Doors fascinate me. I love photographing doors and have been thinking of the saying, “When one door closes, another opens.” I wonder if this is really true about life because it feels like so many doors I would like to think are open, are not. We traveled to the Northwest part of the US last summer and I read about lots of trails to supposedly beautiful water falls and mountain vistas. I wanted to walk these trails, like I used to, but I know I am overcome with fatigue and pain way to quickly to make it there and back on foot. We are looking at Alaskan cruises and the more interesting ones have hikes and kayaking. I’m afraid those doors are closed to me. Is it so simple that all I need to do is go up and open the new door I want to enter? What if I don’t like the new door – or maybe I can’t even find the new door.
There was a time, when I was younger, when I had dreams of doors I believed I could enter, like being a research assistant at the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan. I had doctoral faculty who worked there and published books there. Wow, how exciting. I also dreamed of studying and living abroad; I knew where those doors were and knew I could enter if only… I knew I could enter if I didn’t mind leaving children and husband – I knew a woman who left children with her ex to live in India for a year. The problem was that I didn’t want to burden my children with the pain of missing me, I didn’t want to miss a year of their growth, and I didn’t want my husband to become my ex. But I knew these doors could be open to me – and that was enough. The doors didn’t feel closed, I just didn’t want to pay the price of entry.
As I’ve gotten older, I have found that there are doors that are shut – closed – bricked up forever. I am coming to terms with the paths not taken, the doors left closed, the doors that never were an option. Most often now I have to come to terms with the doors that have closed permanently with other doors not evident.
Currently my closed doors are because of physical changes that come with getting older and with having a chronic illness. Too often I have observed doors being held shut for those who wanted to enter, because of hatred, prejudice, limiting of resources. This makes me angry. I want to live in a world where everyone has a chance. I used to think that I could open doors of opportunity for the poor and downtrodden. I really wanted to, but I learned that this type of systemic change is very difficult. I feel good about what I was able to do – making it possible for people who have daytime responsibilities or live in remote parts of Michigan to get a social work degree. They really appreciated having this door opened for them. I feel confident that these people, with their increased knowledge and skills, will work on my dream of making the world more just and opening doors for others.
A normal part of the aging process is a decrease in energy. I knew this from my study of human development. What surprises me is how much the combination of aging and chronic fatigue has shrunk my world. Even when doors are open, when people give me wonderful opportunities to be involved, I usually have to say no. When I am in my home community in Michigan I feel guilty that I’m not doing things. I can give up that guilt because I think I hear God telling me to live with joy. When I am in other places I feel frustrated that I can’t do more – but maybe I can enjoy what is possible. I think I will switch on some joy and fix some supper for my love and me.
My personal faith has been an important part of my life meaning for a very long time. From this faith perspective, the doors that were opened to me along the way felt like being called by God to do his work. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone speak of God terminating a calling. My chronic pain and fatigue closed oh so many doors that allowed me to do God’s work and I still feel lost. Am I not hearing God’s new calling, am I dense, am I too stubborn and bull headed to accept what is open to me? I enjoyed having the big doors open for doing big things; can I be happy with the small doors?