In a state of sheer crisis I called my husband-but-not-because-we're-separated-but-I-don't-know-what-else-to-call-him-yet's Employee Assistance Program and they hooked me up with Burt. Burt is a swell guy. He sounds middle aged and like he's lived through some ups and downs himself and he's a great listener. So I told him about The Guilt and he, in return, said something that I really needed to hear. Our conversation went something like this:
"Kim, let me get this straight, you feel guilty for growing?"And just like that, my perception of the break up between my husband and I shifted. Guilt wasn't serving me one iota. Guilt was killing me and it was my own doing. Grief, on the other hand, I can live with because it's a natural reaction to this kind of experience. And with time I will heal and the grief will be alleviated. I could have gone on for years bearing the burden of self-imposed guilt.
"Yep, Burt. I guess I do. My growth has really hurt my partner."
"And how would you feel if instead you'd stayed and stagnated?"
"Well, Burt, I suppose I'd feel pretty resentful."
"Hmmm, neither's a great choice, Kim."
"No Burt, guilt and resentment both pretty much suck."
"Kim, I can't help but think that guilt is an emotion that's out of context for your particular situation. See, most people feel guilty when they've done something consciously wrong. Have you done something wrong by growing, Kim?"
Long pause."I see where you're going with this, Burt, and, no, I guess I really haven't done anything wrong. Growth happens. It just hurts to see him so fucking sad. I guess I'm pretty sad, too, as a matter of fact." "Well now, that's understandable, Kim. Grief is understandable. Grief is reasonable. You've said good-bye to someone very special to you. But grief and guilt aren't the same thing. You have a choice in how you perceive your role in this situation. Does that make sense to you?"
Burt, I owe you one, buddy.
Love and gratitude.