burden carriers

‘Burden carriers’ Source: Charles H. Woodbery

I’m always amazed by the people who manage to make it through so many situations without a twinge of guilt, situations where I would stagger under it.

I tend to feel a lot of “duty and responsibility” type of guilt, “Why can’t I save the world?” kind of guilt too. It can be hard to sift between the well-founded and the false sources of this load upon my conscience.

The latest source is the fact that I have done so little for some of the people in my life where it could have meant so much. My cousin died recently. He lived a very tragic life, and was wheelchair bound for some decades (not at all the worst of things for him). The things I could have done for him didn’t need to be big things. He would have liked to Skype on the phone, etc… but that is something I hate. A little thing that I hate for reasons that aren’t entirely reasonable.

I thought about that. So many times we hate things that really would take such a small effort to do, to just overcome that little hurdle of dislike. Like talking on the phone.

I think some of this inability comes from a difficulty with boundaries in life. we feel that if we give an inch in some small unimportant matter that it will mean a wholesale collapse of our walls. but that is only because we seem to leave our gates wide open when we shouldn’t and to people who set up camp there.

We get terribly confused.

That is where I think much of this guilt and regret comes from, that confusion.

I am old now, in my sixties, sometimes I despair of learning these important lessons.

There are people who truly have need. There are people we will make a great difference for through our attention, and those are the intentions we should take seriously and take responsibility for. We don’t have to do the grand gestures.

That is what I think always trips me up: the idea that I must make grand gestures, complicated and long drawn out efforts. When really, it is a small everyday kindnesses that accumulate and matter more.

And I would feel so much less guilt if busy with those ordinary, accomplished, thoughtful acts. Less of the guilt that drains my life of much of its strength and promise.

Think more simply, more focused on caring about individuals. Doing what one can. Just follow through and do the thing you are planning. Stop building concretions of imaginary actions and perfecting every step.

Life is better that way, and much less burdensome.


I wish I didn’t feel so guilty and regretful. I wish that I had called him just a couple times last year. I wish I had gone to my cousin’s family Christmas party (I was invited), and seen him one last time while he was enjoying life. I wish I had sent that fruit basket I had planned on doing and came close to doing, but was distracted. I wish I had done just three things last year with the sole intention of making him feel special and cared for.

But death is chasm that no wishes can cross.

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