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I had the opportunity to see my lovely and stylish friend J.G. today. We met her last month in The Tiniest Heroes. Today we wore party hats because we could. But she also just took some time to talk, and I took the time to listen. I had no sage words of wisdom at the time. I gave her all I could: lots of hugs, lots of love and a friend that is willing to sit and listen. And she talked about the feelings of guilt she has.

The guilt of not getting things for Olivia. And at the time, I had no words at all. But my time with her today did rattle my heart. And I think about it here in the comfort of my home, and discover the words.

She’s not guilty because she didn’t get Olivia things. I think she feels guilty because not getting Olivia these things makes her think she didn’t love Olivia enough. That she wasn’t a good Mommy.

J.G., my dearest friend, it’s not true. You are a wonderful mother. I see it in Q-Man. He’s a beautiful little boy. And your luck didn’t ruin him, despite how you think it may have.

Guilt is just the worst kind of pressure in the world. No matter how untrue the guilt is, it doesn’t go away. You keep playing out the scenario over and over again, thinking what you could have done differently to change things. And the cycle just never ends.

Your guilt consumes you. You’re caught up in a whirlpool of guilt, only you never actually drown, you just keep spinning and spinning and spinning.

The things I feel guilty about will never amount to the kind of guilt J.G. feels. Her guilt is a deeper, different kind of guilt. My guilt? I feel guilty because I didn’t clean the litter box, or because I said something that offended someone I didn’t mean to offend. I feel guilty for never saying I was sorry before Jesse passed away. I feel guilty because I didn’t ask Kyra how she was doing before she left this world forever. I feel guilty because I some days my daily joke to J.G. comes closer to 10pm rather than 10am and I don’t want her to think I forgot. Because I didn’t forget. I feel guilty if I step on the cat in the bathroom. These are things that may have kept me awake at one time, but ultimately I don’t go about my days thinking, “What if I asked Kyra how she was doing instead of asking her why someone was mad at her?”

Kyra loved the Spice Girls. I wasn’t really all that interested in them at the time, but when she passed away I listened to that Goodbye song for weeks.

But Kyra gave me words, probably for the first real time in my life. Things to write. And she still is to this day! And Jesse, he gave me the Dave Matthews Band. And Olivia, she gave me my words back.

But that’s not the point. The point is that guilt can’t be shaken off. You can’t just go back to life. With guilt there’s not room to give yourself permission to be happy. And there’s no magical answer to make it better, or make it go away. There’s no recipe to give yourself permission to leave the guilt behind.

And that’s about all I’ve got. I can tell J.G. not to feel guilty all I want. She can agree that she shouldn’t. But does it really go away? Does she sleep any better? Does she sleep at all? Just by saying, “Don’t feel guilty,” does it help? Does it actually remove the guilt?

I don’t think so, based on the tears I saw today. And I also took a mental note to have tissues in my bag at all times at work. Especially if I know J.G. will be there. She’ll need them.

And maybe I feel a little guilty that all I can do is listen. That I can’t wave a magic wand and go back in time to make it all go away. No, not maybe, I do. I do feel guilty. I feel guilty that I’ve got nothing! And I know I shouldn’t feel it. It’s not my fault that I’ve got nothing but my heart to feel, my ears to hear and my arms to hug. But it’s all I have. So, the hugs will continue until morale improves!

And Party Hats. We need more party hats.

This post has been submitted to January 2014 NaBloPoMo. NaBloPoMo is a month-long challenge to post once a day on your blog, hosted by Blogher. Each month has its own theme. January’s theme is “pressure.”