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Cheryl Hughes: My Career As A Woman

The Hole In The Sidewalk -  In September, my sister, Marsha, directed my attention to the following:

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters, By Portia Nelson, 1980

1)  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.

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 the same place.

But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.


3)     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.

4)      I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

5)        I walk down another street.

Regret is my hole in the sidewalk.  Regret, the rear view mirror of life, has kept me stuck for days, years, decades.  My biggest regret has been, and always will be, my mother’s regret.  For those of you who don’t know my background, my parents were divorced when I was young.  My father was granted custody of the four daughters (I was number 3), and we didn’t see our mother or grandmother again until sixteen years later.  By the time we located our mother, she had been married six times, become an alcoholic, and was involved in various illegal activities.  The four of us tried to build a relationship with her, but it never seemed to happen.  I always thought it ironic that she died sixteen years after we found her.

After her death, I came upon a religious tract, that had Jefferson County Jail stamped on the front cover, in her personal papers.  I turned it over and found the words Let the children down…Let the children down…Let the children down…written over and over in an ever-widening circle.  I had located my mother’s hole in the sidewalk, the one she had fallen into, but never climbed out of.

Four years later, after the birth of my first child, I would follow my mother into the very same hole.  I can’t give you a reasonable explanation as to why I fell into the same hole.  I can offer excuses and make justifications, but they really don’t add up to legitimate reasons.  I do remember the day I climbed out.  It was just a few years ago, I’m ashamed to say.  I was packing my things for my move from Texas back to Kentucky.  My youngest daughter, Nikki, looked me in the eye and said, “You know, Mom, you’re going to have to reach the place in your life where you stop being the victim.”  It was a two-by-four to the face.  It was also a ladder leading up and out of the hole in the sidewalk.

There are still days when I walk to the edge of the hole and stare over into the abyss, but so far, I haven’t fallen in.  I’m hoping by the end of my life, I will have become wise enough to walk down another street.

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