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Feeling guilty?

As I write Hurricane Sandy is heading to the Bahamas, having hit Jamaica and Cuba, with a possibility of affecting northeastern sections of Virginia in a few days.

I’d been watching the hurricane for days on the NOAA website because of my connection with Jamaica. Until a hurricane becomes a threat to the United States there is not much news on it.

Despite my watch I got on with my days. On Wednesday, the day Sandy actually hit Jamaica, we in Virginia had a beautiful day. It was a balmy 82ºF; a veritable summer day with fall leaves on the ground all around us. This came after a string of much cooler temperatures. I went out for a run in the afternoon and I was really enjoying the weather when it occurred to me that my friends were hunkered down, riding out the battering that was expected. Suddenly I felt guilty. How could I be enjoying the afternoon when others were in possible danger?

This is one form of guilt, when you think that you're not supposed to feel a certain way about a person or event. For the most part I think that appropriate guilt can be good but is only good for about 15 minutes: while you think through an issue and think about what lesson you need to learn and how you will handle it differently in the future. However, feeling guilty for something that you can do nothing about is a waste of time and more importantly, energy.

I knew there was nothing I could do in that moment for my friends in Jamaica and that really there was no reason for me to feel guilty about enjoying my afternoon. However, it was not so easy to shake that guilty feeling and it reminded me that we often we hold onto feelings and emotions that do not serve us in life. In fact, those negative emotions can become destructive.

But I don’t care who you are everyone makes mistakes. Intentionally or not, sometimes our mistakes hurt someone else. But feeling guilty forever for those mistakes does not help them or us. It would be better to right a wrong, if need be, and then let go of the guilt.

For me, it meant checking in with my friends to make sure they were managing fine. Happily, they were. One even commented that Sandy was, “quite the gardener many, many trees were pruned just in time for Christmas...very thoughtful.”

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