Chapter One of My Life. I walk down the street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It still takes forever to find a way out.
Chapter Two. I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place! But it isn’t my fault. And it still takes a long time to get out.
Chapter Three. I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there. I still fall in. It’s a habit! My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
Chapter Four. I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
Chapter Five. I walk down a different street.
As children, we have little say about the street we were born on. We walk down the street we find ourselves on and fall into the holes that exist there. It’s not fair and it’s still hard for me to understand why some individuals are subjected to such difficult situations in their early lives. But fairness, at least our version of it, does not seem to be a law of this universe. Rather, responsibility and choice appear to be the themes that lift us out of self created suffering and addiction.
What I like about Portia Nelson’s poem is that she shows the gradual progression from denial of responsibility, to dawning awareness, to eventual acceptance of choice that leads to liberation. The new street is liberation. It takes a while to find it. One of my jobs as a therapist is to remind discouraged street walkers that progress is being made. They didn’t stay as long in the hole this time. They are owning more responsibility for the fall. They at least they caught a glimpse of the new street. Real progress is slow and progressive. It’s usually invisible to others. But it is real nonetheless and when you stay the course it will manifest over time.
Here are some thoughts about how to navigate your way to a new street: Ask for directions. When you fall into the hole, trace your steps and learn from your mistakes. Do this without blame or shame. Notice your blame and shame and write about it, talk about it and breathe about it. In other words, move the toxic energy. Notice what you have learned about your hole. Share what you’ve learned with others. Laugh about it when possible. Notice that your hole is similar to your neighbor’s hole. Notice yourself judging your neighbor’s hole and remember that this could be you, and will be soon. Talk and write and yoga about your judgments. Look to others with warmth. Remember, all as is should be. You are exactly where you need to be.
I’ll see you on the street!