Guilt. Finally, a topic of conversation that I can discuss with expertise. Whether or not I made a mistake in a situation, I can find the guilt. (By the way, sorry about the election). I can use whatever I did or didn’t do as evidence to myself that I am not worthy of happiness. Onstage, I will joke about how, by doing this, I am essentially practicing Judaism. That is a joke that is only 99.9999999% based in truth.
I remember taking a test in fourth or fifth grade. We were grading ourselves. I got two problems wrong, but the number I had written on a third answer was not very legible. So I went ahead and graded myself down. I don’t remember rationally why I did this, but I do remember feeling depressed about it. I injured myself on purpose.
I’m punishing myself with depression. I’ve done this for years. I did this in high school when I didn’t get into Advanced Acting, and I do it to this day.
“You enjoy being in your own pain,” my teacher once told me. The general feeling I get from people is this: “Some part of you must get off on it. That’s why you keep doing it.” That’s the common wisdom that’s thrown at me by people who have more traditional and accepted neuroses.
I’m beginning to think that guilt is easier than fear. Beating myself up is vastly preferable to admitting that I was wrong, or admitting that I was right, or taking an even greater risk: letting go and moving on. If I am feeling guilty, it means I am thinking instead of doing. The greatest advice I ever got was from my sixth grade history teacher. “When you stop to think, don’t forget to start again.”