Pain is Inevitable – Suffering is Optional

There comes that moment.  The plane taxis out to the runway, and it’s “no more cellphones or electronic devices, anything with an on-off switch.”

No more blackberry; Kindle;  iPhone-Kindle-enabled reader.  No more NYTimes online, google headlines, online magazines.   And of course I don’t bring a paper, or magazine, because, you know, I like to think I’m a wired kind of guy, and that just wouldn’t do.

So it arrives.  The moment I’ve been dreading.  The moment when all there is to read is the online flight magazine.  Great bars in Cuernavaca.  Plastic blondes hyping expensive matchmaking services.  Recipes for comfort food.

Then suddenly, everything changes.  Continental’s April issue, in “Sky High,” features Dr. Luanne Freer, an emergency medicine specialist physician, who has been donating time to the Sherpa population in Nepal.

She spent three and a half months in a Sherpa village at 14,000 feet, providing health care for both villagers and trekkers.  She says she developed a deep connection with the Sherpa people. ‘Some of them didn’t even own a pair of shoes, yet they were much happier than my neighbors in the US who have three cars in their garages.’

This is not news.  It surprised me, though—perhaps because it was in such an unexpected context.  I heard it as if for the first time.  And of course it’s true.

We are the architects of our own happiness–and of our own misery.  We all agree on it.  Yet we don’t seem to do anything about it.  Statistics prove it—the wealthier we get, the more happy we do not get.

There are cases where medication helps, though in aggregate we’re probably over-prescribed.   And for all those of us who don’t need chemical adjustment to color between the lines—what’s our excuse?  Basically, we have none.  We must do it.  Ourselves.

Prescriptions for Happiness

Me, I find it helpful to collect catch-phrases, one-liners, mnemonic devices.  Here’s a small collection.  There will not be a test at the end.

•    Pain is inevitable–suffering is optional
•    One foot stuck in yesterday and one in tomorrow means you’re probably peeing on today
•    Don’t rent space in your head to others
•    Cultivate an attitude of gratitude
•    There is a God—and you’re not it
•    Accept what you can’t change, change what you can; and learn the difference
•    No one can mentally hurt you without your permission
•    Don’t measure your insides by other people’s outsides
•    You can’t control anyone; but you totally control how you react to everyone
•    Happiness is an inside job
•    Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die
•    Find someone you hate; then say a prayer for them
•    Most interpersonal problems come from a tendency to blame, and an inability to confront (thanks Phil)
•    When in doubt, go find some adult supervision
•    Cultivate an attitude of gratitude

None of these require a pair of shoes.