Tales from the Skipped: Skipper Armstrong on Crippling Guilt
As one of the most frenetic of skippers, I am more obsessed with advancing than was General Patton. I compare myself constantly to heroes in my mind–as a writer, I compare myself to Hemingway; as a husband, to biblical models of leadership; as a father, to God himself. Is it any wonder I feel a little less than impressive much of the time? And yet, this humility is not my prime skipping flaw; it’s the way I respond, a way that, I imagine, other skippers feel when they get too self-absorbed. Paralyzed with guilt.
Why would this be common among men like us? We regularly take on more than we’re prepared for. We don’t have time for the perfection we seek. We desperately want our families to be happy, even though, in our skipping, we are often too young to make monetarily what those who have gone through a full-length bachelorhood before taking on skipper-size responsibilities do. And when we screw up, which we inevitably will, we see all these pressures around us like so many snipers that just caught a glimpse of our heads. Add to that the legitimate guilt we feel when we lash out in anger because of our guilt and we’ve got a tough cycle to break.
I recently passed through a long period of this guilt. After our unborn child died, my wife and I were under some natural duress, and we didn’t know how to reach out for help. A promotion passover at work followed. I saw the shadow of depression, but our hyperactive toddler needed attention, and my wife was starting a business, and there was just too much going on for me to defend myself. So the snipers shot. That’s my “story from the skipped.” I offer these few reflections for others who may encounter the same feelings:
- Test your guilt. Is it legitimate? Have you wronged someone? Or is it psycho-emotional, a product of your natural tendencies to achieve pitted against circumstances in which you can’t? If you really have done wrong, then be man enough to admit it and seek reconciliation, none of that feel-good-no-matter-what stuff. That’s irresponsible and argues against the core of what skippers are all about.
- Look out. That is, outward. Stop navel-gazing a bit. I had some huge problems to overcome, but the more I sat around wondering “Why do I feel this way?” the worse I got. And I was earnestly seeking freedom. The answer’s not within your guilt itself, pal.
- Get permission. When I was stretched beyond my limits, after our tenth fight in two weeks, my wife told me to do what I needed to chill out, even if that meant spending time or money that was devoted to our family. Focusing as I do on these responsibilities stressed me further, so she gave me permission to take breaks. I’m usually driven enough to be okay without them, so when I need a break, I need to know it’s okay.
- Rest. Take a break from advancing. Live for an hour or two where you are and recuperate. Spend time with other male friends. I did this inadvertently, seeking out advice. The advice I got was good, but the time spent with good friends was more restorative still.
Thanks for reading, skippers. Live freely! Here’s to you!
Have you experienced what Skipper Armstrong is talking about? Share your tips for recovery below.