27 August 2008

Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters

Watching all the speeches on the DNC, I keep hearing about the old story of getting knocked down by life and getting back up again, pulling one's self up by their bootstraps and not complaining about it. It makes sense; resilience and the redemptive self are very important parts of the narrative of the American Dream (a concept I continue to find problematic, but that's another issue for another post...). For me, some of the most compelling narratives involve overcoming what can be the most insidious force in life: one's self.  

This is super nerdy, but I always think about this recurring quote from one of my new favorite tv shows, Battlestar Galactica: "God helps those who help themselves." I used to have a professor at TC who shared poems with us, and one day she gave us the following poem that resonates with this theme. The poem talks about having the self-awareness to recognize the reality of the situation, the humility to admit your own mistakes, and the fortitude to change your behavior as a result.  Many days, I feel like I'm on Chapter 2, maybe 3, but I like to think that I'm on the way to Chapter 5.

Autobiography in 5 Chapters
by Portia Nelson

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost...I am hopeless.
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 still, 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 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.

1 comment:

Elaine said...

Hi Steph,
You are right that the "pulling self up by bootstraps" story was spotlighted a lot in the DNC, and I was surprised at how much more poignant and relevant those stories were to me today than when we last had a Democratic Convention.

I used to think of those autobiographies as a belabored and hokey, because they I did not relate to them. But now that I am done with the part of life that was prescribed for me, I am eager to hear about how people overcome challenges in the less clearly navigable phase of life, because I am realizing it is easy to become defeated by them.

Anyway, I know that was a bit of a digression from your post, but I am glad you brought that subject up. It just makes me feel better to know how other people deal with getting through difficulty and moving on. :)

Also, I like that poem a lot.