Nella Coiro

Author, Forgiveness Coach & Online Instructor

Avoiding that Darn Hole in the Sidewalk

Hi everyone, I have been busy working on my book, so I haven’t posted in a while.  This week, Portia Nelson’s poem re-captured my interest so I am going to write my blog on this. 
This eloquently written poem is called “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters”, and it explores personal growth and change as journey which embraces unexpected detours and temporary roadblocks. I really love this poem because although brief, it is filled with beautiful and profound visuals.
Chapter One
I walk down the street;
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk;
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless,
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.
Chapter Two
I walk down the same street;
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk;
I pretend I don't see it;
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place,
but it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
Chapter Three
I walk down the same street;
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk;
I see it is 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 is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
Chapter Five
I walk down another street.”
In the first chapter, the person unexpectedly falls into the hole and it’s takes a great deal of effort to get out of that hole. The hole in the sidewalk can be symbolic of so many situations in life – self defeating behavior, bad habits, mistakes, poor judgment, a relationship. (I’m sure you add to this list).
Now, walking down the same street, (in chapter two), she pretends that the hole isn’t there, (tries to ignore it).  Denial? Guess what happens next? Yep, she falls in that same hole yet again, and then becomes frustrated and annoyed with herself. She might have said to herself, “What the hell? Why am I here again?” - Been there and done that more than once. Have you?
This takes us to chapter three.  At this point, there is really no reasonable excuse for falling in that same darn hole again. There’s that same hole again. She sees it, and she still falls in. Oops?
This is what Albert Einstein might call insanity, which he defines doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. Good grief! Why? Simply Habit. It’s familiar. Comfortable and frustrating, but nonetheless, familiar. Habits are sometimes hard to break. 
This brings us to the next chapter. In chapter four, she finally gets it, but not completely. Yes, she walked around the hole this time (bravo), but she is still walking down the same street.  Eek! It’s so hard to let go completely and change our habits, isn’t it?
Weary enough? In chapter five, she finally gets it.  She walks down a different street and avoids the temptation completely. 

As we fall into the holes in the sidewalk of life, we climb out of the hole and become stronger as we learn lessons. The metaphorical “holes” create “wholeness” because each hole is an invitation for personal growth. 

Your thoughts?


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Hi Nella, I remember reading this poem a long time ago, and as I was reading your blog, I was thinking that I sure need to read it at this point in my life. I have broken up with my boyfriend so many times, and then he keeps convincing me that things will be different this time, and they aren’t. Then we break up again. He’s a very controlling and jealous guy, and I’ve never given him a reason to be jealous. I’m a shy girl and I don’t flirt with guys. So, we broke up again right before Christmas. Convenient? This time I am refusing his calls and blocked him on the internet. Today I was thinking about why I keep doing this, and came across this blog. WOW. It helped me to understand myself a lot better and I’m so damned tired of this crazy relationship, and so ready to “walk down a different street.”So, thanks so much! Have a happy new year.






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