No TrespassingThe key to failure is trying to please everybody. — Bill Cosby

My beloved little red Toyota catches on fire, burning to a molten blob. A week later, I land in the emergency room with a ruptured disc after lifting a child out of her wheelchair.  While recuperating, I try a do-it-yourself hair highlighting kit that leaves me looking, well, think Phyllis Diller.

I feel confused. I have tried so hard to do all the right things. How could my life have gotten so off track?

I am in the grip of a disorder some people might call manic compression – trying to do everything perfectly in an attempt to please everyone around me. Some of my friends seem to be enjoying life, but I’m definitely not.

I flounder, looking for answers to this dilemma, without the vaguest inkling that I have created the situation. Why are these bad things happening?  Will I ever sleep again?

You know how sometimes little presents arrive just when we need them? I was having lunch with a friend who was excited to share a story she had just read. She reached into her purse and pulled out a copy of Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters 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.

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.

As I read this concise story, I spotted my own  deep hole in the sidewalkthe habit of putting everyone else’s needs ahead of mine.

Because I had been so busy taking care of the real and imagined needs of the people in my life I didn’t take time to do the proper maintenance on my Toyota. I injured my back because I felt overwhelmed, rushing to get to my next meeting, and didn’t stop to ask for help lifting the student.

I realized I was living in Chapter II. I had ignored the warning signs and fallen into my deep hole again.

Can I get out of the hole? Stay tuned…

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