Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Heloise's Kitchen Hints, originally uploaded by Paula Wirth.

I've been thinking a lot about M. Scott Peck lately--you know, the guy who wrote THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED. If you troll the obits, looking for stories like I do, you know he died recently from pancreatic cancer. Only in his sixties, too. I remember when I thought that sixty was practically senescent, but the older I get, the younger those people in the obits seem.

Anyway, after reading the paper, and thinking a little about the man, and how he managed to write a book about self-discipline that stayed on the best seller list for years, I took out my old copy and thumbed through it. Never did finish the thing. In fact, my bookmark is still wedged in page 34.

However, there are a couple of lines that stayed with me all the years since I jammed that book in the shelf and abandoned it.

The first was the opening line of the book: Life is difficult.

I was probably in my twenties then, and I still didn't know that. Really? I thought. But then, I quickly figured that applied to other people. Old people like M. Scott Peck and my parents and the mailman who was always frowning when he came up the walkway. People who, if they weren't careful, might find themselves in the obit page. Not a young woman whose biggest problem is trying to avoid the unwanted guy who's been calling eleven times a day.

Anyway, as time went by, and I found myself running into various obstacles, I found myself returning to that one declarative sentence that had been imprinted on my mind. Life is difficult. It explained a lot of things, and if you accepted that premise, it kept you from
making it even more so with false expectations.

The second line that stuck with me was one I've quoted to my children often, and to my lazy co-workers whenever I thought they needed it.

"Do you know what maturity is?" I'd say brightly, like the smart kid on a quiz show, just itching to tell the answer. "Maturity is the ability to delay gratification."

And when the recalcitrant five year old, or wiseass adolescent, or indifferent co-worker inevitably tilted his or her head to the side and said something profound like "whaaa?" I would explain:

"It means you do the things you gotta do before you do the things you wanna do."

Yeah, it's a great concept. It made Mr. Peck a lot of money, and for those who could actually follow it, that one piece of advice alone was well worth the price they paid for his book.

As for me, I can quote it, I certainly believe it, but I still can't quite accomplish it. Which is why I'm heading off to clean my house sometime around midnight. But first I think I'll fix myself a nice cup of hot chocolate and visit a few more of my favorite blogs.


rdl said...

Forget the damn house, it'll be there tomorrow. Go have a glass of wine stead of the hot chocolate and put yr. feet up and wait for that book deal to come in.

rdl said...

Forgot to say, I agree with Mr. Peck, Life is damn difficult. Going to find and dust off my copy.

Neetee said...

There is nothing like understanding and nodding one's head in agreement to a rigid piece of philosophy even to the point of spreading that said complexity all the while realizing that there are enough readers out there who are willing to live according to the darn thing without our help. We all have our gifts. They write heavy, we read it and get it way before the end of the book, mind you. And then....we go on with our lives.
Patry Francis, what you've written alone is wisdom. :>

Anonymous said...

Yes I had something like that imprinted on me at a very early age. Then I met my mother's cousin, a funny woman, who lived alone, was a PE teacher and her maxim was "I was not born to dust".

I have grown irritable with the books that tell me what to do, and even more irritable with myself for needing the book when I really should find my own way of dealing with my life.

Now where did I put that book, "Organising for the Creative Person"?

Maybe what I could do is go into the garden, and look at the beauty of the leaves with raindrops on them.

Patry Francis said...

rdl: can't drink wine before bed. It induces too many wild dreams. But then again, wild dreams aren't necessarily a bad thing.

queen neetee: thanks for stopping by...and there is a lot of wisdom in your words, too. I tend to be always searching for the right book that will give me "the answer." But in many ways, they are yet another distraction.

ainelivia: Oh, I would have loved your aunt. The two of us could have sat down for a cup of tea and laughed at the dust motes floating in the sunshine. Enjoy that garden!

Stephanie said...'s funny how sometimes we don't learn that life is difficult until later. And that all lives are difficult regardless of the circumstances.... I love that quote about maturity.

Vickie said...

Thanks for this. That maturity statement sure hit home...

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Thanks so much for the great read--especially the last sentence. Because I'm being immature right now and I'm kind of liking it. You see, life's hard, nad it's been especially hard this week. Well, and I don't wanna be one of those guys who end up in the obits--I'd rather have some guy calling me 11 times a day--but anyway, thank you. I really enjoyed reading what you wrote.


Patry Francis said...

Stephanie: A new person! Thanks for your comment and please come again.

Vickie: Ah, maturity, I think we all struggle with it. The trick is to balance some of the child's curiosity and wonder with adult productivity and effective action. I'm still working on it, but on most days the child in me seems to win.

Liz: Your comment definitely made me smile, which is always good when I'm sitting here with my hot chocolate again at midnight.

Anonymous said...

I'm with rdl. The dang house will be there tomorrow. But then again, I keep the worse house so I'm probably not a good example ;)

I never had a problem with the delaying satisfaction part and I find it very difficult being with people who don't. Adults who actually get a tantrum because the movie is sold out... yikes.

Beautiful piece as always. So easy to read so flowing.

robin andrea said...

Great post, Patry. I love reading things that make me think a while. I was one of those people born knowing that life was difficult, and I could always delay gratification. The trick for me was learning to enjoy life and to sometimes play before work. I'm still working on it.

Patry Francis said...

Melly: I'm not the type to throw tantrums if I don't get into a movie, but I AM the type who always started my papers two days before they were due in college. And faced with a sinkful of dishes, and a good book on the coffee table, well, those dishes are gonna wait.

R.D. Interesting perspective. I'm thinking of those serious photographs of you in your photo biography, and it all makes sense. Yes, we're all born different. But honestly, I've always envied focused people like you.

Scot: I couldn't live without hot chocolate and late night ruminations. No wonder I have such trouble getting up in the morning. Thank you for your kind words.

Patry Francis said...

I'm slowly learning your secrets, Finn...dark wine and Spanish food before bed.

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