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Pedaling on the infernal guilt machine

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 12:38 PM


Exercise and music-these are my two New Year's resolutions. I'm not doing enough of either. For the sake of my mental health, I realized that I'd better get back into a habit of listening to music and playing music because we are entering the dark night of the soul, January, and if I don't doodle around on a guitar or turn my stereo up loud (my dog Molly will just have to go down to the basement of out on the back porch to wail at wind/string instruments), then I may go stark raving mad this winter.

Music is definitely the easy resolution. It makes me happy. Exercise does not make me happy and lack of exercise goes on to do something even worse to me - it churns up guilt. I have enough to feel guilty about. I don't send my children care packages. I don't do enough for my old dad in NY. A sibling and her brood think that I am one of the evildoers and I have students who hate me for assigning work to them and expecting them to do it. I feel guilty about my deeds that have had an impact on these people whether or not the guilt is warranted.

What the heck do I need another thing to feel guilty about? Ah, but you see, I did this to myself. Two years ago, I bought myself an elliptical trainer and I figured that since it cost me dearly, I would use it. I know that I can be a rather cheap little woman and wouldn't it be the height of waste buying an exercise machine and not using it? Most of you who chose to read this little tirade are probably shaking your heads with a knowing smile on your faces. Stop being so damn smug. You were right. You are still right.

I don’t use the machine and I’ve taken to calling it the guilt machine. It works so much better at exercising my guilt reflexes than it does at toning up my calf and thigh muscles and burning calories. Twenty-five minutes on that machine is so boring that it makes me want to scream for mercy. An iPod is no help - I’m bored to tears even with music. My latest idea is to stick a TV in front of it but you see that involves an outlay of more cash for a TV/DVD player and if I don’t use the machine and watch the TV, I will feel even guiltier about wasting money.

There is a solution: forget the exercise resolution and go forth to a newer, different me, a me who has resolved to banish guilt from her life. That is a resolution that is doomed to failure as I am guilt-ridden due to genetics, upbringing, cultural heritage and the present world situation. Anyone who lives as well as I do should feel guilty, right?

For twenty-five years, I’ve resolved to be more patient in the New Year and that never worked. Now I don’t need more patience; my kids have left home and I’ve got enough patience for what I do in life. Why be greedy? Why look for more? Maybe exercise should have a similar place in my life. I don’t need to run marathons and I’m not excessively overweight…no, I’m afraid it doesn’t work. When I get to old age and my legs fail from under me, I will be infuriated with myself for not getting enough exercise when I was young enough to do something about it. Then, I’ll feel guilty and it will be the same crap yet again: more guilt, more misery.

No, I will play music, I will listen to music and I will try to find some form of exercise that doesn’t bore me to tears…and when January gets too much for me, I’m going to drink a glass of very nice red wine in front of the fire. The Christmas lights outside may stay up till February too. Lights and wine and fire - that will be enough to stave off guilt for a few days anyway.


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