The No-Guilt Virus
To know me is to know that I’m not the holiest of the holy ones. Yet, I’m a good and decent person. I don’t intentionally say or do hurtful things. And I live my life with oh-so-much good Catholic guilt (despite being a life-long Protestant).
I’m not sure when I caught the guilt virus. But I’m suspecting it was when I went to a wedding in my early 20s and blatantly defied the priest by taking communion as a non-Catholic. The act itself caused me no remorse, but when the couple divorced a few years later, I wondered if, perhaps, it wasn’t all my fault.
I question everything I do and take blame — never credit — for the way things turn
out. But I am admittedly somewhat selfish when it comes to my own personal comforts and pleasures.
Which is why I decided to forge ahead and go on my annual cruise with my best friend from high school last week. The same Caribbean cruise that ended up being the last American ship to set sail for who knows how long.
When I left for Florida on March 7, the Coronavirus was real, but still far enough removed that I felt safe. Besides, I’m “young” and healthy. My non-alarmist spouse thought it was a bad idea to go, so after elbow-bumping him goodbye at the airport, I had a wave of serious guilt. In response, I did what I always do: I started verbally processing, asking everyone in the airport if I was crazy. When the airline attendant let me slide with an overweight 52.8 pound suitcase (extra underwear in case we were quarantined at sea) and I asked if he would go if he were me, he simply shrugged his shoulders and handed me a pamphlet from the Deeper Life Bible Church entitled, “Only One Life.” A message I chose to interpret as “go for it.”
Before long, we were drinking umbrella drinks with other brave passengers and had a good hour or two believing we had made the best decision ever. But then came the hundreds of emails and texts and social media posts, deeming us everything from crazy to brave to just plain irresponsible.
The guilt came back, as it always does, and I was sure that I would be singularly responsible for wiping out all of New Jersey, the United States, and probably the entire world, when I returned with the virus.
Surprisingly, as the world changed in record time back on land — with sporting events, schools, concerts and church services canceled, and positive cases doubling by the day — my guilt dissipated rather than grew.
I came to the conclusion that God was not going to punish me for going on the cruise. No more than God was going to target someone who’d gone out for Ben & Jerry’s despite having the sniffles, kissed a random stranger at a bar, went to the gym for that one last workout, had their hair or nails done, snuck into the office after the company declared it work-from-home only, or even sipped out of the communion chalice at their Catholic church.
Stay safe, pray, and wash your hands. Again. And again. And one more time.
– Elder Betsy Voreacos