Thursday, June 25, 2015

Giving Until It Hurts

Welcome, beautiful traveler. I greet you with a word of caution: beware the temptation to give until it hurts.

We are taught, in our culture, that many things worth having require sacrifice, and that is true. There's little that can be accomplished if we do not learn the value of delayed gratification, and even the most harmonious of relationships cannot endure without some degree of compromise. Then too, circumstances sometimes offer us the opportunity to improve the world at some significant personal cost.

But the necessity of sacrifice does not in any way make sacrifice good in and of itself. To deny our own needs and desires, to give something up, to suffer harm to our body, mind, or soul -- these things may result in goodness, but they themselves are never a positive good.

It's critical to remember this as we make life's hard choices.

Real goodness lies in the amount of happiness we bring to the world, the amount of healing we can work upon its wounds, the amount of damage we can forestall or prevent. If we can do more good through a particular sacrifice than we could without it, then the choice to do more good is worthy and noble. But the sacrifice itself is only a tool, not an accomplishment.

All too often, we accept harm to ourselves under the mistaken notion that sacrifice is good. But in harming ourselves now, we can easily reduce the energy and capacity we have to do good later. So if a sacrifice brings about less good than we might have done with that energy elsewhere, then the choice to deny ourselves actually becomes a net loss for the world, in addition to being detrimental to us as individuals. 

We should, therefore, never look for ways to sacrifice. We should only look for the way to do the most good, and be prepared to make sacrifices when they become necessary -- when we can weigh them against what they accomplish and know that we are truly making the most beneficial choice.

A martyr whose self-sacrifice brings little or no improvement to the world has only cheated us of a source of beauty and generosity.

Thank you, goddess of love, for the will to do right ... and the wisdom to do right by ourselves in the process.

Lovingly yours,

A devotee 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Good Days

Welcome, beautiful traveler. I greet you with a wish that this day will be good for you, and a thought on how to nurture that outcome. It is simply this:

A good day begins with the understanding that you deserve one. 

Thank you, goddess of love, for the ability to value ourselves and be receptive to happiness.

Lovingly yours,

A devotee

Saturday, June 06, 2015

True Love

Welcome, beautiful traveler. I greet you with one grandiose idea and another more pragmatic one. Here they are:

The nature of True Love is this: to know that this person exists, and have the fact of his or her existence free you from having to be sad, anymore, ever.

Anything less is mere human love, and requires a ton of work to maintain.

A followup thought occurs to me now that I've spelled those out:

Only one of the two can ever be prepared for.

Thank you, goddess of love, for glimpses into your perfection and the strength to build and steady our bright-hearted imitations of it.

Lovingly yours,

A devotee

Sunday, May 31, 2015

What We Can Be for Each Other

Welcome, beautiful traveler. I greet you with a suggestion to encourage the linking of hearts.

Many failed relationships, I think, fail out of unmet expectations. 

We human beings, all of us, are annoying or aggravating or boring at times. We all have our flaws, and with prolonged exposure, flaws can so easily magnify themselves in the eyes of others. So as we move through the cycles of a relationship, it’s easy for the negatives we possess and the negatives of our partner to grow more obvious and less tolerable. 

And we all have our unique hungers, the needs and wants that help make us who we are, that drive us in the directions our lives are destined to go. Unless romantic fate is exceedingly kind to us, no partner will ever fulfill all of those needs. So again, over time, we often find greater and greater frustration in the portions of ourselves that our partners are unable to satisfy.

In combination, these two trends can easily turn a pinnacle of affection and attraction into a downward slope of irritation, resentment, and anger – until we find ourselves standing before a hungry void, the void of our neglected wants.

Once there, even a small unpleasantness can topple us over the edge.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can take our awareness of this phenomenon and make a few simple adjustments to avert that tumbling decline.

First, we must be honest with ourselves and know the importance of each yearning that drives us. How important is hand-holding, religion, political conversation, travel, sex, or bowling? There are things that we like but can do without, and there are things we must have to remain the people we are. Only by knowing which is which can we judge the real success of our partner in supporting our needs.

Next, we must communicate with one another. Our partner must be made aware of just how important any given need is to us, how critical its fulfillment is to our happiness. Without that awareness, she can’t be expected to read the cause of our discontent; he can’t be expected to make his greatest effort to satisfy our wants.

With that shared knowledge, two partners can know the limits of the bond they share – and can compromise around those limits. Most importantly, they can discard the misery of unmet expectations, because they will have openly agreed on what can and can’t be expected.

Having eliminated from our relationships the dead weight of pointless wanting, we can then focus on all the things we gain from the person we love, instead of all the ways we think they have failed us. In place of voids and holes, we can see strengths and supports. In place of resentment, we can feel appreciation.

By removing the power of hopeless expectations, we free ourselves to do what we can do for one another, to be what we can be for each other.

A crucial final element in this equation is what to do when one partner has a need that can’t be compromised and the other has a true inability to fulfill it. If love is to survive, it’s the obligation of both partners to make sure that need is being met outside of the relationship.

We should not expect our loved ones to suffer in hunger just because we do not have the particular food they need.

If one partner burns to share the great outdoors while the other is an agoraphobe ...

If one must dance and the other hates crowds and music ...

If one needs passionate arguments of the mind but the other can’t stand intellectualizing ...

Then it is our duty not just to offer but to insist on giving our partner the freedom to exercise their wants, their needs, their dreams. If it can’t happen within the bounds of the relationship, we must encourage it beyond ... and we must be happy to see our partner enjoy that freedom when they take it, knowing that our insistence on their liberty is the best means we have of giving them joy.

Real love is not a binding that restricts. It is the devotion to bestowing delight. It is the desire to free one's beloved from want. And it is the appreciation of all that one's beloved is, including all of his or her needs, both those we can meet and even – or especially – those we cannot.

Thank you, goddess of love, for the opportunity to be what we can, and the generosity to let go where we must.

Lovingly yours,

A devotee