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Where the Hell’s the Door Out?

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: sierragoddess
Goin’ through Hell? Keep on moving!

When God closes one door He always opens another even though sometimes it’s hell in the hallway.

— My Help Desk Expert, Bobby C.

Sigh… ain’t that the truth!  Moving through the in-betweens – those transitional Neutral Zones between closing doors and opening doors can be hell… even when we occasionally manage to bedazzle ourselves past the befuddlers obscuring our escape routes.

I recently read about a truly inspired instructor who conjured up a bedazzle of an art class:

“We are going to have the gallery full of doors,” teacher and artist Cris Ewell told her class of cancer survivors in 2009.

“You will walk into a room of doors, moments in time or space when there were decisions to make, life-changing moments.

What is your door?
Will you paint it for me?”

Cure Summer 2011

What an interesting challenge!  If you’re curious about the completed galleries, take a wander through’s Doors to Healing.

In the Clutches of Life-Changing Moments

Like Ewell’s students, some of us have been shanghaied by circumstances beyond our control: cancer or other sudden illness, chronic pain that can’t be cured, a disabling physical malady or the gradual decline of a loved one or of our own essential capabilities, financial collapse despite honest hard work, weather catastrophes, the list is endless.  Some of us are “simply” challenged by plain-old, life-being-lived changes.  And many of us are juggling several challenges all at once!  As for me, my husband’s death-by-cancer thrust me out of the spouse and caregiver hallway into yet another hallway where I’m hunting for an inviting door into the life-chapter I call “Onliness”.  And while it comforts me to be able to “name” the door I’m looking for, it may turn out to be a hindrance rather than a help… the “doors out” sometimes defy definition – and I may be unnecessarily blindsiding my search.

In-Between the Doors

I suspect that I’m not alone… that many of you are similarly held fast and floundering in your very own, personal hallway, stuck between the closed door of an Ending that may or may not have been chosen and a New Beginning that’s not yet been sussed out, is hidden from view, or is temporarily marked “not an exit”.  Is there an easy way out?  I doubt it.  Might there be many ways out?  I hope so – and if that’s the case, how do we figure out which door to open next?  With all those questions looking for answers that I personally don’t have, I looked at Ewell’s art class with curiosity:

  • I wondered if what Ewell refers to as “life-changing moments” are simply the Neutral Zone’s way of revealing new options to us?
  • I wondered: IF we knew which of those doors would indeed be life changing, would we still take that step forward? And would we do it with alacrity or reluctance?
  • And I wondered if perhaps every door is a life changer?

Coping with Unknowns

Sometimes, when it’s hell in the hallway and we’re between doors – one closed firmly behind us, others obscurely beckoning, all we can do is wait it out in limbo; sometimes timid – or even bold – measures beckon us to step out in hope or faith.  Either way, we each need to find ways to cope with the unknowable unknowns. I don’t profess to have any right answers to the conundrum. I do offer some possibilities:

  • In her recent post, The Power of Exhaustion, PattiAnn offered several ideas that might help.
  • In How to Unfuddle Your In-Betweens, I shared several ideas garnered from my study of Transitions.
  • Even during the most distressing of situations two resources have always helped me recover my equilibrium – maybe you’ll find them helpful in the hallway as well: Gratitude Journaling and the Serenity Prayer remind us that life contains joy as well as misery.
  • Or perhaps one of Debra Moffitt’s “Nine Simple Practices to Embrace Joy” can help you make peace with your time in the Neutral Zone.
  • I also think that experimenting with Cris Ewell’s therapeutic exercise might help us wrap our brains around the mysteries of the Neutral Zone.

In Your Mind’s Eye, Paint Your Doors

Here’s my idea for adapting Ewell’s Door Painting exercise…

Poetry [and perhaps any artistic expression] is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during the moment.

— Carl Sandburg

Give yourself the gift of twenty meditative minutes – take a walk in the park, luxuriate in a bubble bath, or simply treat yourself to a zone-out-moment while you’re doing your everyday chores – let your mind’s gaze focus on those doorways that seem to be beckoning you:

  • Capture glimpses of what flickers “just beyond the door”… It’s “OK” if they’re only fleeting glimmers, just let them stream through.
  • Register the glimmers onto your consciousness.  Capture whatever feelings or visuals or sounds that surface and savor them.
  • And begin to wonder: how would I paint each of those “glimmers beyond the doors?”
    • Bright and enticing?
    • Dreary and disturbing?
    • Tiny and intimidating?
    • Gigantic and inviting?
    • Healing and soothing?
    • Divisive and undoing?
    • Consolidating and comforting?
    • Mysterious and dangerous?
  • And then use those glimmer images to jumpstart your very own door painting exercise. With real paint & brush or, better still, inside-your-head imagery – paint your own gallery of doors:
    • Be generous with the bedazzle.
    • Be bold with your strokes.
    • Be lavish with your color.

Wander Your Gallery

As you contemplate your newly painted gallery, ask yourself:

  • Do any of these newly painted doors clue me into knowing what to expect?
  • Which ones are pulling me forward?
  • Which of these doors would I most like to open and walk through?

Through that doorway most likely lies your New Beginning.  Good to know.  In his book, [amazon-product text=”The Way of Transition – Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments” type=”text”]073820529X[/amazon-product], William Bridges speaks of his own journey through the neutral zone:

Each time I had found myself [in the neutral zone] I had thought, “You are completely lost!  Now you’ve done it!”  But each time, in some totally unforeseeable way that seemed not only illogical but also so peculiar to that particular situation that it certainly was no sort of a guideline for the future, I had found a path right under my feet.  It was always like those children’s stories in which a magic door is discovered behind the clothes hanging in the closet.  (Had it always been there?  Why hadn’t I seen it before?)

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?

Goin’ through Hell? Don’t stop now – keep on moving… And even if you’ve tagged yourself as “not the creative type” I hope you’re seeing glimmers of New Beginnings beckoning you forward!

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