Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I suffer from an overdose of guilt. It probably has to do with my upbringing, like everything else we can't explain away in one sentence. Maybe partly because I asked my mom if I was adopted and didn't believe her answer until she dug out my birth certificate years later on a two week trip back to Korea after rummaging through moth ball scented clothes and mildewed photo albums that had been left behind in the attic of our old house in Seoul. Maybe because I screamed as if someone were pulling my toenails out with a plier every time my brother exceeded the speed limit when he was trying to learn how to drive. Maybe because I hadn't washed my hands each time I said I did. Who knows what dramas are constantly being replayed in our complicated little brains and which scenes make us shudder and close our eyes?

All I know is that guilt chases me throughout the day. When Sherlock sits by my feet, rests his head on my keyboard, and peers up at me with his lollipop eyes, I can see the bubble rise out of his head with a plea on why I should take him to the beach that very minute, even though I took him for an extended romp yesterday. It is just a matter of minutes before I start to contemplate the grey line between neglect and abuse, wonder whether I am fit to be a mother, of a dog or a child, and debate whether I should pick up where the old dog walker left off and take him to the beach for three hours a day now that I'm working from home. I then feel his mortality looming and wonder if he is getting out of life what he should and if I am failing to do my part in that endeavor.

I probably read too much Ayn Rand when I was in high school. I believed her too earnestly when she told me that every minute of life is precious. A part of me wants to live by the creed to live every day as if it's your last - while helping Sherlock with his - but it does seem to conflict at times (with itself and others'). It also gets exhausting after a while to imagine the obituary that you'd appoint your most loyal and creative friend to write, especially when you aren't living up to your mental image of how you should be living.

And if you are living your life like it's your last, how about everyone else? Are they doing the same? Who would then make the funeral arrangements? I'm the kind of person who never asks for a ride to the airport because I would rather lug my suitcase on a bus, then a subway, and then another bus, and walk through three different terminals before arriving where I need to be three hours later than ask someone to take an hour out of their day. That, or pay $60 for a cab. When I went off to college in Chicago from NY, I arrived at the dorm with two suitcases while other kids showed up with their loaded u-haul trucks with their nuclear and extended families in tow, including the grandma in her wheelchair. It's easier to be self-contained and not impose on others when you can't return the favor.

Even now, when Jeff returns at 9pm after an hour's commute from work and sweetly insists on doing the dishes after our quick dinner, I hover over him to make myself useful in any small way. I worry about how I'm only working four hour days doing my contract work after spending $14.50 at lunch with a friend and $21.32 for black mission figs at Whole Foods while Jeff works at least eight more hours, dining on his company's gourmet cafeteria food.

In my mind, it always boils down to the sum of human effort. And it often feels like a zero sum game.

In a perfect world, we would have absolute equality all of the time. Jeff and I would work the same hours at the same level of effort, squeezing the same level of enjoyment from our life's work. Or I would do a tad extra so that I would have a small reserve for the day I want to slack off.

Or we can squat on some remote beach and teach Sherlock how to fish.

I haven't thought through the part when (if?) one of us gets pregnant.


  1. When(if?) you get pregnant, you can say to your husband, "I've been gowing a baby today. What have you been doing?" Nothing can really top that. :)

    I've found that when I compare the sum of my husband's efforts to mine, I feel either guilty or resentful. It's a lose-lose almost every time.

  2. Even though we haven't met, my mum has raved on and on about your blog. (Sarah Nichols' mum) Ive finally sat down and read a few recent posts. I love your latest and randomly read this one too today. somehow they both interlink ironically. Dont feel guilty for not writing!
    p.s. Laura's comment hits the nail on the head.