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January/February, 2020

Do You Prefer to be Right or Happy?

A Story from Austria – 1994

I was still a novice at European travel when my friend Judy and I arrived for a hiking week in Austria in 1994.  We were expecting hotel rooms and services like the ones we had experienced in North America.  The reality was very different.

Our room was so tiny, we could scarcely move between the two narrow beds.  Our bathroom was about 25 square feet.  The expression, “you couldn’t swing a cat in there” was appropriate.  When we asked for another room, we were told none were available.

Breakfasts were another disappointment.  The hotel offered baguettes, orange juice and coffee.  That was it.  I was craving my usual granola, fruit, yogurt and tea but they were not forthcoming.

Judy and I complained.  We voiced our frustrations repeatedly with the hotel staff, with each other and with anyone else who would listen.  On our hikes, we complained to the other hikers.  We were convinced that they should and would feel as outraged as we were.

All the other guests were from Europe and seemed to have little to comment.  It never occurred to us that our reaction was a result of our North American experience and therefore a unique perspective.  We were confident that we had every right to complain.



“I Take No Notice”

One day I was walking with a very quiet, middle-aged Scottish fellow, Kenneth.  He listened to my usual diatribe, but didn’t respond.  Finally, I asked him if he was not equally troubled by the conditions at our hotel.  His response, in his Scottish brogue was, “Ah take noo nootice.”

At the time, his comment was enough to silence me.  But in the subsequent days, I realized that Kenneth was talking about a completely different way of viewing things.  I began to ask myself about the legitimacy of my anger.  Might I decide to accept the situation rather than get upset?

I could see that Kenneth was enjoying his week much more than I was.  He was calm and happy, whereas I was agitated and stressed.

His remark has stayed with me for 25 years.  More recently, I read a challenging question in A Course in Miracles: “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” I realized that in Austria I had put so much energy into being right, I’d missed out on most of the beauty of the trip.

How many times do we allow this to happen?  Certainly we need to speak up sometimes, but often we can choose to let things go, to relax and be happy instead.  More happiness means better health too.

I wish you joy as you make constructive choices in the new year.