Sunday, May 9, 2010

Guilt Gallery

I feel guilty. About a bunch of things.  First off, I haven't blogged this week even though I told myself that, no matter what, I needed to be more consistent with my writing.  So, I decided I will chronicle my week of guilt, including the survivor's guilt I feel over not having any flood damage. Not only did I not get any flooding at our place, our plants are looking mighty hearty due to all the rain.  Also, I was supposed to read this week.  You'd think I'd be okay with the fact that I used my reading time helping my neighbors with flood clean-up, but, honestly, I did not do very much, at least not as much as my conscience seems to think.  I'm feeling kinda guilty about that.  I got a new vine for Mother's Day. I'm planting while others are still throwing out life-long treasures and memories from their garages, basements and first floors.

I took this picture on Monday, when the sun came out, the waters were already beginning to recede, and people began venturing out of their homes to assess the damage. The day of my last post (Saturday) the rain started and did not stop for two full days.  It was torrential the entire time, too.  The tornado sirens sounded throughout the night and it never occurred to me to worry about flooding. My neighbors, literally one block south of me, began evacuating their homes at two in the morning when they finally realized the waters weren't cresting anytime soon.  The creek turned into a rapid-moving lake so quickly they had to abandoned their cars when they wouldn't start. Who knew my house was on one of the highest points in the Franklin city limits? SURVIVOR'S GUILT.

My kids had an art show at school this week.  (Aren't they amazing artists?) Do I encourage them enough? Do I tell them how awesome they are? I doubt it. I nag them and tell them they whine too much. I also did not volunteer to help the other parents who put on the art show and ice cream social. Boo. PTA GUILT.

Look at these faces? How on earth can I rage against them ever? And yet I do. I have this week. Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! This is how I know I haven't lost my religion. I have to cry out to Jesus to deliver me and my children from my rottenness. I know that some of you hate this kind of talk. You'll want to soothe me and tell me I do an awesome job parenting, that Ellie and Atticus are blessed to have me as their mom.  I do believe this...mostly because I believe it is God's plan for them and so who I am to dispute that...but that truth is not mutually exclusive from the truth that I am also a jerk to them. I accept both these truths fully. I just happen to be feeling the negative part more this week.  MOTHER GUILT (perhaps the worst kind of guilt!)

I woke up this morning, Mother's Day, to my children fighting. Atticus was knocking on the door as Ellie was screaming that he wasn't allowed to wake me up.  Atticus wanted to know if he could have a lollipop, at 8 am.  Ellie wanted him to obey the sign posted to my door.  It was a sweet gesture and valiant attempt at giving me extra sleep this morning.  At breakfast I told my family a story about my friend's child who, when I asked to fill out a Mother's Day card in their kindergarten class, said her mom's favorite thing to do was to lie down and she was really great at sleeping.  Thinking I would get a good laugh at my friends expense (oops, guilty), I was surprised when Atticus shouted after I finished the story, "Ahhh! I should have put that!" Double guilt.  I'm a lazing mother. My mother never slept past 7! WORK ETHIC GUILT.

Ellie's Mother's Day card included a poem. She announced to me that her goal was to make me laugh. Apparently, I laugh more at Atticus then her. Her attempt was as follows:
I love you so,
my heart is quow.*
You're like a song in my heart,
You're like a fart, 
ready to dart.

*quow is a made up word to force the rhyme. 

Yes, I laughed. Sadly,  I have encouraged my child to follow me in my path of potty-talk. She has stooped to using "fart" in a poem in order to please me.  Ugh. It worked. Guilty as charged. DIRTY-MOUTHED MOMMY GUILT.

