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Get A Life: You can't buy your way to happiness
by By Loretta LaRoche For The Patriot Ledger

What always amazes me about living in this country is how obsessed we are with trying to be happy. The messages on the attainment of happiness are everywhere and are presented through a plethora of media.

We are all familiar with how often we hear that buying something will make us feel better. The pursuit of consumption is one of the primary ways Americans live their lives. Shopping has become a relief from boredom and stress. I have often heard individuals claim that they're going to engage in some retail therapy, as if the purchase of something will alleviate their condition.

It is the transition from what used to be something done out of necessity to one that is done because it is a catharsis of some kind - that never ceases to fascinate me. My grandparents went food shopping, occasionally bought clothing, and once in a great while considered a major purchase for the house. That was only done when whatever it was, sofa, mattress or refrigerator, had been so used up that it no longer had form or function.

Today, that no longer matters. You can buy and get rid of things easily because you have a credit card. My grandparents and my parents had only one way to pay for anything - and that was with cash. Frivolous purchases meant getting a special imported parmesan cheese or an aged salami. They never considered how the thread count on their bed linens affected them or whether the coffee they drank came from a special bean that was found in an ancient burial ground outside Bolivia. Happiness came from the day to day of their existence, not in the promises of products or purchases. I realize that we are not going to return to this rather simplistic ideology unless we begin to make a conscious effort to become more aware of how alluring the media can be.

I am amazed at how ridiculous we are becoming in our quest for ''feel good'' chemistry. Last night, I watched in awe as one commercial after another alluded to how happy we would all be if we used heart burn medication, estrogen pills, toenail fungus creams, sexual enhancements, antidepressants and a host of other medications that not only provide relief but get you to twirl, spin, jump and laugh incessantly if you believe the ads. We know that curing ourselves of a health problem will definitely make us feel better, but that it has the capability to create a sense of euphoria and also remove all problems from your life is not only a ludicrous but incredibly juvenile notion.

My only antidote to the whole ridiculous thing is to use it as a form of entertainment. If you can laugh at it, you will be less likely to be sucked in. The phrase attributed to P.T. Barnum said it best: ''There's a sucker born every minute.'' Don't let it be you.

Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche.

Copyright 2005 Loretta LaRoche. All Rights Reserved.

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