I caught up with a good friend today. Last week, one of her children received a No when she was desperately hoping for a Yes. I don’t care how old you are: when your future hangs on a yes, it hurts to receive that no. A door closes and we are left standing on the wrong side.
Some doors close with a letter, a phone call or sudden declaration. Some close with an averted look or switched seat. It could be a departure, a diagnosis, getting your period when you were hoping not to or simply, advancing age. It hurts each and every time. It’s a grief for a future we had or began to have feelings for. We made plans and soon, in a weird construct of time and space, began to have memories about.
I don’t know about you but I’ve done my share of handle pulling, door pounding, and sit-down-against-the-door crying in every effort to reopen a door. I have even walked away and done a little hoping, only to come back and try the handle again, only to walk away, hope a bit more, come back, and try again. Never mind standing in front of a closed door, that behavior in itself is a recipe for madness.
Here’s what I’ve learned in the face of many no’s: doors don’t open again just because I want them to. Changing the outcome is often out of my control. Occasionally, a door will open from the other side. Maybe there’s another opportunity at the same company, a different treatment or a friend/lover/fiend would like to renew a relationship. It may look similar or familiar but time has passed: I’m different, this choice is different. It is now a whole different door about which I get to make a whole new decision.
Also, this is not the only door; it just happens to be the door that I am fixated on. When I am able to grieve and say goodbye, I turn around, look up and find a space full of open doors and infinite futures. I don’t have to go through every one but I can peek in and see what I think. Uncertainty can be really uncomfortable. Might as well make friends with it.
Some people need only a short time to grieve standing in front of their chosen closed door. They move on quickly. Some people need a really long time or return to it again and again. This is a place of great pain for them. Want to help that friend? Walk up, stand beside them and place your arm around their shoulder. Let them lean on you. In time, they may turn to you for a hug. They may turn back to the door or they may look over your shoulder and see other possibilities. Give them a squeeze and let them make the call. We each have our painful spots and may need the same grace some day.