Corona Guilt

by belinda

I’d like to talk about a feeling that is quite difficult to articulate, so forgive any rambling while I get there. My brain is not firing on all cylinders lately, and so finding the words is harder. It takes longer. This is hugely frustrating for a writer. Or any creative really. I feel a bit useless.

Like when someone designs a teapot, an item which is meant to make and pour your tea. But then when you try and actually pour the tea out, the spout doesn’t work properly, so the hot tea goes everywhere but where it’s supposed to go – in the cup. Your hands are burnt from the hot water and it’s a huge frustrating mess. Because what is the point of a teapot that doesn’t make tea properly? I’m that teapot at the moment.

But where was I? Ah yes, the feeling I’ve been struggling to articulate. When you’re growing up as a little girl, you’re told that being a mother and a wife and raising a family is what success looks like. You draw pictures of a  house with a garden and four people and a dog and a tree. The sun is shining yellow and that is what you want one day. That’s it. It’s what you must aspire to.

So if you want those things, and then you are lucky enough to get those things as an adult, you are told to be grateful. Which you are, of course. But it’s not just about feeling grateful, or not feeling grateful. It’s not one or the other. It’s the fact that along with feeling gratitude, you can also have all these other feelings inside of you, too. These feelings can coexist. Nobody tells you that though. And so when you feel anything contrary to this gratitude which society has told you that you must feel, you also feel something much more insidious: you feel guilt.

This is what I’m feeling now, as I swing from cooking another meal to home schooling to trying to craft to attempting to be a “good” mother, while also trying to work – and failing at it all. This is what I wanted, everything I need is right here inside these four walls, so why am I so frustrated?

I mean, it’s obvious that this is a hugely stressful situation we all find ourselves in. And before this pandemic, of course I knew that a woman needed a well rounded life. But what this lockdown has shown me is how strong this guilty feeling is inside of me, that we do in fact dare to want other things in our lives.

We need dinners with our girlfriends, and braais with our extended families. A quiet desk to sit at that isn’t cluttered with pencil crayons. The head space to really focus on something else, that is not to do with filling someone’s immediate needs. We need swims in the sea staring up at the sky, and solo trips to the shops (just to browse!), and chats with our colleagues, and holidays to different places and spaces. We’re not bad people for wanting those other things.

I also feel guilty for not being able to work as much as I used to. Which is ridiculous. Because you can’t just throw an extra four hours of home schooling into your day and expect to produce the same work output. But for some reason, this is the demand I am currently putting on myself. It’s mad.

I’ve been speaking to various girlfriends and we’re all feeling similar. Trapped, frustrated and then guilty for having those feelings, when we have so much to be grateful for, compared to many suffering around us. What a toxic cocktail that is. And an incredibly unhelpful one.

I don’t have any solutions, I’m just trying to articulate a feeling. In the hope that expressing it will help me move past it eventually and maybe help you too – if you’re feeling similar.

None of this is normal. We can’t be expected to act normally. Forgive yourself just a little for that.

Sending love (and leaves)

xxx

 

 

 

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5 comments

Kate Berry May 20, 2020 - 12:01 pm

Yes, yes. yes! My husband and I are both working full-time, the 5-year old hides under the table when I mention the word “school” and the 18-month old has become a screen addict. Let’s not mention the dirty floors and the ironing basket overflowing… and and and….
BUT it’s the most time I’ve ever really spent with my children! I’m usually at work in Town until 5.30pm…. and for that alone I’m trying to suck up my anxiety and frustration. I am really hoping this too shall pass but I will MISS my kids when it does 🙂
I love your writing x

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belinda May 21, 2020 - 1:17 pm

Thanks so much Kate – and I agree, there are lots of silver linings and we should try hold on to those.

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Dominique Malherbe May 20, 2020 - 6:44 pm

hi Belinda, I hear you. I felt soooo much like that. my first book documented this. endless guilt and frustration. too soon it will be over. make sure you create enough good memories so that you remember those. the others will blur into nothing… sending love. been ages since last saw you. xx

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belinda May 21, 2020 - 1:19 pm

So true about making the good memories! They are the ones that remain. I hope it’s the same for the kids and they remember this time as a happy one with lots of family time.

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Jo May 22, 2020 - 11:01 am

My feelings exactly Belinda. Thanks so much for writing and putting into words how so many of us are feeling. This too will pass but right now it feels overwhelming a lot of the time. And the guilt that comes with that when so many are suffering so much more just adds to it all!

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