Guilt Free Zone

beach evening

The mental thought patterns that cause the most disease in the body are critism, anger, resentment and guilt. ~Louise L Hay

We arrived today at the shore for our annual family vacation on Topsail Island. Topsail is a long, thin strip of land on the coast of North Carolina. The beaches are wide and quiet, and there’s not much development beyond residential houses and condos. It has the added benefit of being near Jacksonville, where my father and brother reside. I haven’t seen my father since March, so I’m due for a visit.

I should be excited, and I am. I love the beach, and can’t wait to get away from the miserable Charlotte heat.

But I am also determined.

Determined to make this a markedly different personal experience than beach trips of the recent past.

Here’s the problem: Historically, I don’t do domestic vacations very well.

It seems I have to go all the way across the pond, to Europe, to really disconnect.

Every year we spend money to rent a nice beach house in Topsail, but I never seem to feel like I really get my money’s worth. I remain too tethered to my Charlotte work life. For as long as I can remember, I have worked on my beach vacations. My computer comes along with me and I spend a couple of hours each day responding to email and getting on conference calls. I have even been known to blow an entire beach day working in the spare office of my brother’s law firm in Jacksonville. (Sick, very sick.)

I worry each day about whether I spend enough time with my father, enough time with my husband, enough time with my boys, enough time with just myself. How much is enough? I get caught up in ridiculous knots worrying about how to balance it all.

I’m a Guilt Junkie, and it’s got to stop.

I looked up ‘Guilt’ on Google and found these points from a Psychology Today article:

  1. Unresolved guilt is like having a snooze alarm in your head that won’t shut off. Yep, those damn ‘should haves’ and ‘could haves’ just play in the head, programmed like clock work to go off every few hours.
  2. Guilty feelings make it difficult to think straight. Concentration, productivity, creativity and efficiency are all significantly lower when you’re feeling actively guilty.
  3. Guilt makes us reluctant to enjoy life. It’s hard to enjoy your beach day when that damn snooze alarm is going off all the time.
  4. Guilt can make you self-punish. It’s called The Dobby Effect. Harry Potter fans will get the reference.
  5. Guilt trips make you feel guilty but also resentful. Why the hell is everyone else having so much fun??
  6. Guilt-prone people assume they’ve harmed others when they haven’t. Maybe my Dad doesn’t really tally up my visits on a chalkboard.
  7. Guilty feelings make you feel literally heavier and more belabored. And no woman likes to feel heavy at the beach.

So I am determined that this trip is going to be different.

I’m going to stay true to my ‘Summer Sabbatical’ mindset. I’m going to be present, and enjoy the hell out of it.

This week is going to be known as the Guilt-Free Zone.

No guilt about not making the trip up to Jacksonville every day to spend time with my Dad.

No guilt about how many conference calls I miss.

No guilt about how many times I power walk three miles on the beach to make up for all the exercise I don’t get during the work week.

No guilt for digging in and thoroughly enjoying family dinners.

No guilt for occasionally drinking too much wine or cosmos.

No guilt for sleeping late on some days…or maybe ALL days.

No guilt for not reading all of the books I bring along in my huge book bag.

No guilt about how late my boys sleep, how much beer they drink, or how little sunscreen they apply. They’re adults now, and they know the consequences.

No guilt if they choose not to go see their bed-ridden grandfather in his assisted living facility. (Well, maybe no guilt, but a little sadness. Time is running out on this front.)

it’s funny, but I have often produced some of my best photography work while at the beach, despite spending too many hours attached to work, or biting my nails for being a less-than-perfect daughter.




Who knows what I can do if I’m not carrying so much guilt around every day, along with my camera?

If you want to fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down. – Toni Morrison

3 thoughts on “Guilt Free Zone

  1. I just saw this quote about 5 minutes ago:

    “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

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