Skip to main content

Chapter 1

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.

Chapter 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.

Chapter 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.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

Portia Nelson was a woman with many talents. She was a singer, songwriter, poet, actress, pianist, painter, and photographer. She was most famous for her appearances in the prestigious, award-winning 1950s cabarets. She has performed in all major cities like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Europe. Her graceful figure and beautiful features matched perfectly to her elegant repertoire in silvery soprano, flawless diction, and intimacy. Portia’s first film role was Sister Berthe in the famous movie The Sound of Music (1965) which set a trend and she got cast again for a nun role in a couple of movies. Her longest-running role was on television where she played nanny Mrs. Gurney in the show “All My Children”. Her well-known poem, “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters”, became a backbone of twelve-step programs used by various self-help groups and psychotherapists.

Early Life:
Portia Nelson was named Betty Mae Nelson by her parents. Youngest of nine children, she was born in Brigham City, Utah. Her parents were Danish descendant and were Mormons. Portia quit college in 2 years and moved to Los Angeles seeking a career in music.

Notable achievements:
If ever someone wrote Portia Nelson biography you will find how multi-talented she was. She had an amazing career as a cabaret singer, music arranger, theatre artists, writer, and actress. However, the most notable cultural achievement was her milestone book, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk. Portia Nelson poems from the book were later turned into Broadway musicals. It was presented in the prestigious York Theatre in Manhattan. Portia Nelson Autobiography in Five Short Chapters became one of the highly popular self-help writing of all time.

Later Life:
Portia dedicated her later life to writing songs and poems. In early 2001, she was honored at a MAC/ASCAP Songwriters’ Showcase in New York.
Nelson was a two-time Cancer survivor. First diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 1973 and in the early 90s, she was diagnosed with tongue and throat cancer. In 2001 her cancer recurred, and she finally lost the battle. She died in her New York apartment in March 2001. Upon her request, her ashes were spread at Kolob Canyons in Utah.

Portia Nelson quotes from her poem “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” are used by various psychotherapists and motivational speakers, which will live forever.