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  • Am I doing enough? Should I do more? A reader discusses her guilt of living away from her parents.

For so many of us who live as expats in Dubai, away from our aging parents, my mental worry is neither new nor foreign. I contemplate whether I should be worrying about not being able to do enough for my parents, or devoting my my energy on being mentally present for active solutions.

I don’t think I am alone in this, and it provides me with a strange sense of comfort. Guilt intertwined with doubt and an unhealthy dose of self-pity surrounds a large part of my daily existence. Like me, I know many of us are blessed with siblings who care, who do not demand and who continue to take active decisions in the best interest of our parents.

But I am always filled with an overwhelming feeling of guilt. I should be doing more, I should not be questioning the decisions taken by someone else, in this case my sister, who is living physically close to my father. I am a silent spectator to many happenings and that has often taken away my own right to offer an opinion on a particular decision. This is making me feel helpless and negative. I need to replace this feeling.

I also toy at the idea of why I should be feeling guilty. Am I supposed to? As a daughter living far away, would not feeling guilty make me a bad person? By the same token, would I not do the same if roles were reversed, if I were there and my sister was here? I am glad that I can say for certain, I would. I wouldn’t flinch or shy away or find any excuse. I would support, assist and love, as she does.

I am conscious of the fact that when I feel guilty, I assume a powerless mode. I can hide behind the guilt and continue to feel bad about myself. But who am I helping? Not my sister, not our father and certainly not myself. Self-pity, self-loathing and inaction is a vicious cycle of despair, when there is no need for it. However, I cannot fight this guilt. But I realise that I can be more productive in my love for others by practising compassion towards myself.

Genuinely asking what I can do to help and openly listening are my options. Perhaps calling more often and encouraging more will also help.

I am a good daughter. I am trying to be a good sister. I am doing what I can. As and when I am able to, I do more. I need to have less guilt and less resentment. I need to redefine what ‘caring’ actually means to me. I need to stay calm and reasoned.

- The reader is a resident of the UAE.