Sometimes it really sucks to do the right thing. You figure in the long run, things will work out for the best, even though doing the right thing means letting someone or something go, or even letting someone or something in. This is when life reaches beyond the mundane and offers you a chance to learn something about yourself and the world around you – that’s why this process is hardly ever comfortable. Life ceases to be boring and suddenly we’re wishing it was again, even though just the other day we were longing for excitement. It rarely seems to come in the form we’d prefer.
But the point of life isn’t to be happy in that sense, is it? You may feel happy at any given time, but are you happy, and do you maintain that inner euphoria throughout the day, even if things don’t go your way? Very few of us can answer ‘yes’ to this question. Just as love is seen in popular culture as an emotion, so is happiness. But love and happiness are states of being manifested by action. My happiness does not simply involve feeling chipper. I can only be truly happy when I manifest it from within (not surprisingly by cultivating peace and self-love) and radiating that happiness outwardly. There’s a big difference between the ego-gratifying joy you feel when you get what you want, compared to the warm and fuzzy satisfaction of showing someone you care. That’s an important distinction to note, lest we confuse pleasure for happiness.
The same goes for love; love is not an individual exercise. It needs to be nurtured. Holding on to an unhealthy relationship, whatever your rationale, is not love. Compromising for a friend who does not return that respect is also not love. Love is having compassion (not necessarily being nice) and accepting people as they are while respecting your integrity. What about a cheater who insists wholeheartedly that they love the person against whom they’ve premeditated a systematic betrayal? “But I’m in love with you!” they bellow. The wronged party would be wise to make the distinction: the cheater may feel love (that’s easy enough anyway, isn’t it?), but they don’t love him/her, because as a verb, the word ‘love’ describes an action. Sounds like geeky semantics, but this perspective comes in useful when you’re trying to make sense of a situation in which you’ve been hurt deeply by someone who says they love you. Besides, we mistake countless emotions for love – infatuation and dependency being some of the most common. Not surprisingly, at the root of these illusions is insecurity. This is something everyone can relate to.
When you stumble upon something that looks and feels and tastes like love or happiness, it’s hard not to be seduced by it as it beckons you closer. But if you want the real thing, the universe demands effort. Sacrifice is the currency of balance. Above all, this usually means questioning your notions of what you really want and need and how to honour your own identity while understanding that you are not the centre of the universe. Not only is having to make such sacrifices fair – it makes you a better person. And I’ve always believed that what is ethical is also practical.