I didn’t know it had a name.
I recently learned that the current generation of women have been referred to as the “GAT (guilty all the time) generation.” According to a survey sited by Style Magazine, more than 96% of women struggle with multiple bouts of guilt on a daily basis. As many as half have trouble sleeping because of it.
At a recent event, I heard women of varying ages admit that guilt was the doorkeeper of their lives—having its say in matters from how to eat, what to say (or not to say) to when to take a break from family or work.
In my house, the children are gone, but guilt lives on to plague the time I have with my elderly mother, who recently moved in to live with my husband and me.
Moving Mom was excruciating as we picked through the smallest of items that would accompany her to our recently acquired and downsized home. Guilt.
She left behind the few people she knew in the world. Guilt.
There is no weekly bridge game in our new neighborhood. Guilt.
The list goes on.
In still another twist on the way to improving my mother’s quality of life: she quickly began to remember her former circumstances as idyllic. In hindsight, she had been social, safe, independent, and surrounded by the fond and familiar. And I began to question decisions made. Had I pushed too hard too fast and disrupted her life too soon?
Pushing guilt aside (with the assistance of my husband), I took a second, closer look at what had actually transpired.
- The move happened before the physical demands of this seismic shift would have overwhelmed my mother—and us.
- The move happened before Mom stopped making meals for herself because it was too difficult.
- The move gave Mom access to immediate, safe and necessary transportation.
- The move allowed my mother to retire from the stress of home ownership.
- The move eliminated Mom’s rapidly increasing isolation.
No, there is no weekly bridge game now. That sucks. It also sucks that Mom has outlived virtually all of her friends and the vast majority of her family. It is also true that for all the benefits of our new arrangement, I cannot be all things to my mother. I can only provide what is necessary in the moment. For now, safety and comfort are primary. Even these I do imperfectly.
Though difficult, I strive to accept the truth that what is far from ideal can still be the best choice. Struggle finds all of us no matter what season. Goodness too. Whatever I have to offer is enough because I am not the source of happiness for any life beyond my own. This radical perspective closes the door on guilt as it opens the door to choosing to be happy. Come what may.