“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
I remember reading this poem for the first time my freshman year in college. I was taking English Composition I through a community college the year I turned 25. It was my first exposure to Robert Frost through my professor (who turned out to be my most favorite professor, my first and last professor while at that institution) who professed to have seen him in person at the event commemorating a president (or perhaps the inauguration of one, I can’t remember which) and cherishing his reading of this poem. Frost was her favorite poet and I very quickly understood why. Frost is now my absolute favorite poet. And this poem is my absolute favorite. Please click the link above and read the full poem. It is so rich.
I could only think of this poem as I picked up the book, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, M.D. And now having completed the book, I am just blown away again. The first copyright was attained in 1978 which indicates this book has been around for a number of decades and yet it was not until about 4 years ago that I heard about this book. I started it while on the plane to New Jersey on a brief stopover enroute to Italy on a study abroad trip and incidentally forgot it in the seat pocket (note to you and self: don’t ever put a personal belonging in a pocket of a seat on a plane or you will forget it and lose it.)
It was not a “cheap” book so I was pretty disappointed as I was not going to spend the money on it again. But my brother, who recommended it, loaned me his copy 2 years ago to finish reading. Well, I only just finished it. It is quite the read.
At 311 pages separated into 4 parts of varying length, it is nothing but profound and deep in the realm of intellectual and spiritual truth. It’s parts cover discipline, love, growth and religion, and grace. I told you it was intense. Or if I didn’t, I’m telling you now. It’s intense.
I whole heartedly encourage each and every person to get a copy and read it. Read it cover to cover and then go back and re-read the sections individually to focus more closely on that aspect of your life. But as Dr. Peck advises at the end, it is not for the lighthearted or those who are too lazy to put in the work. Momma, sister, friend. DON’T BE THAT LAZY PERSON!
I get it. Life is exhausting. I finished this book last week. And just last night as I was standing in the bathroom thinking about all that I needed to get done to clean up the bathroom, my room, and my life in general, about where I wish I was, where I want to be, how I want to be there now, and all that I still have to do to get there, exhaustion just came over me like a tidal wave. There is a good chance that you, too, are a single mother. Your kid(s) rely heavily on you for sustenance, care, attention, and then there is work, the normal cleaning of the house, physical exercise, and the car is breaking down, the lawn needs to be mowed, and this and that. When are you going to come up with the time to read a mentally challenging 311-page book and then even be able to touch the parts of the book that speak to your life?
Break it down, sister. But tackle it. I’m going to go back and read it since it has been so long since I read the first part of the book. But I’m going to focus on the four different parts individually first. And as I do, I will write a post concerning that section. But here is a brief (and completely inadequate) synopsis with my thoughts of the entire thing.
“Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems” (Peck 15). I have talked about discipline before. Mainly in the area of setting a schedule for yourself and following through with it in order to accomplish your goals. Peck approaches it in similar fashion in that you have to have discipline (or develop it) in order to address the emotional and spiritual growth issues needed to deal with all that life brings.
In addition, Peck discusses how discipline is needed in every facet of life. He even discusses how discipline is needed to discipline your children. Many parents out there “discipline” their children but without discipline themselves and thus spurns child abuse, neglect, and a whole host of problems thereafter. Children from undisciplined parents have to learn to develop discipline in their life to be able to avoid repeating the cycle and to live a healthy life.
Peck also talks about how discipline is needed in the area of gratification. Many issues arise when we cannot discipline ourselves to accept delayed gratification and demand for instant gratification. And isn’t that so true? Today is all about instant gratification. There is so much more to the aspect of discipline, but I will leave it at that for now.
Some previous posts which involve different aspects of discipline include: “Dare To Challenge the Stigma of Being A Single Mom“, “How to Juggle Your Roles and Goals as a Single Mother“, and “How To Narrow Down Big Dreams to Workable Tasks“. One post which illustrates some of the benefits of discipline includes my post on how I paid off my car loan and one student loan just over a year after graduating college. But these are only a small aspect of the definition of discipline.
Ever wondered what love really was? Peck suggests that it is the “motive, the energy for discipline” (81). He goes on to give a definition of love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth” (81). This is a very short but accurate definition in my opinion. I’ve always viewed love as a verb and not as the sexual nature, but the choice to place another above your own self, however, there is an aspect of love that requires you to love yourself to be able to adequately love others. Thus Peck’s definition includes both of those aspects.
Peck further discusses the myths of “falling in love” or the aspect of “romantic love” and how those believing in those myths often find themselves disappointed later in life and falling out of love believing they must have been wrong all along. These individuals have not learned or do not care to put in the work to develop a love that lasts as they are focused primarily on feelings and pleasure.
Finally in this section, Peck goes over the different risks inherent in real love and how many are terrified of facing and dealing with those risks. Among those risks include loss, commitment, independence, and confrontation. Love is not without difficulties but the rewards of putting in the work and staying the course far outweigh the risks.
Growth & Religion
Peck remains fairly open-minded about religion throughout his book, but he does recognize the importance of psychologists being open to the benefits of religious teachings with their clients. He challenges the notion that science and religion run completely opposite tracks and purports that the “unification of religion and science is the most significant and exciting happening in our intellectual life today” (228). He goes on to provide 3 different examples in which his client either required working away from religious teachings, working towards religious teachings, or simply challenged with their religious ideology. Each one saw great success with the differing methods.
Consequently, Peck admonishes his colleagues not to throw out all religious aspects because of their personal beliefs (or lack thereof) but to use it according to their clients’ individual needs. “Some religions may be unhealthy for some people; others may be healthy” (224).
Peck also advocates for growth in all areas, mentally and spiritually. Remaining stagnant in our childlike mentality or even at a certain point is detrimental to our world view and ability to cope with different struggles that come.
Lastly, Peck discusses the subject of grace. He proposes that grace is a “common phenomenon” and yet will remain “unexplainable within the conceptual framework of conventional science and ‘natural law’ as we understand it” (235-236). It is the reason why one might suffer severe trauma as a kid and turn out with minimal psychological and behavioral issues as an adult.
Grace operates in our unconscious minds in ways we cannot comprehend, and it is external to our own being but still serves to fulfill the purpose of nurturing, supporting, protecting and enhancing “human life and spiritual growth” (260). Grace is the driving force to keep going, for me. Grace means that certain situations in my life does not mean my child or me will become a statistic. It is the reason why I push to keep going and to make it out the other side thriving.
It is here that I will leave my synopsis of the whole book. It is extremely packed with incredible insights and rich truths about the overall psychological workings of humankind and where our responsibilities lie that I strongly recommend everyone pick up this book and read it. Not just once. But at least twice. Once through for the whole book and then a second time slowly, reading each section individually, picking it apart piece by piece and contemplating how one can apply each part to their own life.
We are responsible for our own individual growth first and then the careful shepherding of the little lives we have been entrusted with. We must rise to the challenge to be the best moms (and dads) we can be to help our kids get a better start on life than maybe we ourselves got.
All of life requires discipline in some area and attempting to develop discipline without love would prove futile. Furthermore, for the improvement of one’s self and society, we must all be devoted to growing and enlarging our mind and spiritual understanding and giving grace and accepting it when necessary. It all works together as a whole and cannot be completely separated from the other aspects to be completely effective.
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