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The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Potholes and Pitfalls

It’s been a rough winter here in the Philadelphia area as it has been throughout the country. Below freezing temps, gusty winds, downed wires, crystalline coating on trees limbs, power outages and many feet of snow at one fell swoop. Once upon a time, I would have reveled in the seasonal sound-off. I had planned on moving to Vermont after college, but following a 10 day Outward Bound Course in Maine and New Hampshire in January of 1981, I thought better of it. Believe it or not, after living in Florida for two years, I missed the change of seasons and couldn’t wait to get back to Pennsylvania. A case of ‘be careful what you wish for’, since that March, we had 3 feet of snow in a few day time period. Our dog Merlin (a cute schnauzer-terrier mix) had never seen the white stuff and even after we dug a trench on the back porch for him to walk through to do his business, he still shivered in his….paws. Once we showed him that the snow monster wasn’t going to gobble him up, he was out there with us, rolling around in it, turning his salt and pepper coat white.

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Another challenging side effect of winter weather are potholes. There are times when it seems like I am maneuvering through an obstacle course and need to have the skills of an Indy 500 driver. Even though I have a Jeep, I still feel as if it and I are going to be swallowed whole. Dodging and weaving, slowing down at curves, using my Spidey Sense/radar to detect those just around the bend, senses on hyper-vigilance mode. I haven’t counted them, but I would imagine that there are at least 50 on my way to and from the office where I see clients. Potholes are formed by the expansion and contraction of ground water after it has entered into the ground under the surface of the roadway. When water freezes, it expands, causing these craters. Pressure from the vehicles driving over them, deepens the cracks and crevices.

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One of the million potholes in the city.....You can even see the old bricks underneath.

It occurred to me this morning that life is like that. There are those minor fissures that I can easily drive over. Those no big deal inconveniences such as getting started later than expected to head out the door. Although I am scrupulous about keeping appointments, sometimes life circumstances intervene and I then call ahead to let the person know that I may be a few minutes late. Once I have done that, the monkey mind that would have chattered that I was irresponsible for not planning ahead, is silenced for a bit at least.

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Then there are the potholes that are a few inches in diameter; disruptive, but not destructive. Temporary blips on my radar screen, such as a flash of anger or frustration, a misspoken word that was not meant to harm, just to vent. My human-ness showing through when I would prefer to be ‘super-human’ and beyond messy emotions. Feeling like I stepped on someone’s toes or making assumptions falls into that category.

Lastly, there are the sinkholes that seem like they may indeed swallow me up, never to be seen again. Fortunately, there aren’t too many of them. Cavernous regrets about relationship interactions, words of love left unspoken, words venom-laced spewed at times,  not speaking up for myself or others when I see injustice done. Those are the ones that I need to see coming, so that I can slow down and swerve around them, thus keeping myself and literally, all four wheels grounded, stable, in integrity and in harmony with my values.

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I am reminded of one of my favorite readings that I speak of often in my role as addictions counselor working with folks in recovery. It was written by Portia Nelson.

I
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 me forever to find a way out.

II
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.

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III
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.

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

V
I walk down another street.

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