Saturday, May 18, 2013

Leaning against the door

Helen Keller said once, "When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."

I understand the sentiment; I do. I know that there comes a time when we must move on. 

However, I also believe that it's normal and healthy to look at the closed door - whatever that is, for a while - and to ponder its meaning, whether or not that leads to restoration. Only then can we move forward. 

I also think that it's perfectly natural, after the door has been shut, to lean against it, to allow oneself to regret that the situation has gotten to the point of separation, to regroup, and to begin to accept the new reality. The scene is common when there has been a quarrel; the person goes out, closes the door and then leans with his or her back to the door. In those moments, the heart can begin to let go, to feel the shock, accept a previously denied truth, and eventually ask itself, "Where do I go from here?" 

How long that takes is anyone's guess. It's different for each person and even for one person, it's different depending on the situation, and/or the nature of the relationship in question. 

Photo "Massaging Shoulder As Very Stressed"
courtesy of Stuart Miles at

When a relationship ends - for whatever reason - it hurts. That's okay. It's supposed to hurt. 

Sometimes, when the inner pain is deep, it even hurts physically. The mind-body connection is amazingly strong. A person can literally become sick and/or sore because of the stress associated with prolonged emotional upheaval.

At the same time, at some point in those moments - or days - of leaning against the door, comes a marvelous gift: the ability to breathe again. Oh, I don't mean the involuntary "in, out, in, out" stuff that the nervous system does automatically. I mean belly-breathing: diaphragm breathing. I mean unclenching those abdominal muscles you didn't even know were wound up tighter than a fiddle string - and allowing the physical tension to drain away a little bit with every breath. It's the kind of breathing you have to remind yourself to do, (medium slowly in as far as you can, medium slowly out as far as you can) or your body only does enough to keep itself functioning. I'm beginning to think of this deep breathing exercise as an internal massage. Or a spiritual yawn - oxygenating the psyche as well as the body, purging the toxins of lingering fear and resentment.

It's all normal; it's part of the process. As I've said so many times before, feelings are not good or bad. They just are. They were created to be a barometer of the inner climate, indicators of attitudes that affect health, behaviors, so many things. Tuning in to those feelings and finding out why they're there (in other words, drilling down to the attitudes behind them) does way more good than denying that they exist (perhaps out of some misplaced sense of guilt or shame, or fear of being seen as "weak.") How much better to carve out time to look after yourself, and to take however long it takes on a regular basis to process events and your emotional reaction to them.

Taking the time to find closure like that is another way to help yourself let go of things over which you have no control anyway (I'm talking to mySELF here) ... and gain the internal strength to look for that second door.

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