May 2020

How ya feelin’? 

I’ve been asking that question a lot. 

My highly unscientific personal research indicates that half of the people I’ve talked to over the past couple of weeks feel that their days are consumed with guilt. Guilt for watching too much TV. Guilt for letting the kids do the same. Guilt for late-night snacking and guilt for drinking wine too early in the day. Guilt for not checking in on others or not changing out of PJs.

Even when the circumstances might suggest that it’s a good time to give themselves a pass, many of these friends are feeling guilty for resorting to whatever coping mechanisms are helping them get through this crazy time.

I suggest that they be as gentle on themselves as they would be with a friend who is feeling the same way. I hint that they should offer themselves absolution and forgiveness for whatever they are feeling guilty about.  

*  *  * 

My unscientific research has also revealed another kind of guilt that is less familiar. 

I’m calling it “thriver’s guilt”, and I am one of the afflicted.

Thriver’s guilt means feeling embarrassed about being upbeat when others aren’t. 

I feel guilty for enjoying the quiet. Guilty about taking pleasure in the break from social and work obligations. Guilty that we found a way, in the midst of crisis, to reframe Parlay House and therefore reach more people, more often. Guilty about newfound creativity, rediscovered interests, and for being happy when so many people are stressed and suffering. 

I keep quiet about my joy because I recognize it’s a privilege to feel happiness while so many are struggling.

I don’t have experience dealing with such a dichotomy of feelings and situations. And I’d rather not have to hide the fact that I feel at peace.

Providing myself absolution, forgiveness and permission to feel joy is part of the solution, too. My happiness is partially the result of my natural mindset and partially a conscious choice. It’s gained from having lived and been resilient despite uncertain times earlier in my life. 

But how do I come to terms with having been dealt a good hand? 

*  *  * 

Moving Forward with Thriver’s Guilt

After accepting that I can’t change the course of this virus beyond complying with best practices for social distancing, I have stopped trying to force the familiar. Without the ability to gather for my beloved in-person Parlay House events, without being able to hop on a plane to be in a new city each month, and without being able to surround myself with my dearest friends, I have accepted that no matter how tightly I hold on, I can’t take my life back to the way it was.

Step One: Acceptance

I’m letting go of prior expectations and thinking about what I’m drawn to rather than what I have lost.

For me, it’s been a bit of a regression. 

  • I’ve rediscovered my fourteen-year-old self who would design clothing and stay up into the wee hours of the morning, sewing an outfit for school that day. The sewing machine is out and outfit number two is in production.
  • I went back to the days with my mom and sisters where we would walk on the beach to find bits of shells and sea glass that would become treasures and memories. I’ve been turning those found objects into creatures that may be “bad art” but seem to have personality and expression that is an extension of us in some way.
  • My kids and I have been competitively and enthusiastically working together to complete seemingly impossible 1000 piece puzzles, realizing that there are assignments for each of us within the puzzle process where we excel. It’s a new version of connection where we are individuals and a team at the same time. 

Step Two: Action

Obviously, this time is not about me, me, me. It’s a time to get outside of myself and to practice The Parlay Effect to the best of my abilities.

That means I’m grabbing hold of people virtually, helping provide distraction and relief to friends and family who have not yet found their center.

There are many amazing people in my life who are feeling down because of what they have not yet done or what they might need to do at some unknown time in the future. They are stuck between “what was and what will be”.

For them, I commit to the gift of presence: 

  • Presence of mind to know that my gain isn’t their loss, and presence to know that if they are lost, I can help make them feel less alone until they find their path again.
  • Being personally present with them so that they feel heard and seen during their time of guilt and fear. 
  • Letting them know that I accept them as they are. They are a present – a gift to me – even as they struggle to find footing.  

When I can, I also try to borrow gifts to pass along. These gifts come as words that might sink in better than my own. I share humor, inspiration, and as often as possible, poetry. Giving them a respite by reading a poem like this one, provides context and hope while not denying their truth.

Wherever you are in the spectrum of guilt, and even if you are lucky enough to be guilt-free, this whisper of hope is for you.


I free you now
From the realm of the small and improbable
And desire
This cycle of start and finish
Of longing and grief
I free you from fear of the next
Let me release you from
This story written on vanishing paper
Of beginning and end
Of the small and entangled
No devil to greet you
No angel to scorn you
Nor god to judge you
Free of the raw and the cooked
Free of the right and the wrong
Left free now in the capricious winds
Of life and time
Free to drift from moment to moment
Free to come to rest on restless flowers
That never knew you
Free to stop, breathe and be still
If for a moment and know
You have lived

-Guillermo Veloso 

*  *  * 

How do you Parlay?  Are you finding ways to overcome your guilt or help someone with theirs?

Share it Small: If you have a trick for letting yourself off the hook, talk about it with the people you trust. My research shows that when we are present and speak our truths out loud, even when they are guilt-truths, other people feel less alone with theirs.

Share it Big: What’s your capacity? If you have happiness to share, make it a point to take action. Reach out as often as you can to be present for people who need a listener. Follow up with them again so that  they continue to feel seen and not judged.

Share it with Me: We all learn from each other. If you have had a revelation, a break-through, an insight, or a triumph, we can learn from you so please tell me about it here! I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power.