I recall when I first moved out of my parent’s house. My dad called after a few weeks of “on my own” freedom…
Dad: “How’s your hand?”
Me: (confused) “It’s..fine…”
Dad: “You’re sure?”
Me: “Yes” (still confused)
Dad: “I’m glad your hand isn’t broken. Now would it kill you to lift a finger and dial your mother so she knows you’re OK?”
Me: (hangs head in shame- totally racked with guilt) “Sorry Dad…”
Guilt- it kills me. I’m such a sucker for it. It might be because I’m the oldest child, but I have such a tendency to own every burden and volunteer to bear the responsibilities. I get Dad’s Jew guilt, Mom’s Catholic guilt and the overall Parent guilt from the both of them. (Did I mention that I think they may have majored in it?) No one has a way of making me feel like I have my hand stuck in the cookie jar the way they do, unless is Saturday confessional or during this time of year: The Days of Awe.
As we learned from last week’s post, I am from an interfaith/interracial family. One of the beautiful (and sometimes overbearing) concepts that actually do overlap in growing up in a Catholic/Jewish/Mexican/Italian home is this concept of: guilt, sin, contrition, and atonement.
When I was a little girl, I recall telling a priest in catechism that I was half Jewish and if I was truly repentant of my sins and confessed them as a Catholic during weekly confession and did my penance- would I still be responsible for acknowledging those sins during Yom Kippur? Should I only confess during mass the ones that I couldn’t wait until Yom Kippur to get off my chest? If I confessed them all twice, did that mean I had to atone for them twice and would I be forgiven twice? The other kids didn’t face this conundrum, and by asking I was immediately labeled “the mixed kid”.
Needless to say, that year I won the class award for “Most Inquisitive & Most Active Participation” and received a very large crucifix- which he told me was relative in size to the magnitude of my curiosity. But what did he expect? Those were valid questions (at least in my mind).
I’ve since learned to let go of the guilt a little bit (unless it’s my parents giving it to me). I’ve also grown to love this time of year with its beauty of new beginnings, reflection and the space created for a clean slate. How incredibly beautiful is it to reflect, introspect, and bring balance to yourself?
It is an opportunity to deliver me from myself- to strip away the justifications, the expectations, and the guilt I self impose. A solemn inquiry into the very depths of myself to reveal a truer me that isn’t hiding behind ego and creating a space to let a brighter me shine. I wish each of us peace during these Days of Awe, so that our reflections may be unburdened and as deep as we each will allow them.
And if you’re from the Los Angeles area and are feeling guilty that you had to buy your Yom Kippur tickets from a scalper- don’t worry, so did half of the rest of us. At least that’s one burden you don’t have to carry solo.