I’ve been quiet the last few weeks. Somehow, positioned against the backdrop of the world and all its complications, my thoughts and words have felt inadequate: limp platitudes against the sharp, unyielding daggers zinging in every direction. I long for tight, crisp, colorful words: vocabulary both solid enough to bear the weight of life and effective enough to be worth the time.
This is a tall order, because the right words are not magically called forth: they are mined, searched out, pulled up by the roots. They’re elusive, especially when they concern awkward situations, or uncomfortable truths, or inexpressible joys. I’m forever searching for words.
I had a situation recently in which I disappointed someone. Nothing life-changing, like failing to save someone from a fire, so that’s positive. But it stung; I can’t say that I particularly enjoy failure. It took me some time and quiet to get down to the root of it. Metaphors aren’t necessarily my game, but I’m going to subject you to this one. (You’re welcome.)
Let’s say my life is a hall with doors leading off it. When all the doors are closed (which is maybe never, but whatever), the hall is filled with diffuse, pleasant, golden light. Maybe there’s some soothing music playing? But let’s say this light represents the best of me: my energy, my gratitude, my kindness, my love. The graces of my life give rise to this light: the light isn’t my creation, but my blessing. It probably smells of essential oils. Ooh, and there’s a fly light fixture in the hall. Maybe a modern twist on the chandelier?
Okay, you get it. The hall, the doors, the light fixture: it’s all looking really peaceful. But this is where life interferes with my blissful light-filled hall. Every day, I’m required to open the doors. There’s one for my marriage, and for my children, and for showering: anything that requires energy opens a door. And as the doors open, some have their own light that seeps into mine, mingling there. Some doors are neutral, requiring little but returning nothing. So every day, I run around this hall, opening and closing doors, tending to life. Work, School, Reading the News, Health, Baseball, Basketball, Driving Places with People Who Talk Incessantly: in this season of life there are many, many doors.
There are trap doors, too. For example, one trap door could perhaps be named The Children Have Awakened In An Unexplainable Yet Aggressively Pissy Mood. The kids lace up some steel-toed boots and spend the morning running through my hall, viciously kicking open as many doors as possible. Other trap doors include Mom Guilt, Worry, Making Dinner, and Putting On A Duvet Cover. Sickness is another favorite. That one will leave me lying in the middle of the floor, cursing every sick child at that damn Petri dish of an elementary school.
So the doors are opening and closing all day long. Many of them have a mind of their own. Relationships, life, work: they’re all terribly unpredictable. People on the other side can yank open the doors at will and shout your name into the hall, necessitating that you send them to voicemail, which you’ll never listen to because the Voicemail door has eighteen combination locks. It’s all quite exhausting.
And when I left my friend disappointed, my excuses rushed into the hall to soothe me and stroke my arm: you’re busy, the kids need you, one can only do so much. These are all true, but they remain listless, gray, empty words: excuses are rarely the sort I would invite in for tea. After a little time and a little quiet, I was able to get down to the truth: I had opened too many doors. The light was rushing out too fast, through too many channels, and without the light, the world is left with the dangerous, PMS version of me (she’s cranky).
The light has to be replenished, you see. My light is finite, but its source is infinite. Where spirit meets Spirit: the light is forever present, brilliant and available. It’s a matter of opening the right doors. Laughter, Creativity, Good Food, Exercise, Meditation, Reading, Writing, Prayer, Gratitude, Beauty: these are my golden doors. But if I’m busy opening every other door (and constructing a few new ones), I’ll run out of time and light. I will neglect to open these, and I’ll be left gray and dark and depleted.
And so I closed a few doors this week. Because I crave a light-filled hall: I crave a light-filled life. I want time and quiet and the space to pursue life-giving self-knowledge, not as an end in itself, but as a gateway to more: more joy, more freedom, more stubborn love, more Spirit. The goal is not to sit in the light-filled hall alone; the goal is to open the right doors at the right times. It's ever-evolving: which doors should I open? Which doors must close, and which must be locked? The answers are there, but they're deep: like all the best words and the hard truths, wisdom is mined with time and quiet and stubborn, persistent effort.
So we'll continue about, opening and closing doors, living the questions until, one day, we live into the answers.