I usually think I'm quite good at handling the feeling of guilt. I used to feel guilty 24/7 in the past, mainly when I lived in Palermo, my home town. I am quite sure about the reason why I felt so guilty too. There is something about "disturbing others," so intrinsic in the Sicilian culture, something bigger than all of us. And then there is something even bigger than disturbing others: family. The family is the kind of thing that, let's face it, you don't choose, but that somehow you have to report to.
Yes, family in Sicily is like having a micromanager, or like being in a tribunal. I love the gift of life, and I adore my parents for having given this gift to me. But is life all about having to be judged at the Supreme Family Court? Isn't life something you are provided with so you can live it, even when not everybody agrees with your way of living it?
And because of these two components, the "disturbing others" and the "family supreme court," you have to make yourself small. Don't say these things, so you don't hurt your cousins; invite this other person to this party, so you make him/her believe you care; be careful what you say to your boss, or you get fired (this is an internationally valid one, I think). Then, if you "fail" to do all these things.. you hear that little voice "I have told you! You should have invited your cousin"! and here comes the guilt.
When you are an expat in another country, you miss your city and your family. And of course, you visit and the family visit you. During the last days of your vacation, the goodbyes are hard to say of course. This is why I have many times received the gift of silence. I will never understand that: you are silent because you are mourning the fact that I am leaving. But do you realize that I'm sensitive? Do you recognize the person I am, when I only need a hug as a goodbye, or a smile. I don't need to feel guiltier than before.
You go back to the place where you live and wonder: my parents are getting older, maybe I should go more often. Perhaps they come to visit less and less, which is fine. And you have to go more. Maybe you don't have so much money to spend, and yet you should go. Because you will regret it if you don't.
We are usually brought to think that we owe something to our families because they helped us being on our feet. My parents paid for everything for me when I studied abroad, and there is nothing I would not give them. But then why do I feel still guilty? Are we not counting the fact that I am the one calling Italy every week with my phone and with a special tariff? Do we not count the countless flights, for 15 years, that I have taken to go back home even if it means staying 9 hours in an airport and spending 500 euros per flight for Christmas? All the questions I receive even from strangers, as soon as I land in Palermo, such as "How long are you staying? Oh! Only a week???!" - "Will you ever come back and stay? Do it for your parents".
Maybe it's me, maybe I cannot take these questions, maybe I am the producer of my own guilt.
All those questions happen because guilt and free of charge pain are invisible to the human eye.
If I could carry a bag with all the guilt I have felt, I would have filled a truck.
Then, let's all switch, instead of feeling guilty, to feel proud for what we have accomplished that we could not achieve in your home town, even trying, and stop thinking about what we miss. Let's find a system that works with our families, to see each other and cherish, with no guilt, about what has been done.