Hole in the sidewalk

One of my favorite poems is “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson.  This poem tells about falling into the same hole in the sidewalk over and over again until the author takes responsibility for avoiding the hole and decides to go a different route.  It reminds me of when I go down the same path of having the same argument / getting into the same situations over and over– and get nowhere.

Over the past couple of years, our oldest son has been in some crisis or another. My husband and I tried the same things over and over to “help” him and all we did was end up in a hole ourselves. The stress of the situation took a huge toll on my husband’s and my health. There were days that I could simply function– only take care of my own and my family’s immediate needs.  Some days, if I simply knew what I was going to cook for dinner it was a good day.  My husband suffered physical stress symptoms that led to a health scare and he was much less productive at work.

We decided that we had to do things differently. We learned that we cannot help our child if we are down in a hole ourselves. We also realized the will never learn to avoid the “hole in his sidewalk” if we keep rescuing him when he falls. We finally practiced tough love and let our child, who has a disability and a personality disorder, suffer the consequences of his actions. It has been the hardest thing we have had to do as parents. We didn’t abandon him, but we took a step back, and got him other supports so he could live a more independent life. It was up to him to use those supports. Our son dealt with expulsion from school, homelessness, theft of all his savings, and met some dangerous people. When he was penniless and felt threatened, he finally saw that he was indeed in a deep hole and was willing to try those supports.  He is now learning to do things differently and has his own apartment.

We discovered that there are many parents like us who lost their retirement savings and became so stressed out that their health failed due to rescuing their children, disabled and abled, over and over without regard to their own well-being. Learning their stories has helped us tremendously in choosing a different path. Our other children are now less stressed and we are healthier.

So, friends and readers, I challenge you to think about the “holes” that you fall into over and over again.  Maybe it’s an unhealthy relationship. Maybe it’s an argument with a co-worker, spouse, parent, or child.  Maybe it’s your own ruminating.  Or maybe, like me, you have a tendency to procrastinate over and over and then get stressed and snarky! Whatever it is, let’s work to go down another street that leads to the life that we are meant to live.