweet way to tell her that I loved her and I thought it would make her feel special to get a note from Daddy.


When I landed in Chicago, I called my wife to tell her that I wasn’t dead. This is basically the only news she wants to hear when I fly. Not, how was your flight? Not, how do you feel? Just, “I’m not dead. Talk to you later.” But before I could let her know the good news, she interrupted me and let me know that my six year old was so hysterical when she saw my note that she cried for almost an hour. She didn’t want to go to school. She didn’t want to eat breakfast. All she wanted was her Daddy. She couldn’t understand why I didn’t tell her that I was going away or why I didn’t come home the night before or why I didn’t wake her up to say goodbye. That stopped me dead in my tracks. I felt Guilty. I was Guilty. I didn’t even need a trial. Just hang me. Fuck. Why didn’t I come home the night before? Why didn’t I tell her I was going away? Why didn’t I just wake her up to say goodbye?

Life is why. Every day I try to do the right thing. I go to work for my family. I exercise so I’ll stay healthy for my family. I eat the shitty reduced fat Oreos so I’ll be fit enough to play with my kids for a long, long time. But even though I do all those things for my family, it is still the things I DON’T do that make me feel Guilty. It’s hard to be a perfect dad. It’s hard to be a dad, period. But it’s the Guilt that let’s you know that it’s worth it every single minute of every single day. You’re not always Guilty when you feel Guilt. I know this because when I came home early on Friday, I was greeted with a running hug and showered with kisses from all of my girls. I was also given a note. This is what it said:

Daddy I miss you soooo much. I miss you soooo much. I want you now. I can’t wait for you to come home on Friday. You are so funny and nice. I love my daddy.”

As if that weren’t enough. Let me leave you with this parting gift from wikiHow:

1. Obtain a box of Oreo cookies from the local grocery store or gas station. Make sure they are the original cookies and not the new vanilla Oreo's. While at the store, pick up a gallon or half gallon of milk. (2 L - 4 L) If you think you are going to spill much of the milk, go with the gallon (4 L), but if you are a neat and tidy eater, go with the half-gallon (2 L).

2. Once you have safely arrived at home, place the Oreo cookies on the table. Grab a tall glass from the cupboard and fill the glass with milk to about a half an inch (12.7 mm) from the top. This is the optimal height for dunking the cookie.

3. After the milk has been poured, open the box of cookies. Pick one cookie up gently so as not to break or chip it. Raise the cookie until it is positioned approximately 1.5 inches (38.1 mm) from the rim of the glass.

4. Lower the cookie gently into the milk until about half the cookie is submerged. If you submerge the whole cookie at once, air will become trapped inside the cookie and will not allow the milk to soak in.

5. Be patient! Do not swirl the cookie around or move it around in the milk. You could risk breaking the cookie and losing it forever in the depths of your glass of milk. After exactly 6 seconds have elapsed, slowly remove the cookie from the milk.

6. Once the cookie has been removed from the milk, gingerly raise the cookie to your mouth, careful not to break the soggy cookie in half. Place the cookie on your tongue, chew, and enjoy!!

Why is it that the Guilt always makes the Guilty pleasures feel Out-Numbered?