When One Door Closes…

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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.orchard 041

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.

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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.

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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?

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24 Comments »

  1. Very thoughtful post, Pat. Love the images of the doors that slot in with the points you are making! And I identify with your comment “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.” The wages of chronic illness….

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    • I think there are so many of us out there, but it feels so lonely. I hope that through doing some posts on aging and loss we can all connect and not feel so lonely. Besides, now that I am in Michigan I can’t get out and photograph as much because of cold and poor light.

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  2. I used to enjoy this concept, until I was making too many expectations of what a door is or was, what it appeared like and so on and so forth. I spent a lot of time then, noticing what I did not have. I think that when one’s life on life’s terms is a bitch, one cannot simply pretend it away. I also think that cracks in the wood become important, or doing away with a walled in or a walled out structure that encloses and limits. I had a decent weekend and began to calm down enough to stop clenching my thumb inside of my fists and for my intestines to begin to function, and then my adhd and asperger’s bully son came home. I’m all tense and cowering from the bully again, so much so that even his booming voice(that he really cannot control very well) has me tensing like dynamite going off in the room with me. The crack is that he made it home safely from another visit and that I can call an end to my day shortly and begin his sugar and dye withdrawl and get his magnesium and b complex and other prescribed meds back into his system–no one there bothers to watch him do it. Sometimes my crack is feeling ok to share this with another so that I can cry for a minute and then scoop me up and dry me off and notice that it’s been silent but for the clicking of my keys for as long as I’ve been typing this comment TY TY LORD! phew

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    • Phew is right. Sometimes we do need to just let loose with it all. I journaled during my most difficult times and that helped a lot. Thanks for your very thoughtful comment and for sharing life in your shoes.

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  3. You’ve again touched me through your words (and excellent choice of accompanying photos). Navigating through open and closed doors is challenging even under the best circumstances. It’s hard enough when one’s learning to accept that saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to something else. It’s even harder when it’s not one’s choices.
    As far as Alaska goes, my parents did a cruise a couple years back. She had been experiencing chronic pain in her legs (which turned out to be a blocked artery!) that severely limited their hiking options. She came back overwhelmed with the amount of things she could do! Alaska, I think, is within your grasp, if you plan it right!

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    • Thanks for sharing about your mom’s experience. I think it is possible if I remain realistic but also try things. We will do a small ship – I’m looking at one with 38 passengers and owned by the Captain. I think that will help me get the guidance I need to pick and choose what I try. I really appreciate your comments, Heather. I’m also enjoying the Michigan snow. 🙂

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  4. I understand where you’re coming from with this post, Pat, but I do urge you to reconfigure your thoughts. It’s not about the doors that are closed, shut or bricked up. The future is about options. Choose the option that you CAN do. Choose a cruise that you’re able to pace your day and get rest time. Choose a cruise or holiday that you can do what you want, when you want.

    Enjoy the simple pleasures in life and find something that brings you joy. Try to find something that you’re passionate about…..passionate to the extent that you can go beyond the pain limits.

    I know no matter how much pain or exhaustion I wake up with…….even if I’ve been awake half the night in pain……there is always something I can do and enjoy. I still dream about travel and exploring new places and new spaces. It’s the dreams that keep me alive. I always have some hope for the future. In the meantime, I live today…in this moment…..as it is. I do what I can, when I can and if I can’t…..I put it aside, without regret for the missed moments.

    I move on. Moving on with one’s life as a chronic pain & fatigue condition sufferer is the most important thing you can do.

    (and small doors…..well, it’s all about your point of view). If you were a lying flat on the ground, the doors would be massive, insurmountable, impossible. But if you’re looking from above, the doors are small, tiny and ridiculously easy to enter.

    The doors haven’t changed. Your perspective has.

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    • Thanks for the words of wisdom, Vicky. They clicked with me and you are so right. I got derailed because of some severe foot pain that slowed me way down and that also derailed my normally positive attitude. My writing and your comment helped.

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      • I’m so sorry to hear you have severe foot pain – it’s both irritating and downright annoying to be sidelined by your feet. I’ve just been through the ringer this last winter with my right foot/ankle pain, but the orthopaedist’s idea of surgery to remove the inflamed tendon shocked & horrified me, so I declined (for the time being).

        I hope your foot pain eases off soon and you’re able to get out & about.

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  5. A beautiful post Pat. Your lovely weathered doors speak as loudly as your words! Hopefully enough doors will remain open for us to continue to find joy in our lives :-).

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  6. Beautiful post, and it expresses so well what I am feeling at this point in my life. I appreciate your statement that, “My chronic pain and fatigue closed oh so many doors that allowed me to do God’s work and I still feel lost,” for I am feeling lost, too. No longer able to work full time due to the fatigue, I wonder what God has in store for me now. Thank you for your words.

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    • It makes me smile that I was able to touch you with my words. I keep listening and God keeps telling me to just enjoy life, but I keep arguing back that enjoying life isn’t enough. Who do you think has the problem, me or God? 😀

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      • I think that God is telling me this, as well, and my response is similar to yours. I feel as if I am in a holding pattern, waiting for the next I-don’t-know-what. I guess I need to learn that it truly is okay to enjoy life, and if there is something else in store for me to do, it will find me, and I will recognize it when it arrives. 🙂

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