An abusive childhood has made me incredibly prone to feeling guilty. Someone else can drop a glass and shatter it and I will twist the situation in my mind in such a way that I caused that to happen – it is my fault that the glass broke. I absorb that persons guilt as my own.
I recognize that this is an unhealthy behavior and thought process, and therapy, yoga, and the support of Chief have helped me to move away from this a little bit, but it is something that I have to work on every day.
Now recently I made Chief quite upset. I thought I left my work keys at home, which is an hour from my job. Chief was visiting with his family when I called him crying that I couldn’t find my keys in my car, I must have left my purse at home, and I could lose my job without my keys. He ended his golf game in the middle, drove an hour home and started digging through the apartment, no purse, which meant no keys. I started freaking out and started opening random drawers at my desk – someone had moved my purse into a drawer when I had left it on the top of my desk. They could have been trying to make room for the box they left, or maybe someone was fooling around, but either way, I had my purse and keys, and Chief had left a fun afternoon for nothing. He was rightfully angry.
I had never been afraid to come home, but my guilt was overwhelming. I had thanked him profusely, but he told me he was angry and to stop talking to him. I told him I would cover his half of the rent this month, but he never responded. I was filled to the brim with trepidation. But when I pulled into the driveway he wasn’t there, he never came home. I don’t know if he went to stay with a friend or with his family, but he needed his space and his quiet.
His not being there and his ignoring my texts exacerbated my guilt. He was so upset that he couldn’t speak to me which left me hoping he wouldn’t make a rash decision and superbly sad that I had ruined his afternoon. So though I sat and pitied myself that night, I channeled my guilt the next morning.
I am the primary caretaker of the apartment, though I work double my partner’s hours because I want him to be able to relax and be content as much as he can. Especially when he is out of the house do I do house work. I had cleaned most of the big things (the heaping basket of laundry, the bathroom, the dishes) the day before, but I delved into the little things that I otherwise may have put off in lieu of going for a jog or working on my research paper that I am trying to publish.
I think that housework is a good way to channel any overwhelming emotion – in my case guilt or sadness. It allows me to see the product of my work because there is a notable difference between how things were before I started and how they ended. Plus, they provide one less thing that my partner needs to do. The efforts were not enormous, and while my guilt still lingered after I had completed the tasks, the apartment looked better and I did feel a little better, and I hoped that Chief would recognize my efforts.
He did. Though he was still upset when he got home, I know that he appreciated that the laundry that had dried on the rack was put away, that I had washed the comforter that he noted was getting a little dirty, that I had washed out the slightly smelly trash can, or that I scrubbed down his running sneakers that were covered in mud from our hiking vacation the former weekend. And I know that my making the type of brownies he had picked out at the store made him smile when he first saw them.
I found this use of my energy when I was much younger, but I continue to use it because it helps me and it helps Chief. When you find yourself overwhelmed with any emotion, I would recommend trying to channel it into housework. It is an amazing feeling to see two loads of dirty laundry become a clean pile of clothes, and then disappear into their drawers and shelf space. It is wonderful to see a stack of dirty dishes find their way, sparkling clean, into the cupboard. And it is certainly a good feeling to know that your Master will notice how much effort you put in as an apology. Actions speak louder than words or money spent, it's all about choosing which actions to engage in.