I think that I am generally known as a nice, upbeat optimist (all be one with a potty mouth). I can give all kinds of advice to family, friends, co-workers, parents, people in line at the store... I can listen to the saddest stories and find a silver lining. I can trouble shoot and come up with a realistic action plan in minutes. I can take the most embarrassing story and put a silly spin on it.
Sounds good, right? The problem is that I can't extend these same courtesies to myself. The kids have a problem? I wonder what I did wrong and how can I fix it. Something is broken? I think it is always my fault, sometimes, even though I was never near it. Mistake at work? I must have messed up. Student not doing well? I am a sub-par teacher. This never ending cycle of guilt keeps me awake some nights and plagues my downtime (read driving) during the day.
The one thing that I can do is turn most of the ridiculous things that happen into an amusing story. After being a nice person, I think my self deprecating sense of humor is one of my better qualities. Although, over the years a few people have called me out on it. A professor once told me that sarcasm is a way to cover up the truth. Making fun of yourself or being sarcastic is easier than getting to the root of the problem. It used to annoy my dad when I made fun of or talked down about myself in my writing (ironically, this is the man who called me Pumpkin Gut).
Perfect example: Yesterday, I left school and my car wouldn't start. I just got a new battery after a winter of jump after jump. Instead of thinking there is something wrong with the car or the battery, my first thought is "What the hell did I do to mess up the new battery?" I called Rob hoping that he could make it into town before the daycare closed and went inside to find help. One friend printed out directions on how to jump a car and the other came out to give me a jump. After carefully reading the directions (worrying every minute that I was going to blow up my friend's car), we managed to get my car going. After jumping up and down proclaiming the wonder of "girl power." I hopped in the car and zipped along to daycare. The Ramones "Blitzkrieg Bop" came on and added to the exhilaration uncomfortable adrenaline rush. I did what I usually do in moments like this and started composing a funny blog post in my head. However, I couldn't let go of the fact that my very first thought was self doubt and self blame.
I am not sure where all of this comes from. Usually, I chalk it up to "LD survivors guilt." Spend your life making unintentional mistake after unintentional mistake, and you'd blame yourself for everything, too. Lately, though, I have talked to more and more mothers who feel everything is their fault. Is this incessant internal guilt trip some sort of primordial survival instinct gone wrong? I don't know the answer. I also don't know if I am ever going to be able to shake this. It helps when I have a father in law who questions the alternator and a husband who questions the wiring. The car is going to the shop on Friday. Guilt-free. Unless, the guy at the shop finds out that I did something wrong.