Would You Rather Be Happy or Loved?

Would you rather be happy or loved? It’s an odd question, unsurprisingly, because the person asking it has dementia. Yet I am taking care of this person who wants an answer from me, so I think about it.
Odd because we usually equate being loved with being happy. But I find myself saying that I don’t believe either of these is a real goal. After all, who can predict if we will be loved or happy, or what choices might ensure either? And both states seem external—based on circumstances or other people, which I don’t like in terms of a goal.
I’ve always felt it was better to love than be loved. After all, I can love people, animals, places, ideas, art, things, activities, even God or myself and I don’t need to be loved back for the situation to feel good. When young, I felt safer, more empowered, as the lover than the beloved. I loved partners who certainly loved me, but my focus was on my own feeling of love—expressing it, cultivating it, deepening it. This is still true, although I’ve softened more towards being loved. The people I’m closest too tend to have rather cool demeanors and not be gushy, so their protestations and gestures mean a lot. And I’m more willing to see and appreciate these.
As to happiness, it isn’t really an attainable state. At least not for me. I’m super restless, and my feelings mercurial—I can cycle from ecstasy to boredom to irritation before an afternoon is half done. I’m with Thomas Jefferson on the right to the “Pursuit of Happiness.” I like to pursue it—actually I adore pursuing it—and if I don’t capture it I might get adventure or amusement or serendipity instead. I find serenity an acceptable goal, but it isn’t a static state. I can’t say “I am serene,” but rather that I’ve flipped out just a little and am now returning to balance.
Hidden within this strange question seems to be the sad sense that being loved doesn’t always make a person happy. Love can be controlling, critical, and downright violent. Well, you might say, that isn’t REALLY love but I’m thinking it is at least love’s shadow side—a part of love and not a part of indifference.
I don’t know if feeling loved or happy is possible with dementia. Well, that it isn’t quite true—feeling loved and actually expressing affection still seem to be there for some folk. I can tell my listener doesn’t care about the answer, while still being glad with the appearance of conversation.

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