I was raised in a Catholic home and went to a Catholic school for 8 years. I was steeped in guilt. I was also taught to believe that any conflict was my fault. By that I mean that if someone was upset with me for any reason, for instance if I said no to someone and they got upset, it was my fault. I should keep the peace at all cost whether or not the other person is wrong. Because of that I got a warped view of relationships. I’ve got catholic guilt, an unrealistic sense that I can’t have any conflict in a relationship, and then there’s “obligation.” We were obligated to go to events, participate, whatever whether we wanted to or not. Whether it was convenient, healthy, something we wanted to do or not. It didn’t matter.
The only thing that mattered was whether or not I was expected to be there. Have plans with friends? Why would you do that? We have a family party. For the twelfth time this year. Not going causes guilt, conflict, and a barrage of “but you have to be there.” conversations. It was just easier to go. Until it wasn’t. Eventually, it was far more damaging to go and the weeks of recovery from an event was no longer worth it. So I said no. Over and over. And I hated it every time. And I wanted to throw up and I wanted to cry and I wanted to run back and say, “Ok, I’ll go.” But I knew I couldn’t go back.
I sat in the guilt and the fear of conflict and the overwhelming sense of obligation and I stayed out of it all except sometimes I forgot and would emotionally get sucked back in. But not this day. This day I recognized it and reminded myself of the truth. This day I remembered that I don’t have to carry the guilt. I remembered that conflict is healthy and that it’s not my responsibility to make peace with people who are unkind or unhealthy. I remembered that my only real obligation is to my husband and my daughter. They come first and not anyone else. That I have an obligation to my health and well-being and that as soon as something threatens those things, I am no longer obligated to participate. The guilt subsided, the fear of saying no subsided and my sense of obligation switched over to the rightful place…my daughter, husband and myself. I released myself from anything else placed on me that day and didn’t get sucked in. That was a big, brave, scary day. Sometimes bravery is saying no.