DOORS: There are more than just the ones that close
By Anne-Marie Sylvester, Registered Clinical Counsellor
Doors are quite interesting. They are gateways that allow us access to one space from another. When closed, they can offer us a sense of security, protection, or maybe restriction. I’m going to focus on the restriction piece today.
As you can probably guess by now, I’m not going to talk about doors in the literal sense. While this is a metaphor for loss, it is also a metaphor for opportunity. Let me tell you my story to provide some context as to why I am talking about doors in the first place.
Like many of us, I experienced several doors suddenly close on me all at once. This happened when I sustained a bad injury that left me with chronic pain. This injury led me to lose my hobbies (soccer, field hockey, and pretty much anything that involved physical activity to the extreme), my friendships (many of my friends were through my sports teams), my future, and my sense of identity, purpose, and self-worth (as a high-performance athlete). Needless to say, the closing of these doors felt absolutely devastating. It felt like the door suddenly slammed shut and I subsequently spent almost all my time desperately trying to yank it open again.
In time, I reflected (not by choice, I might add) that I was relying on so many important things to come from one singular source (sports and exercise). While this worked for a while, it eventually failed when life inevitably threw a curveball my way that restricted my access to this one source.
I was relying on this singular source to give me my sense of identity, purpose, self-worth, social life, future goals, and hobbies. That’s a lot of eggs in one basket.
So, I realized that the problem was not solely in that this door closed on me forever. The problem lay in my reliance on this one singular door.
I want to pause for a moment and acknowledge the frustration in the process of a door closing. The closing of a door can lead to loss, a sense of stuckness, anger that leads to resentment, and much more. I certainly became resentful over the abrupt denial of access to the part of my life that was so important to me. It felt so unfair that out of nowhere so many things were ripped away from me. This resentment, however, had me focus on the door that closed. I was trying to kick it open, push it open, pick the lock, all to no avail. The harshness of a door closing on you can take up all your focus, if you allow it to. I certainly did.
I am sharing this to both normalize the anger and resentment that can come from loss that is thrust upon us, and to also emphasize that resentment can serve as a barrier to us seeing the other doors around us. For me, this last piece took time. I certainly spent several years knocking on that same door that closed. I desperately tried to yank it open before I realized that there were other doors, other opportunities, when I pivoted and looked around.
I also want to recognize that maybe these other doors around us are not our first choice of doors. They certainly were not for me. The door I truly wanted to walk through had closed on me. However, this does not mean that other doors hold no value. My quality of life significantly increased as soon as I allocated my time and energy towards other doors, in lieu of fighting the one that was closed. More opportunities came my way, and passion and satisfaction came from unexpected places that I might not otherwise had explored.
So, if it feels like a door has closed on you, I invite you to consider how much time you’re spending trying to open it, how well this approach is ultimately serving you, and to consider looking around with curiosity and openness to other doors that are around you. You may be surprised by what they can offer!
To summarize the messages in this metaphor:
- Sometimes doors close on us, and it absolutely sucks. They can close against our will when we want them to remain open.
- Give yourself time and permission to grieve and process the closing of a door.
- Remind yourself that there will always be other doors, even if they’re not your first choice. Exploring these other doors will offer you more than the experiencing of banging on a closed one.
- Be open and curious, because the closing of a door often leads to the opening of other doors.
We all experience loss to varying degrees at various points of our lives. Processing and learning to cope is such a crucial part of moving forward and increasing our overall well-being. Clinical counselling can help with this challenging process!