Last night, around midnight, I was scared awake by my new neighbor pounding on my front door. Half-asleep, I shuffled through the living room and went to look out the peep-hole, only to remember that there isn’t one. Mind you, there are cracks/splits that have been painted over, and a pretty big gap at the bottom… just no peep-hole. So, hoping for the best and to not be murdered, I opened the door to see him standing there in nothing but shorts. Apparently, he’d locked his keys in his truck and his phone was dead; he’d been waiting on AAA for a long time, and needed to borrow my phone to call and find out the status. There are way too many questions about the whole situation (like, how did he get in his house without his keys, why didn’t he have a phone charger, etc.), but I just let him use my phone for a few awkward minutes, and that was it. It took a while to fall back asleep, but I eventually heard AAA show up, so at least there’s that.
All of that is just an anecdote to kick off something I’ve been thinking about lately – the closing and opening of doors, metaphorically/emotionally speaking. The peace that comes from closing a door – on a situation, a relationship, or a person who causes you some kind of grief – as well as the peace that comes as a result of the clarity, if you’re on the other side of it. Recognizing, too, when a door that’s open is actually meant for you, or if it was intended as an entry/exit door for someone else and you just happened to sneak in before it shut. And, finally, when it’s best to just leave closed doors closed.
I read something a while back on Captain Awkward, a response to a piece on Medium about “cutoff culture.” (There’s another really good response here, too.) The author of the original piece is completely unreasonable in his expectations for continued interaction and what he deems acceptable closure. He wants the ex to keep the door of communication open to make HIM feel better, and has managed to turn it all around to make her the enemy, when he’s the one who can’t/won’t just move the hell on and let it go.
That said, I have found that I feel much better about things when I give another person a definitive reason for ceasing contact, rather than just dropping out of their lives without a word. And of course, I’d much prefer that someone tell me why they’re no longer interested in pursuing something, or at the very least, tell me they’re not interested, since the reason, ultimately, doesn’t matter. If a person isn’t interested in going out again, or being my friend, or maintaining contact in whatever respect, that’s their decision, and their right; the “why” isn’t really my business, and doesn’t change anything. (Unless, of course, I did something awful to hurt the person/situation; then I’d like to know, so I can change, right?) But it’s not a right, no one is owed anything, and putting the onus on the other person for your healing and whatever isn’t appropriate.
I have no qualms about closing doors on relationships or people or situations that don’t work for me. Most of the time, I do feel like it’s the kind thing to do, to at least let the other person/people know that I’m doing it (if not the “why” behind it). And maybe that’s just a personal preference, knowing what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a sudden severance of contact, without warning. I realize it’s a courtesy, not a necessity, and a lot of people don’t feel the same way; I’d never demand it, or pursue the line of questioning. Ultimately, you have to be okay with the end result, and sometimes life is messy and ambiguous and you don’t always get the answer you want or the info you think you need in order to let go/move on.
So there’s that.
And then there are the doors that people leave open, whether to let a new person into their lives, or to let an existing person leave (with or without a foot in their ass to help them along). This is mostly just relationship-related, I suppose, and I don’t really have a whole lot to say about it, other than it has been really beneficial to me to recognize what sort of door I’ve walked through when it comes to another person. Earlier this year, I dated someone (3-4 dates) who appeared to have the door of “potential relationship” open based on how well we got along and interacted, only for him to break things off with the explanation that he’d never intended to meet anyone worthwhile on the dating sites. That his life was a mess. That he didn’t really know WHY he was on those sites, but it definitely wasn’t to meet someone to date, and apparently, I caught him by surprise. In the past, I’ve had the experience of dating people who appeared to have the door open for a committed relationship, only to discover that wasn’t the case. And there have been times where I entered into something, fully prepared to make a go of it, only to realize I wasn’t ready either, whether due to the situation, the timing, the person, or any number of reasons.
Some of the confusion can come from a lack of clear communication, but it also comes from a person not really knowing what it was they wanted/were ready for. I’ve been on both sides of that, of course, and it’s never easy to come to that conclusion. That you may have misled someone, thinking that door was open when it really wasn’t. I don’t know if there’s ever a way to avoid doing that, at some point in your life.
And then, there are the doors that have been closed, whether on a relationship, a friendship, a living situation, a job, what have you… and the wisdom in knowing when to keep those doors closed. I have a few people in my life with whom I miss being in touch. It occurs to me from time to time that maybe I should reach out, track them down, see how they’re doing, let them know I’m thinking of them… but then I realize/remember there’s a reason we haven’t talked in so long, and that it’s probably best to just let it go. It’s selfish, or it can be, to effect contact with someone (or attempt to) when there was hurt involved, and sometimes, things just don’t work out. And that’s okay. I’m all for maintaining friendships/contact whenever possible, but sometimes you just have to let go (and not try to latch on again).
At this point in my life, I’m pretty well-versed in the art of recognizing when doors need to be closed (and if/when they need to stay that way), and when I’m ready to open (or reopen) others. It’s not always easy, but it’s usually fairly simple and straightforward. You know, like sometimes when temperatures rise, wood will expand? Doors get hard to open/shut… but there’s always a handle. A lot of times, there’s a peephole to see what you’re getting into (ahem). And usually, there’s a lock if you need it.
Just be sure you don’t lose the key.