But seriously, we need to take control of our misery

Life will regularly piss all over your breakfast. It is a fickle jerk. Bad things will regularly happen. That is the constant. But I choose to be Sam Jackson about it all and pull out my wallet (you know which one).

How so? I try to stay unshaken. I’m ready for what’s next. I’m willing to shape my responses to sources of stress and anger. Diffusing those sources is key. I don’t always do it, but trying is a big deal for me.

A friend recently asked his people on Facebook whether or not they were happy with their jobs. I did some thinking on that. Happy, huh? I asked myself what that meant. I tried to measure out what might make someone happy. I read through the comments.

People self-reported happiness for different reasons. Some kept work and life different and said they were or were not happy. Some saw work and life as united and said they were or were not happy.

It reminded me of a story I read some years ago that asked: “Are parents happier than non-parents?” There are dozens of these stories out there.

For a long time, the theory has been that no, parents are not happier (though new data challenges some of that). They say they are happier–they self-report higher levels of happiness. But when it comes to documenting how many times per month parents feel overwhelmed, angry, stressed and “trapped”, non-parents are much less likely to exhibit these signs. Yet non-parents self report lower levels of happiness. Strange.

Are parents deluding themselves? Are non-parents unappreciative of their lack of life stress?

Probably a little of both (though saying ‘deluding’ is a bit cynical).

I would say they, having experienced parenthood, are better at choosing their dispositions. Feeling stressed is a choice. How we respond to life is our choosing. Non-parents really do lack perspective in that respect.

I’ve been all over the world. For vacation, for work, for war–all over. I’ve met models, diplomats, movie stars, ambassadors, janitors, surf instructors, soldiers, Olympians and bartenders. I’ve been on the dating scene for half my life and have seen dynamics play out in that realm as well.

You know what I’ve noticed? Living in Fiji, being paid to take people scuba diving, there are miserable people…and there are happy people. At VIP parties in Vegas, the same. At ski resorts in Colorado, the same. Sipping beer in Brussels, the same. Riding in the back of a Bradley in Iraq, the same. Picking up trash around headquarters, the same.

People in New York City “There’s no one here to date.” People in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, “There is no one here to date.” People in San Antonio, “I’m over this place, there’s nothing to do here.” People in Chicago, “I’m over this place, there’s nothing to do here.”

Everywhere, people are happy or sad, stressed or relaxed, regardless of circumstances. I’ve met dirt-poor people in Nicaragua who were beaming with such pride and happiness, they had far more than I did. I’ve met millionaires who were so lonely that they said the random conversation with me at a party was a highlight of their day.

Yeah yeah. We’ve heard this sort of platitudinous tripe before right? Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems, right?

Well, it’s worth saying yet again, because we forget. We have enormous power to be happier people right now. In our moment-to-moment decisions.

We can choose to be happy or sad (or at least get help when our bodies lead us into fits of depression).

When thieves recently compromised my bank accounts and stole all of my money, I had a choice. I could stress out or stay calm.

Action is separate. Action is unmoved by disposition. Me acting–freezing my accounts, filing the right claims and going through the laborious process of rebuilding my compromised identity–all of that would happen or not happen regardless of how I felt about it.

Being stressed had no influence on the course of action I had to take. So I chose not to be stressed. My friends were angrier about it than I was.

In war it was the same thing. There were a couple of moments where I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out. I chose not to be stressed. Collapsing into a sobbing heap of tears wasn’t going to stop the IED from detonating, or the guy with the AK from lifting it to fire. I chose not to be stressed.

It’s tremendously liberating, actually. I’ve been scammed, physically threatened, screamed at, been called a coward, had my God insulted, had my political dispositions vilified…experienced all manner of hate and wrath directed toward me.

And I choose to not be stressed.

Just like that.


About salemonz

Born in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.

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