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Caught in Ellie’s Hall

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: aaron_language

Every wall is a door.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ellie has written in the past about how sometimes she struggles finding a way forward.  I am at that point right now.  To go back to Ellie’s post, Where the Hell’s the Door Out, I’m stuck in a hall and haven’t got any idea how to get out.

My entire life has been filled with family conflict of one sort or another.  Sometimes it was me conflicting with my parents.  Sometimes it was my parents choosing to attack me or one of my siblings.  Over the last few years, the conflict was with my father who was behaving unreasonably towards all of us.  Navigating in these waters is very difficult.

Now, my mother is gone and my father can’t really fight about anything.  And yet, conflict has raised its ugly head again.  (Why this always happens around the holidays, I don’t know.  And we haven’t even gotten into the stressful part of the holidays yet.)

To make matters worse, things are also unsettled at home.  So, there is no place for peace and recovery.  (You know you’re in trouble when work is the only place you can get away to.  On the other hand, having a job to get away to is a real blessing.)

Name the Door

Back to the hall.  Ellie talks of having defined the name of the door she’s looking for – and then questions whether or not naming it helps.  I don’t know if having a name would help, but I know that what I would want to be behind the door: good will towards one another, acknowledgement of each other’s gifts and a willingness to work together.  You could call it anything you want, just please “play nice.”

I guess the appropriate analogy isn’t a hall but a wheel, since I seem to circle back to this same place over and over again.  Just like the hamster or mouse or gerbil, year after year, I get on the same wheel and run like a son of a gun.  I truly feel like I am in Chapter 2 of Portia Nelson’s A Hole in the Sidewalk.

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 this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

It’s not that I pretend I don’t see it, I just don’t know how to avoid it.  I haven’t yet found the way to walk down this street and not fall in the hole.  Against all odds, I am hopeful that someday I will figure this out.

I Will Figure It Out

In the discipline of personal and professional development, there is a theory that says that when you face a problem, you either figure it out right then or you will be presented with an opportunity to figure it out later.  I think what this means is that once you figure out the solution, the “problem” is no longer a problem.  It’s just another day in your life.

A good example of this may be my experience in Corporate America.  At one point in my career, I was the person most likely called in to resolve a customer’s critical situation.  The first time I did it, I struggled with how to get it done.  But over time, I developed the contacts and the skills to quickly get people working together to define the problem (which was usually the biggest issue) and then fix it.  Once we had it defined, we could call in the experts and they would fix it for us, but the big thing was to know what exactly the problem was.  Once I figured this out, handling a critical situation was no big deal.  Yes, it was an endurance race, but I knew if I just kept asking questions and taking the answers to the next person in the chain, eventually, someone would go “Aha!” in a knowing way and at that point it was all over but the shouting.

Unfortunately, people are much more complicated than computers.  And like in the poem, I am not sure how to get out of this pattern.  But, I firmly believe that eventually, like Ellie, I’ll figure it out.

As Ellie said,

Still, it’s a bad news/good news kind of revelation: Your New Beginning is still going to be shrouded in mystery; it’s still going to take patience and time; but you will find the path… and after the fact, you’ll wonder: What took you so long?

So, I’ll keep moving.  I may fall in the hole and it may take a long time to get out.  But, someday, I’ll notice that I haven’t fallen in the hole and at that point I’ll wonder what took me so long!

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