Monday, June 16, 2014

Confessions of a Guilty Woman

Confessions of a Guilty Woman
            If you grew up Catholic like I did, you were guilty. It didn’t matter how innocent, I still felt guilty. I didn’t need to have committed a crime. When Saturday night rolled around, if all I had for confession was fighting with my sister, I diligently searched my soul for something, anything to make absolution worth seeking.  Impure thoughts was always a good for grabs. I confessed to impure thoughts years before I understood what impure thoughts meant. 

            I wasn’t alone in my guilt. When Sister Mary John entered the classroom, fifty-four ten-year old children leaped to our feet and in unison said, “Good morning, Sister Mary John.” We stood respectfully by our desks, waiting to find out what behaviors we were guilty of committing. We might not know why we were guilty, but we were perfectly clear on one thing—we were guilty. 

            In fairness, Sister Mary John never raised her voice. We never suffered the indignity of a metal-edged ruler blistering a bare palm. Sister had iron control. Sister MJ had perfected the Look. But my Grandma had invented the Look. I grew up with it.  

            I got slammed from both directions, equal opportunity guilt. I’m no stranger to the Puritan Work Ethic. My Dad firmly believed that the only valid pleasure in life was the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment to be found in work. I grew up with knowledge firmly entrenched in my little soul that an idle mind was the Devil’s workshop and idle hands, His tools. Amen. 

            Hundreds of dollars with therapists dulled the sharp edges of free-floating, unfounded guilt. But now and then, I feel a subtle twist of the knife. Not that I don’t deserve it, in this case. 

            Over the last several months, I have completely changed my life. Work was my identity. Now I live a life of idle ease and sloth. Whew! It is difficult for me to even force those words past my throat. 

            To compound my guilt, I decided to use time-share resort weeks to follow my massage therapist’s instructions to “rest”. No matter that I have a perfectly good apartment a mere five or six blocks away. It took me five days to come to grips with lounging around on the beach, to ordering meals at the pool bar, to uncounted hours on my balcony lost in the sound of the surf, to having my suite daily polished to a gleam by Martha in house-keeping. I lift nary a finger. 

            Yesterday I walked to the street to flag down a pulmania so I could take care of a short list of chores. I wanted to check my apartment and to pick up my electric bill, to take some books to the book-exchange shelf at the Sombrero Hotel, get my bangs trimmed, to put credit on my cell phone, to buy a bag of M&Ms. Chocolate is not sinful. 

            A driver at the curb a half block away raised an eyebrow, questioning in fluent cross-cultural language, “Did I need a ride?” I gave a barely perceptible nod, “Yes.” He backed his open-air outfit around to meet me. As he came parallel to where I stood, another pulmania pulled behind him. I recognized Carlos behind the wheel. 

            “That’s Carlos,” I said, pointing my long arm. “He’s my man,” a statement leaving me open to gross misinterpretation. Without further ado, I climbed into Carlos’s pulmania jabbering a mile a minute, and leaving the man I had summoned sitting in our dust. 

            Carlos is a sweet young man around forty, happily married with two teenagers, which says a lot about his disposition. For the last several weeks Carlos has picked me up thrice weekly for trips to my massage therapist, acted as interpreter, helped me with purchases and small business transactions. We have become friends. 

            We checked my apartment and picked up my electric bill, an almost embarrassingly low eighty-four pesos (divide by twelve). Carlos took me to Berthas for my hair cut. She is next door to the Sombrero Hotel where I quickly picked three more beach reads. Meanwhile, Carlos drove away, paid my electric bill, put credit on my cell phone, bought me a bag of M&Ms. He returned and delivered me back to the resort. 

            Something was eating at my conscience. Now that my hair no longer covered my eyes, I could see how rude I had been to the other pulmania driver. Guilt instantly tapped my shoulder. No matter how I try to justify it, guilt won’t go away. This is my confession. In addition to sinful sloth, I was inexcusably rude. I don’t need the added weight of imaginary impure thoughts. There is no absolution. Mea Maxima Culpa. 

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door
June 12, 2014    

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