Woman’s guilt

You know how sometimes, when you push something in one direction, it swings a bit there, but then even more in the opposite direction? That’s how my thoughts went. A bit there, but then more and more the other way.

I had a conversation about my relationships. A good talk. Brought attention to things I already knew, but didn’t focus so on right now. Made some things a bit clearer, made me think about others. But there was one part of conversation that, even thought it seemed to push me one way, made me swing and the force that grew in me demands to break free.

It was the idea that He still loves me and wants things to be better. The way they were.

Sounds wonderful, right? No, it doesn’t.

The words stayed with me for a long time. First, I felt guilt. Maybe I didn’t try enough. Maybe I didn’t do enough. Maybe I gave up too soon. Maybe I’m too demanding. Maybe I’m judging too harsh. Maybe it’s really all my fault. Maybe I should say I’ll endure another day, another month, another decade.

The more I questioned myself, the more it felt wrong. Guilt felt wrong. Blaming myself felt wrong. Anger arose.

I did try enough. I did do the best I could. I didn’t give up, not for a long time. I asked and talked and begged and offered and endured and hoped.

Initially, when I thought about writing this article (may I call it that?), I planned about writing about His behaviour as I see and feel it. But it feels wrong to do that. It feels wrong to paint a picture of someone, even if it is my truth, because it can never be a complete picture. It feels wrong to write about someone else to begin with. And it feels wrong to need to, to try to justify my feelings, my decisions, my point fo view, my experience.

What my anger was mostly about was how unfair it felt to question my own decisions and feeling. Deep inside I knew I have a right to have enough, to not want to live like this. I think what caused this swing was another thing the one I had conversation said – she said the purpose of life is to be happy. I’ve never thought about it like this. But it makes sense, doesn’t it?

So I deserve it. Why do I then feel guilt, whenever I want it? Why do I feel like I’m asking too much?

I think, or, rather, feel, know, believe, one part of it is what I feel as a woman, down all the ancestral lines, from the women across the world, women throughout history. The conviction we are responsible for happiness of others, and not our own happiness. The idea we have to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. Do we have to? Of course, to an extend. But I would not call that sacrifice. It’s the balance between self and community, in whatever form it is around us. Children, parents, family, spouses, others. But that is not just about being a woman. Yes, often women are the glue. Yet, the balance is essential. Women should not be the only glue. Not be the only ones that have to adapt, change, rewrite lives. I do know and respect the fact that men do it too (I just personally don’t know many of those – I’m not saying they don’t exist!), but that doesn’t change the fact that for women it too often goes further, harder, too far and too long.

I no longer feel guilty for slowly, quietly standing up for myself. I no longer feel the need to deny I have enough of feeling emotionally, psychically, financially, socially and sexually abused. (And I did notice that I’m still saying I feel abused, not that I am abused – do I, myself, still doubt my own experience?!?) I no longer want to hide because of gaslighting and manipulation. I no longer want to be what I became: someone who is quiet just not to cause fights, someone who lowers her head just because it’s easier, someone who says “ok” when it’s not ok, someone who gave up.

I might feel the pain of women from times before mine, who gave up themselves, but I do not need to continue their way. I can care and still say “no”. I am responsible for my children, until they grow up, and for myself. No-one else. And what do I teach my children, if I show them their mother doesn’t deserve to be respected, cherished and be happy? What do I teach them if I don’t show them love is an empty word without respect? That family is not a family without cooperation, bonding, support, balance, the good and the bad and the fun and the work?

I want my daughter to know that she can be kind and love herself, at the same time that she loves others. I want my son to know how to be a partner, not just husband. And I want both of them to know they deserve to be happy.

Alenka H., 2023

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