I feel haunted by my shoplifting crime four decades ago

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my early 70s, and I am suffering from the past to the point of it being unbearable.

My husband and I have two daughters. The elder daughter already has a family, and the younger is single and lives with us. Though I lived a happy life, recently, for some unknown reason, I have started remembering things from my past I would rather not. I feel nothing but shame, and it is driving me insane.

It was as long as 40 years ago. In those days, my husband, who was then a company employee, came home after midnight every day. I raised our children alone and sometimes felt angry, wondering why only I had to suffer so badly.

One day, I went shopping and stole from a shop before I even knew what I was doing. A clerk of the shop immediately noticed my deed, and I had to write a letter of apology before being allowed to go home. I have never told anybody about this incident.

Now, all these years later, I can’t stop thinking about what I did every day. What on earth should I do? Please give me advice.

My husband often enjoyed himself during his working days and after his retirement, he has led such an easy life.

—I, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Ms. I:

Everybody hides at least one or two secrets they cannot tell others.

You supported your family and finished child-rearing basically on your own. It seems that just as you felt relieved, the old wound in your mind, which you had probably forgotten all about, began haunting you.

I think precisely because of your honest and hardworking nature, you did the wrongdoing unconsciously after being driven into a corner by excessive stress. You wanted to escape from the mental pain even if only for an instant. You must have been really suffering.

For you in those days, it was to help you survive. I understand how you must have suffered.

However, this is fortunately a found-out incident and a problem that was already resolved. You already paid the price for your error.

I understand you felt that only you had to endure such suffering, but now is the time to enjoy having overcome such hardships. If not, then what is the meaning of a life unless you can enjoy it?

Think of it as a way to move on to the next stage of your life and create a glowing life that cannot be outshone by your husband or daughters. Don’t let your past affect your future.

I think that is the only shortcut for you to completely heal such an old wound that is still inflicting pain.

—Megumi Hisada, writer