Do you remember the kid’s game, Would you rather? Would you rather have pins in your eyes or your ears? Would you rather eat only hotdogs or only ice cream for a week? And on and on…

What came to mind is the true story of a grade school friend, I’ll call him Donald, who was charged with medicare fraud. Donald was a GP and sentenced to 6 months in a federal prison. The prison happened to be located on the same air force base in Florida, where I was stationed as a major (a psychiatrist) during the Viet Nam era. That’s important, because I have first-hand knowledge that this base, located on the Florida panhandle, was really a beautiful place, with views of the gulf and powdered sugar beaches.

One “interesting” experience was the time that the base rabbi  “invited” the medical staff to join him and his family as they hosted a bagels and lox brunch at the prison. The rabbi was a colonel and his “invitation” was actually a direct order. That morning dozens of doctors and prisoners  shared the buffet overlooking the bay. Surprisingly, it was a pleasant experience.

Donald was incarcerated a few years after I had completed my tour of duty, but the same rabbi was still hosting his monthly brunch. I assumed that Donald took full advantage of this prison perk.

A few years later, a reliable source told me that after Donald got out of prison he decided to get divorced, give up his practice, and start a new life. Donald was heard to say, “Those 6 months were the best 6 months of my life. I never realized how miserable I was until I was sent to prison.”

The last I heard, Donald had moved halfway across the country and was living “happily ever after”.

Our lives are finite and if we don’t make the most of them we waste a very precious, irreplaceable commodity. As most cancer survivors have learned, every moment that we are alive and comfortable is a treasure.

What we show the world is often just the tip of the iceberg. Our true selves are often below the surface, undiscoverable to the world and often to ourselves. Listening with the Third Ear (Post#1) to our own thoughts and feelings, exploring the contradictions, fantasies and dreams that come to mind, letting our mind wander and then examining why it went where it went is one way of examining the hidden iceberg. Are we happy? Is hidden anger causing our depression? Who hurt our feelings and made us angry? Why can’t we allow ourselves to be angry?

So, would you rather be in prison or be married? It may be best to figure it out without having to have a bagel brunch with the rabbi.



  1. Good question. My knee jerk reaction is to ask if there is any difference between marriage and prison ?


  2. Sometimes working a job you hate is a prison. I remember looking out the window of a college I was employed by thinking when God, when is this meaningless existence going to stop. I was held prisoner by medical insurance. It wasn’t till I lost my job and had to figure out another course of action that I felt freedom. I am going to get my Masters in Social work at the age of 59 and I feel better than I have in 10 years although monetarily challenged


  3. Nicely written and thought-provoking. Sometimes, marriage IS a prison, but the known (however bad) is less scary than the unknown – and normal life gives us neither the time, nor the tools to change.


  4. I also think that the time Donald spent apart or outside of his life allowed for greater perspective and introspection. Often it’s difficult to see what’s right in front of us. Your friend Donald had that time to really think about what he wanted and needed to “live happily ever after”.


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