• Richard Portugal

Life is Difficult



Published 1978 in his book The Road Less Traveled, psychiatrist F. Scott Peck

immortalized the phrase “Life is difficult”. In short, he encouraged us to embrace

the virtues of a disciplined life, delay gratification, and accept responsibility for

oneself and one’s actions.


He wrote, “Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they

remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit…The difficulty we have in accepting responsibility for our behavior lies in the desire to avoid the pain of the consequences of that behavior…”We cannot solve life’s problems except by solving them.”


Our society tends to worship youth and relegates seniors to a cultural irrelevance bounded by end-of- life issues and medical costs. Seniors represent a physical and financial burden to society that consigns them to a corner of the room rather than at its center.


Let us remember that this group confronted communism, racism and potential nuclear devastation head-on. They witnessed and participated in the end of WWII, the Cold War and the rise of the Soviet Empire, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fall of the Berlin wall, the Beatles, the Vietnam War, the March on Washington, Martin Luther King’s assassination, the Gulf war, the rise of terrorism, the birth of the computer age, and the internet. This group of seniors branded society with activism, pacifism and the weed; they lit up, protested, and tuned-out; they marched for peace, civil rights and the right to get high. As a group, they challenged and shaped our military-industrial complex, championed the landing on the moon, witnessed Kent State, invaded Woodstock and demanded a President resign. They forged an indelible stamp upon our world, its direction and focus. And yet age has placed them in a corner!


I have known and worked with many seniors; they have taught me far more than I have bequeathed to them. As they lived as a group, so they live now as individuals. Recognizing life is difficult, I know of not one senior who does not directly confront their problems. Age bestows frailty, so these seniors exercise for strength and balance; cancer attacks their bodies, so they confront that disease with committed determination to maintain a quality of life; our economy erodes their wealth, but they persevere and financially aid their children; their friends die and they stoically accept death as part of life; their minds forget, so they impart their wisdom through their past performance and present verve. They confront the pain of life and therefore teach us all how to live.


Life is difficult and we can all benefit from the example, history and teachings of

our seniors. Perhaps we should respect them as if they still occupy the center of

the room!


Copyright © 2018 Richard J. Portugal All rights reserved.

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