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Friday, January 11, 2013

The Practice of New Habits

In my own struggle to develop healthier habits I have often turned to the wise words of Portia Nelson's poem:

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 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 am 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.

This has been the story of my life for the last twenty years.

Over and over I've determined to set boundaries and over and over again I have failed.

I don't want to hurt other people.

I don't want to cause pain.

I don't know how to say what I really need to say.

So I've fallen into the hole of sweet compliance again and again at the expense of my true self.

I see now, on the verge of turning 50, that I can't continue to live a life only dedicated to pleasing other people.  Pleasing God?  Yes.  Other people?  Sometimes.  Myself?  As long as I'm not causing harm to others.

I have to live the life I am called to live - not necessarily the life that those around me would like me to live.

I'm sure there are times when I will walk down the wrong street and maybe even fall into the hole again.  But I also know that I have the strength and the courage to climb out.  And I'm grateful for that freedom.


  1. Such truth in that poem . . . and your words. He always gives strength for the new habits, even when it takes longer than we expected to develop them. Thank you for sharing this!