A hole in my sidewalk

I’ve been ruminating a lot lately about my need for a career change and the fears going along with it. It hasn’t served me well. The rumination I mean. Not the realization that I need to change careers. In fact, ruminating about it has amplified my fears instead of calming them, reminding me of a poem I once read about bad habits: There is a hole in my sidewalk.


Autobiography in Five Chapters
by Portia Nelson


I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost...
I am hopeless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.


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'm in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.


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.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.


I walk down another street.


It’s one of the most poetic and succinct analyses of the trappy nature of old patterns of behavior I have ever read. I can’t count the many times I have resolved not to do a certain something anymore, only to find myself doing it again. Sometimes I even observe myself as I’m doing it, fully aware of what’s going on, yet still unable to catch myself in the act.

Mind you, having resolved not to do it again implies that I’m already in chapter III. Which should be reassuring because at least I know where my hole is and can concentrate on getting out faster and entering chapter IV next time around.

The thing with rumination, though, is that while I’m ruminating on a certain subject I tend to forget that I’m ruminating. Because the subject of my rumination takes center stage. I only realize what has happened when the effects of rumination start showing up: anxiety, restlessness and a hopeless, if not depressive mood.

Rumination is unhealthy, it does not solve any problem. It just goes around in circles and wraps you a heavy fog that prevents you from seeing the mundane but beautiful things in life. You tend to miss how blissful a morning coffee can taste, how healing the soft touch of sunshine in your face can feel, and how much more you could enjoy the many small and big pleasures and miracles that life has to offer on a daily basis.

At least I have decided not to stay stuck in that hole for the entire day. I crawled out of it about an hour ago and started writing this post. I can feel the fear subside. Finally. And I so can’t wait for the day I enter chapter V.

But mind you, there might be more than just one hole…


12 thoughts on “A hole in my sidewalk

  1. Hi! I really like how you described the negative effects and how rumination affects us without realizing.. It’s important to realize this to be able to change our habit or find a way to channel it out. Glad I found your blog 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my favorite poems! And a beautifully written reminder that we are writing the pages of each chapter with every thought, word and deed. There are no insignificant choices …. every step brings us closer to or further away from where we would most like to be. Thanks for this thoughtful reminder …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Karen, I’m always happy to see you stop by and glad you liked the post. 🙂 I think you’re right about that there are no insignificant choices. We’re deciding who we are and we who we will become by our daily practice, either way. Yes, definitely a great poem!


  3. I really relate to this post…it’s so hard to break out of bad habits, both physically and mentally. But, as you say, there comes a time when we choose a different sidewalk. Best wishes as you continue that journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful post and poem- thanks for sharing both- on returning to repeating thoughts and habits, but also how to get out. Absolutely right, that awareness- and it is gradual is key! I think I’ll find a way to have that poem close by. Good job on getting out of the hole too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have to apologize for being fixated on the sidewalk dream thing, but I like that poem a lot! And of course, it not only reminds me of my childhood dream of falling through the hole in the sidewalk, but I had that dream many times. I actually remember being afraid to go to sleep for fear of having it again.
    I just watched your video. It’s really kind of creepy to me that there are things falling around in the dark, similar to the leaves in my dream. I also just remembered something about my dream that I haven’t thought about for years: I did eventually dream about finally climbing out of the hole! Now I wonder even more, what that was all about. A very interesting post to come across this morning.
    Your post also reminded me of something I was told at one time about the human tendency to fail when thinking only about NOT doing something. It was about concentrating on what we actually want to accomplish, not what we need to avoid. I find it kind of amusing when I’m driving and I see something in the road. I’ve been told that to avoid it, I should not look at the obstruction, but should look to where I want to go. Watching the big rock in the road supposedly increases your chances of running over it!
    You wrote this quite a while ago and hopefully things have changed since then. If it’s any consolation, just know I’ve repeated the mistake, knowing fully well that it didn’t work before. Change is hard sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

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