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Meadowlark Hospice

Dawn's Notes

Another Street - August 2016
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW

Portia Nelson was a talented singer, lyricist, and writer who lived from 1920 until 2001.  She played the role of one of the nuns, Sister Berthe, in the popular musical The Sound of Music.  Sister Berthe was the nun who helped save the von Trapp family in pre-World War II Austria by sabotaging a Nazi car so the car would not start.  In the play, Portia uttered the memorable line, “Reverend Mother, I have sinned.”   
She was a vocal coach to Jane Russell.  She wrote hundreds of songs and was successful as an author.  One of her most memorable writings is her “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” which became popular in self-help and recovery books.   

Recently, I found a copy of the poem.  When I re-read the words, I realized the wisdom of the poem can be applied to many different situations in life, such as pulling oneself out of addictions, avoiding people who pull us down, freeing oneself from abusive relationships, or getting out of financial holes.    
Here is her poem entitled, “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.”

"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.”

Recently I applied the principles in the poem to a difficult situation in my own life, and it helped.  I also believe that the poem may have significance to those who are grieving.   As you know, grieving can be very difficult, almost like continuing to fall back into a deep hole in the sidewalk over and over again. 

            So here are a few suggestions:

    • First of all, believe that the pain in your heart can get easier or at least more tolerable.
    • Believe that life can be fulfilling again, but you may have to look for ways to make it meaningful. 
    • If what you are doing has not helped lessen your pain, try something else.  
    • Keep an open mind.  Try something new—exercise, music, art, finding a new goal, writing, taking a trip, rearranging your house, volunteering, etc.
    • Be creative—think about doing what you enjoy.

      Albert Einstein, one of the most brilliant men who ever lived, said something that fits with Portia Nelson’s poem.  Mr. Einstein defined the word insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  There are times when we need to “walk down another street” in order to avoid falling into the deep holes.  May you find ways to lessen the pain in your heart after your loss. 

Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice
709 Liberty, Clay Center, Kansas
(785) 632-2225
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator