Thursday, April 8, 2010

There's a Hole in My Sidewalk

In my therapist's office, there is a framed poster that I keep re-reading.

The title of the poster is "There's a Hole in My Sidewalk" and it's a poem by Portia Nelson.

Here it is:

Chapter 1.

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 2.

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 3.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in… its a habit.
But, my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4.

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

Chapter 5.

I walk down another street.

I LOVE this poem.

It sums up so many learning and life experiences that I've had. And for me, I think it's especially true about my relationship to (and with) food.

For 30 years, I lived in Chapter 1. I ate and overate for decades of my life. If you had asked me why I ate the way I did, I wouldn't really have an answer for you - or at least not a "good" one. I ate because it's what I always knew. I ate because it felt good - at least until it didn't. I was helpless. I was lost. I was miserable. My binges would last for weeks or even months. I gained weight like a champ and it took a long time to turn that train around to where I could start losing the weight. But even then, my relationship with food was a strict one - full of rules and conditions that were never able to last - or at least not for long. Not only did I not know what the solution was, I didn't even know what the problem was!

For most of the last two years, I've spent a lot of my time in Chapter 2. Sometimes I saw the hole and tried to ignore it anyway. I think that I had an inkling that food wouldn't help any situation, but I ate as if it did. I ate more (and faster) than I had before - hoping that I could trick it into working. But inevitably, I'd find myself in that hole - be it a sugar fog, a place where I despised myself, or a place where I cursed everything that MADE me that way. My binges were shorter, but the time between the binge episodes was pretty short too.

Eventually, Chapter 3 became more of the norm. Sure, I'd slip up every now and again when it came to food, but I recognized the feelings (and boy was that a process all of it's own) that led up to the food over-consumption. In fact, today I caught myself eating a handful of Hershey Kisses and literally thought "Wait. WHAT are you doing?" I wasn't even aware that I was in the "hole" at first...but as soon as I did, I realized that I was the one that was choosing to eat them. I put the rest of the foil-covered bites of goodness in a community bowl for others to eat. I am learning. I'm getting out of these "holes" faster now. I don't overeat often and gone are the days of eating bags and bags of potato chips and candies in one sitting.

Every now and again, I realize that I'm spending more time in Chapter 4. Maybe my weight doesn't reflect this change as much as it could, but I'm telling relationship with food has gotten much healthier. I've been able to look at an opportunity to overeat and stuff myself and have been able to ask myself if that's really what I want to do. I've been able to recognize that the hole looks like home. It looks like it could be comforting and it sure looks like it would be safe. But I choose to walk around it anyway. I choose to find my safety in ways other than food. Sometimes I figure out the points/calories that that hole represents and decide to eat something different. I'm able to navigate around the hole with much more ease now. I'm able to use various tricks of the trade to avoid it.

With where I'm at now, there is no going back to Chapter 1. In fact, there is no going back to Chapter 2. I'm looking forward to spending most of my time in Chapter 4. I'm looking forward to living more in an awake and aware state - one where I'm conscious and mindful of my choices.

But, oh - to walk down a different street entirely? To become a person that just IS intuitive when it comes to eating?

Why that'd be divine.

My goal is starting to shift from being a certain number on the scale. My goal is to literally become a different person entirely when it comes to food - and have a body that reflects that. My goal is love myself enough to choose a different street/way of being.

My goal is to be on a different street altogether. It doesn't mean that I forget all about the holes. I still plan on being mindful of the triggers that I used to have. And it doesn't mean that I forget all the ways I got out of the holes. I'm not going to forget about points values or healthy eating guidelines.

It just means that I won't live my life in fear of them.


Katy said...

Oh how I can relate to so so so so much. Thank god for therapists right?

Unrelated-Have you tried stinger protein bars? They are made in Steamboat springs and are hands down the best bar out there. Not sure if you eat protein bars, but for a snack or something sweet, these ones are the best! We get the small ones with 190 calories, not the meal replacement ones with 390! The ingredients are good too, not chock full of chemicals. Just an FYI. They're in Whole Foods.

TinaM said...

Great Poem, and a Great Post.

Misspudding said...

Beautiful, beautiful poem. When you put it like that, holy all makes sense.

Kind of like the old, "Do it once, shame on you, do it again, shame on me" or "Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result = insanity" bit.

Rob Dyess said...

New to your blog. Just found you yesterday... but I will be finding you more and more.

Love the post. THE poem is so correct.

I think that knowing yourself helps you to walk down the other street! At least that has been the case for me.


Margie M. said...

What a powerful poem. Thank you so much for sharing it with all of us walking down the streets and living in the various chapters of our lives.

Margie M. writes at:

Seth said...

really good post.

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