In any relationship, be true to who you are; protect your inner peace.
Our neighbor, a venerable 88-year-old man, passed away last week. Vaani and I visited his family. His son was there, by his mother’s side, meeting all the visitors and accepting their condolences. Among the visitors was the son’s ex-wife, an amiable lady. The couple may well have been living separately, but they did not seem cold towards, or alienated from, each other. They treated each other with dignity and grace. She offered to help with looking after the guests and the rituals. And he politely thanked her for her gesture.
It was beautiful to witness their quiet, albeit surprising, camaraderie.
Here was a couple who had separated, as I understand, years ago. Yet, in the time of her ex-husband’s grief, the lady displayed great compassion in being there and supporting him in whatever way she could. I am sure they had their differences of opinion about Life and living together – which is perhaps why they separated. But they didn’t appear to have let their differences drown their respect for each other.
That’s an interesting way to live Life, I thought to myself, especially after two people have made a choice to go their ways.
I have always believed and maintained that if two people cannot relate to each other – irrespective of the relationship they have – they must separate. For instance, I can’t relate to my mother. We have had a dysfunctional relationship ever since my teens. Over the last few years, I have consciously maintained a distance from her. And, resultantly, I have had to be distant from my father too. I am sure my parents hold a view that my choice to “continue to remain estranged”, at my age of 50+, is wrong. But I know that my chemistry with my mother just doesn’t work. I can’t relate to anything that she thinks, says or does. It is proven beyond reasonable doubt that we cannot hold a calm, mature conversation between us. So, in my humble opinion, I believe it is best we remain distant from each other. I am not justifying that my choice is right; all I am saying is that it helps us both go on with our lives with dignity and inner peace.
Well, that’s one way of looking at Life. And, as was evident in the way my late neighbor’s son and his ex-wife engaged with each other last week, there appears to be another way to live Life too. Which is that people can go their ways and yet they can engage with each other meaningfully, minus all the acrimony. Or simply, dosti (friendship) is still possible, even after a break-up!
The bottomline, as I understand, in any relationship, is this: be true to who you are, protect your inner peace. If staying with someone makes you feel miserable, if you can’t relate to that someone, then move on. But having moved on, if you can still be cordial from a distance, be so. However, if you feel being distant alone is best for both of you, be so. Either way, be happy, be at peace with yourself.
When you make choices based on what makes you happy, you can never go wrong.
I was waiting the other day to record my Podcast at a studio. One of the visitors there got talking to me about Life and relationships. She asked me if it is okay to be “blunt” with people, especially with those in “close relationships”.
I told her that it’s a personal choice. Now, there’s nothing wrong in being nice, being accommodative, adjusting and understanding. But if you try to do all of that at the cost of your inner peace, you will end up feeling miserable. So, it really is a decision you have to take – do you want to be happy and peaceful or do you want to feel unhappy and suffer trying to please others?
I shared with the lady an experience I had had earlier in the day. My cousin had called Vaani and me. She was inviting us to play godparents at her son’s engagement ceremony coming up later in the month. She is a single parent and her own father is no more. Her brother is not likely to attend the ceremony and so my name, as a male member of the family, was proposed. While I was humbled by her invitation, I was very clear, even as she proposed the idea, that I was not going to sit through any rituals. Besides, I had issues with any ritual or tradition that accorded men special privileges. All her Life, she had raised her two children, but just because she is a woman and she is single, “tradition and culture demand” that she could not be leading the engagement ceremony? I found this idea both regressive and lacking empathy. I told my cousin that I was not going to accept her invitation and instead advised her to lead the ceremony herself.
In taking this decision, I employed my time-tested principle of asking myself the following questions: 1. Do I believe in what I am being asked to do? 2. Will I be happy doing this for myself? I have noticed that whenever I weigh any option based on what gives me joy or makes me happy, I am a lot clearer with what I want to do. Or I am sure about what I don’t want to do. So, appraising any situation on the happiness question is an important and efficient way to make choices.
Over the past few years, I have become very distant from rituals – and religion. I have also stopped seeing marriage as necessary for people who want to live together. So, I was clear that I was not going to play godparent to my nephew to “simply perform some rituals that are meant exclusively for men”. I told my cousin exactly that. She respected me for my forthrightness and left the matter at that. I appreciate her understanding.
So, as is evident from my experience, conversations must be honest – you need not necessarily bother whether you are being “blunt” or “rude”. Being honest is more important. Your being honest may make the other person uncomfortable but it will always leave you peaceful. As I said earlier, it is always, finally, your call, a personal choice.
Whenever in doubt, whenever you are unconvinced about doing something for someone or even for yourself, ask yourself – will doing this make me happy? If the answer is no, simply don’t do it. There are no two ways to be happy. Choosing to be happy is the only way. And you can never go wrong with being happy!