As I’ve acknowledged the value of relationships more and more over the years, I’ve found it difficult not to get attached to certain people or certain ideas of how they are supposed to be in my life. A reason for this, I think, is because I spent most of my life pushing people away, and since it hasn’t been that long since I started to let them in, it feels almost counter-intuitive to let them leave, or even ask them to get out. It’s been a matter of trying to find the right balance between keeping some people close and letting others go. It takes both a certain discretion and a tuning into the heart, but sometimes the two conflict, and there is not always a clear answer on what to do.
Some people choose to leave on their own, and that is another story; they won’t come back no matter how wide open my door is, and that is fine. People walk in and out of doors all the time; those who are meant to stay, do, and those who are not, find their way to where they are supposed to be. There have been times I did wait at the door after someone walked out, wondering if that door could ever lead somewhere, but eventually, I had to turn around and look at the other doors that were opening. Doors are always opening, and if I see only the one that shut, I miss all the other possibilities I could enter into.
I’ve also really had to get away from my old strategy of slamming doors shut, and even locking people out when things were not harmonious between us. As time has gone on, I’ve realized that there was never a case where I was justified to lock anyone out. As much as I’ve wanted to believe people were intentionally trying to hurt me, I never found any proof that their intentions were indeed malicious. There are people out there who do try to harm others; I’m not condoning keeping people in our lives if the are truly toxic to us. I am lucky that this has not happened to me. In my case, it’s been more a matter of people not living up to my expectations or myself and the other just not having the tools to deal with each other in a constructive way. Since the majority of people do the best they can with what they have at the moment, I have come to realize that there is no need for a lock on my door. I’ve also noticed that when I permanently shut someone out, I find myself getting shut down in the process.
There are times, though, when it is necessary to close the door and not let others walk in so freely. Sometimes that person may be too negative or critical, and I shut a door to give time for the dust to settle. Sometimes I just need to close things off for a while to allow for a safe space where feelings of hurt or anger can move through. This space allows me to take a step back and see things from a different perspective. Also, by closing the door, I am forced to stop looking outside and must turn inward and see the part that I played in the interaction.
There are times when people fit through my door, and times they don’t. Maybe at one point, it felt really cozy to have that person inside, but just because it was a good fit at one moment does not mean it still is. As values change, we may no longer inhabit the same kind of space as the other. This division is usually sensed and someone will step away.
If neither wants to let go, but we have distinctly different goals for life, eventually our grip on the handle has to loosen. Because, when both people are trying to open the door in different directions, the opposing tension causes it to jam – making it so neither one gets anywhere. But a door’s job is to open and close.
When I gently close a door, without locking it, I allow for all possibilities to remain. People can decide to walk away and find another door, or they can choose to re-enter my door if they want to; it’s just a bit of effort to turn the knob. Sometimes a person’s hands are too full to do even that, but there may come a time when they are more capable to open the door. And, if they re-enter, I can see them with fresh eyes.
Also, in closing the door to some people, my door is more open for those who really want in. Throughout life, many people have tried to get through my door. I usually stopped them at the threshold. Other times, I’d let them peek in, but if it got uncomfortable, I’d used force to push them out – not because they were invasive, but because I did not want them to see what was inside.
And, what they see is not the only uncomfortable part, because everyone also brings something in with them. Sometimes they are bringing in something small to share, other times they may bring in so much that it causes disarray and chaos in my life, and a lot of effort is needed to sort it out. But, once it is, I appreciate what was left behind, because if I mindlessly throw it out, it inevitably comes back with the next knock at my door.
I’ve also started to knock on people’s doors because I want to see into their world too. I’ve been invited in by people all my life but had a fear of walking in. I would sometimes linger around the doorway, but was hesitant to take a step in. I think of all the missed connections, and how I took those invites for granted. I’ve started to be a more gracious and polite guest when someone invites me in; to be willing to at least take a look at what they want to show me.
There are some people in my life, for which my door never closes. We enter each other again and again, creating a sort of shared space that feels so comfortable and relaxed to be in together. I wouldn’t have this if I never opened my door. It’s scary to not know what is on the other side, but having the courage to open the door has revealed new worlds to me. Now, if someone knocks, I let them in.