Life is mostly mental. We, who live in the Midwest, have been on a gasoline price roller coaster. We all have horror stories about how much we have paid for gas. Living in Indiana, I had to pay as much as $2.15 a gallon. Because of the convergence of public anger, fear of government intervention, and tax refunds, the price dropped by about a third. But, as I write this article, I'm listening to a CNN reporter predicting that the price for gas and home heating oil will skyrocket in the Midwest this winter. What will we do if the price of gas goes over $2.00 again? We need gas to get to work, school, soccer, and shop. To make matters worse, our consumer consternation will effect our attitude about everything. Consumer confidence will suffer resulting in a possible economic downturn.

While we wallow momentarily in gas pump self-pity and before the gas prices again reach for the two-dollar mark, consider my first statement. Life is mostly mental. We get ourselves whipped into a frenzy that a Whirling Dervish would envy. However, when I paid my $2.15 per gallon, the person paying the cashier in front of me was a friend of mine. He was complaining out loud what I was thinking in my frugal Scottish mind: "The price of gas is too high!" While filling up, my friend also picked up a pack of cigarettes for $3.25 and some bottled water for $1.09 but didn't complain about either of his other purchases.

Only in America can we protest spending two bucks for gas and pay what would have been more than thirty dollars for a carton of cigarettes and eight dollars a gallon for water. If I had suggested that he could have saved a lot of money by using tap water from home, he would have said that he like the taste or the impurities of tap water. His response was punctuated with puffs from on his cigarette. I told him that I was inhaling his smoke impurities while he protected his taste buds with bottled water costing more than four times what his gas cost him. I accused him of being penny-wise and dollar-foolish. My friend drove off still shaking his head about my incredulity regarding his complaining.

It struck me that when we change our perspective, we can change our outlook on a situation. Therefore, we can make ourselves happy or unhappy based upon our perspective. Lincoln had it right when he said, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." While it is true that gas prices are high and will get higher, don't compound the problem by getting bent out of shape over it. If you do, the original problem will spread like an infection effecting every other aspect of your life-even those areas that were operating well.

Here are some suggestions for coping with life's little problems:

1. Realize that life is mostly mental.

2. Change what you can change in life, and then go on without dwelling on what can't be changed.

3. Take periodic fresh looks at all aspects of your life.

4. Go around happy or go around ticked off; it's your choice. Choose wisely.

This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 9/14/00.