And now, to continue in reasons to feel guilty, I'll recommend a book that I just started it yesterday.  I have only read one essay and I didn't really like it. It was about canoeing, the power of water and the force of current.  It was a little too poetic for my taste, though very timely thematically.  I am trying to slow my thoughts down to enjoy this type of literature, because I know it's supposed to be good.  I might be too used to eating at Burger King to enjoy French cuisine, if you get my metaphor.  I read just the other day on someone's facebook post that Natalie Merchant said a poet's job is to surround in silence that which needs to be paid attention to. (I just murdered that quote, and I kinda feel guilty about it, but I think you get the sentiment.) So, here you go: My guilty book of the week is Recollected Essays 1965-1980 by Wendell Berry.  I also have posted a link to Hannah Coulter by Wendall Berry, because (although I haven't read this either), I have heard this is a phenomenal book.  It's probably more of my speed, too.  IMPOSTER GUILT.
My neighbor across the street, Thomas "Brah" McLemore, died today.  He was an incredibly sweet man who never once neglected to greet me from his front porch, where he sat daily.  I wonder quietly if he wished I would have stopped to talk to him more.  I am sad that I may have missed out on knowing him better.  He was the great-grandson of the original land owner of our neighborhood. Mr. McLemore was a sharecropper who bought the land from his original slave master.  Thomas was so kind to me, even though I carry the guilt of my ancestors. WHITE GUILT.

This photo is of Thomas' great grandfather, Harvey McLemore. Ex-slave turned land-owner and namer of Hard Bargain. 

The biggest guilt-whammy I feel at the end of this week is from this picture that Dave took at 6 am, Monday morning, of the cemetery in downtown Franklin.  The photo is haunting and beautiful.  As I look at it, I feel ashamed of my guilt.  Why do I fret over these insignificant details? In light of the tragedy that my fellow Tennesseans have endured, in light of eternity.  Death is sad, but peaceful.  One day I will be without guilt. Worms maybe, but no guilt. NO GUILT.

You can click here to see the gallery of pictures from the Flood of 2010 (The photos look much clearer on his gallery).  "They" are calling this the 500 year flood, as the chances of this happening again are one in five hundred years.  Dave's photos will be available for purchase and proceeds will go to the Hard Bargain Flood Relief Fund. Email him  for more information.  


  1. ps. if you enjoyed this post, click on the "follow" link on the blogger bar above and to the left!

  2. Sarah- Your guilt is endearing, because it means you care, despite your own limitations. I too feel like there is so much more I could have done this week---hell. my entire life. But even in the impetus for your guilt I see that you are a great mom who teaches her kids to laugh, you know your neighbors, you've made a commitment to your passion (writing), and you support your husband in his artistic endeavors (that photo is breathtaking!)

    I know we should always strive to do more, but you also need to hear that you're doing a damn good job!

  3. ugh. just wrote a long comment but it got erased. i'll let kristin's comment speak for me since she is a writer and said it better than i would have anyway!
    also, i read hannah coulter a few weeks ago-very good and would be a good follow up to Rick Bragg.
    can i get some props for having read all your intended reading for MFA? i'm kinda feelin' smart.

  4. props for sharon. seriously, big props. you are smart, you smarty!

  5. I"M NOT SARAH GUILT. At least your thinking the thoughts and writing the thoughts and praying the thoughts. I'm just packing boxes and pretty much mainlining Diet Mountain Dew (lots of TOO MUCH CAFFEINE GUILT over here). Can't wait to see you and your guilty self. My guilty self really loves your guilty self.

  6. moving the speeces in-written on my calendar!! my self loves your self.

  7. love this one! i hear you on the "mommy guilt". it can be fierce sometimes.
    thanks for writing.

  8. wow sarah, i am am enjoying your releases. Questioning every thing is difficult and somewhat mentally painful but i believe it makes for a stronger more wise human. keep up with the rants and you'll be lewis black's intern..... love you. from brother.

  9. man i had a yearning for some Sarah Braud writing today and found in my self wollowing i had missed a bunch.. this is, as always, awesome.

    I will refrain from uplifting as it has been done very well already. I just thank you for continuing to somehow write and speak directly to my soul.

  10. LOVE this post. Hate that I can relate to all this guilt. Wish I could remember the NO GUILT that's coming, that's mine for the taking right now. I forget. And I don't want to pass that forgetfulness onto my kids. ahhh, NO MOM GUILT! Thanks for writing it better than I could.

  11. this made me cry. and laugh.
    I miss Sarah Braud.

  12. i miss sarah jane too! in fact, i have been swimming at your mama's pool this week...atticus has been getting swim lessons there. :)