There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk | Reflections & Highlights

Portia Nelson. There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery. Atria, 2012. (131 pages)


I wonder sometimes if poetry and art are simply the highest levels of quantum probability fields; that they are a cloud of possibilities until someone observes it, and it collapses into one set of meanings in space/time. Even if my analogy decays, the idea, I believe still holds.


I discovered this book when someone introduced me to the “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.” (Thanks Jon!) When I first read it, there was a sense of delightful irony, that it took four chapters for the author to “learn” the lesson of simply taking a different street to avoid the potholes and challenges that come with walking down a street (i.e., “living.) Oh how slow, dense, and foolish we humans are. But have I missed something? Was that the only refraction of light from this poem?

Maybe chapter five is death? Or perhaps more ominously, reincarnation, that life repeats itself and there are no lessons learned? That chapter 6 is merely a reiteration (a recapitulation?) of chapter 1?

Maybe chapter 5 is enlightenment, a new awakening to a different reality than the one we’ve been living in for, oh, say four chapters!? Who knew there was another street?

Perhaps chapter five is what you get when you stop assigning blame, when we let go of “fault.”

Who knows how many other options there are. Perhaps as many as there are readers, that the poem, like quantum mechanics, spurs on multiple universes in many different dimensions. It is this possibility–or at least, the belief in that possibility–that makes books like this so intriguing, and so worthwhile. They do not have a story to tell. They expose us to the story we are telling ourselves.

Below are my highlighted poems, the ones that spoke to me. You can try and discern what story I am living by reading them. I hope you enjoy observing this probability field. I hope I get to one day experience what truth the cloud collapsed upon by your observation.



My life has been a series of wonderful experiences. It’s a pity I wasn’t there for most of them.


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 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 this 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…but,
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.

Will you please stop trying to finish my sentences before I do?

It’s humiliating!

After all…it’s my sentence!
Let me show it off!

I know you are really trying to let me know how sensitive and smart you are…
and how deeply you understand me…

But…if you are that smart…
please let me think that I am smarter than you by not impressing me with how smart you are in the middle of my sentences!

Of course, if I am smart enough to be aware of what you are up to…

Then, I should be smart enough to know it doesn’t matter what you do in the middle of my sentences.

Maybe I’m not so smart!

Now, that is humiliating!

I hope that what you are after is an exchange…not a reaction.

Sorry I didn’t answer.
I was listening to what you weren’t saying.

This is no carnival!
I can ride with you…
I am not your merry-go-round.

When you have discovered the difference…
I’ll meet you at the Ferris wheel.

I know you heard me…
but were you listening?

You were so busy finding yourself in me…
That I had to run from you
To keep you from killing both of us.

The softer I walk
The louder I hear.

I am astounded at how long it takes to discover…
for the first time, the things I have learned…
over and over again all my life.

Listen to what you criticize most severely
And you will hear what you most fear you are.

The nicest thing about my life, now, is
that I am here with me
most of the time.

It is much easier to be lonely without someone…
than it is to be lonely with someone.

Real belief
is a quiet thing…
too busy to being itself to look for disciples.

It is a waste of time and energy to worry about what others are thinking about you.

You can never know exactly what another person is thinking…AND, the worst part it [sic]…
they are usually not thinking about you at all.

They are too busy worrying about what others are thinking about them.

So, the truth is, all those terrible thoughts you thought they might be thinking about you,
are your own thoughts about yourself.

Any day of the week I would choose to be “out” with others and in touch with myself…
than to be “in” with others and out of touch with myself.

Nothing matters, now.
I mean…everything matters so much that nothing matters now.

[via: This is exactly the sentiment of Lulu Miller’s book Why Fish Don’t Exist]

About VIA

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: