The Price We Pay

The dictionary defines guilt as "a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, or wrong, whether real or imagined." Real or imagined, that sounds about right. Might even be more accurate, at least helpful, if they added a footnote, "Warning: Duration of guilt known to last several years. Atonement not guaranteed." Now that's the kind of guilt I know. Come to think of it, I didn't know there was another kind.
It's taken me a while, but I'm fairly proud of the now-I-sure-as-hell-know-better person I've slowly and continue to evolve into. Can't say I didn't wish I got here sooner, but I'll count my blessings I got here at all. Despite my early years of stupidity and crazy-as-a-banshee days, I have a hundred things to be thankful for, and I am. Unfortunately, I've also got a few dozen mistakes for which I'm still trying to make amends and it only seems right to keep trying until I do.
It really has been quite the journey and the better part it of it not so smooth. I would say I'm a survivor of my era, borne of a generation that's embraced the excesses of life. Too much alcohol, too much sex with people we had no business having sex with, numerous bad decisions, and countless arguments with everyone and no one in particular. I'm not at all proud of everything I've done. I've hurt people along the way, usually because I was too stupid to know better, and then too angry or stubborn to admit I cared. What I wouldn't do to make those things right, but I know I can't and that remains to haunt me.
Ten years later I'm just trying to do right by the people around me, ultimately trying to do right by me. I've grown up to become the epitome of a mother, caretaker type, ultimate troubleshooter - a fixer. That's what I do now, I fix things. Actually I try to fix everything; my life, my kids' lives, my sister's crap, my brothers' junk, my friends' issues. I'd even fix your toaster or computer if you asked. Doesn't mean I know how, but that wouldn't stop me from trying.
Friends compliment that my incessant need to repair things and solve problems speaks for my tenacity. Maybe. I tend to believe the reality is I know I can't afford to make any more mistakes. I've made too many already, all of them bearing their rightful weight of regret heavy against my chest. I don't think I could take the onus of any more, so really, fixing things in the present feels like my only reparation for the errors of my past. Only no matter how much I fix, I never seem to get any closer to my penance.
I think that's the problem with mistakes. You never recognize the gravity of your offenses until you're reaping what you sow, until your deeds are done, permanent and irrevocable. And by the time you're ready to make amends with anyone you might have hurt or disappointed, including yourself, often you'll come to find forgiveness isn't such an easy thing to ask for, and depending on the immensity of your offense, an even harder thing to believe you deserve. Sometimes you'll carry the breadth of your mistakes like a scarlet letter blazing across your chest, infinitely burdening you with guilt as if your atonement relied on it. This is the kind of guilt I know, this is the guilt I live with.
They say no matter how much you change you still pay a price for the things you've done. Knowing this I have to wonder if the magnitude of my remorse will never subside. Or, if one day, I might be so fortunate to discover that guilt only paves a part of the road to redemption and learning to forgive yourself paves the rest.

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