Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
The Hard Way or the Easy Way?
The Apparent Choice at the Crossroads of Every Present Moment
2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
to do what one likes is really bondage, while being
What's it going to be: the hard way or the easy way? Here is the apparent choice at the crossroads of every present moment. It is in this critical moment that our life pivots a little or a lot, for the good or the ill, for the fullest and highest expression of what calls and beckons us into life or less than this, for the best and most brilliant use of the multitude of gifts, talents and genius within us or not. Better than a bunch of concepts or intellectual awareness is a slice of life, my own in this case, of what it most practically means to be faced with this apparent choice, and at a most tender age indeed.
In the late 1950's my two brothers, sister and I were between ages 3 and 8. What possessed my parents to have us four in five and one-half years is only a testament to lack of planning, no birth control and so-called natural living, which was quite the fashion in those days. If my memory serves, being the oldest didn't mean I received any more respect, only more responsibilities.
Most days my father would return from a long day at work, we'd have dinner as a family and my mother would clean up. This was what traditionally happened in that time. I do remember there were some days when my mother would state to my father that she was "Done" and had "Had it" with us. Further, she declared "They're yours!!" and she went into their bedroom to read and fall asleep. Apparently, after the unending day she had both enjoyed and endured with the four of us, she had had her fill with us. My father perfectly knew what she meant and quickly arose to the occasion.
We were playing games, watching television, snacking and so on. We were television's first viewing generation and we stayed glued every night to what my mother variously called the boob tube or the idiot box. On these occasions, my father dutifully, if not particularly with pleasure, handled what needed to be handled and put us to bed himself. I have to give him this; he did have a novel method.
Dad knew our bedtime at about 8 or 8:30 P.M. So close to the appointed time, instead of asking a question, my father would announce in a statement: "You are now going to bed." Of course, this was met with all the respect kids of that age typically offernone. It's not that there were no limits, rather he was relatively easy going and granted a great deal of freedom, until you pushed him too far.
We would continue to watch television, play and horse around. My father upped the ante by turning down the volume and standing in front of the television and again stated, "YOU ARE NOW GOING TO BED." This time we listened, but still no action ensued. You might say we were stunned.
Then came the prophetic words from my father's mouth: "You can do it the easy way or the hard way."
My next youngest brother, who not so coincidentally became a successful attorney and married another too boot, interrupted with an acerbic voice that could break glass, "WHAT'S THE HARD WAY??"
Visibly using all the internal fortitude, tolerance and patience he could muster at that moment, father replied, "We'll get to that in a moment."
True to my nature, I remember asking, "Alright, what's the easy way?"
Regaining his composure and brightening up, dad replied, "The easy way is you turn off the T.V., toss your toys where they belong, get upstairs, undress and put on your pajamas. Then you brush your teeth and I'll tuck each of you in, read you a short story, have a prayer, talk a little and kiss you goodnight."
My brother again interrupted and insisted with a high-pitched voice that could probably penetrate steel, "WHAT'S THE HARD WAY??"
My father's expression quickly changed as I saw the veins on his neck noticeably bulge. "You want to know the hard way? O.K, I'll tell you the hard way. I'll turn off the tube and we'll throw the toys where they belong. I'll carry as many of you as I can upstairs yelling and crying and toss you on your beds. You'll change into your P.J.'s and brush your teeth. I'll hand you some tissues, kiss you, turn off the lights and have you whimper yourselves to sleep."
My brother seemed satisfied with that answer. Years later at a family holiday gathering I recounted this story and moment, and my brother piped up saying, "I was only checking out my options." Lawyer to the end, then and nowenough said.
Then the moment came when dad pulled the string on the whole deal by saying, "Now, which way do you choose to play?"
To our credit we were fairly intelligent kids. About 98% of the time we chose the easy way... although, as kids do, we felt compelled to see if dad really meant business. He did and that's the 2% of the time I'd rather not recall, if it's all the same to you. It was only once or twice, yet more than I wanted.
back on all this, I'm now aware that father actually gave us no choice about going
to bed, although a crystal clear one about how we were going to bed. I can appreciate
that now, particularly being a parent myself. What you sow, you reap, mightily.
So many disciplines, as soothing, centering and nurturing as they are, confuse the map for the territory, the menu for the meal, the outer packaging for the inside person. In other words, people confuse the lightning bug for the lightning itself, as Mark Twain once observed. After this early encounter with a hard truth of life, there was nothing that held any appeal to pick the hard way instead of the easy way. At the same time it has become exceedingly clear that every one gets to have the experiences we have, no matter how hard and miserable, painful and suffering, to make the growth we are here to make. In a way I had found religion, the Holy Grail and a compass pointing north to Home all in one. Oscar Wilde knew this in observing, "Nowadays, people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." If anything his observation is more relevant today than when he wrote it in the late nineteenth century. Knowing the value far outweighs knowing the cost, yet the cost is worth knowing.
Across the whole gamut of human behavior, particularly unworkable patterns people fall into like self-preoccupation, addiction, experiencing anxious, depressed feelings with equally anxious, depressed thoughts, stressing and scaring themselves over events yet to take place in futureland, and equally upsetting and guilting themselves over memories of events in pastland, it would make no small difference in one stopping to consider the simple question: the hard way or the easy way? This question is like an observation poet Robert Frost made at the end of his famous poem "The Road Not Taken":
"Two roads diverged
in a wood, and I
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