"How long will you keep pounding on an open door, begging someone to answer?" – Rabia, Sufi Mystic
“When one door closes, another door opens,” states an old adage. How many of us have heard or read that statement when facing a particularly difficult obstacle? Seniors may find themselves experiencing that phrase when they deal with a difficult member of their community or when they have to confront a challenge in their family. In those two examples, that goodwill phrase probably does not help to quell uncertainty or the anxiety it produces. The real issue is not about whether the door is opening or closing, but how seniors deal with the place in between.
Many people have called this in between place “hell in the hallway” while other people refer to this emotion as “closing off” or “going underground.” I have even heard it called “the room of a thousand demons.” It’s as if the door is locked from the inside. Seniors feeling this impasse can find themselves in a predicament called Stuckthinking™ or trapped in a state of inertia causing a restrictive feeling that squeezes their heart.
Seniors make choices about how they are going to spend their lives and who they are going to share their lives with, keeping busy until it may be too late. Rushing through life, they rarely see that complacency filled with excuses and justifications seeped into their spirits and drained their precious reservoir of courage. At 60 years of age we may eventually see that the people we called our friends have now passed away.
Seniors know that not all doors are locked from the inside. Some doors close in a necessary and positive way, such as when you choose to transfer your passion to a new life mission such as volunteering. More commonly in our minds, the closed door represents a negative event such as relocating from a wonderful congregation or an inability to come to an agreement with a complicated financial issue. During these times, seniors can find themselves trying to use force to heave the next door open. Determined to do whatever it takes to overcome this barrier, a confused senior wishing to do the right thing might be vaguely aware that they are forcing the issue. If they are alert, the use of force (recognized as a gnawing sense of discomfort) will tell them that this opportunity is probably not the right choice.
Despite the frustration and sense of loss, hell in the hallway provides a chance for introspection. This reflective opportunity sheds light on a person’s true heart and spirit intentions.
Female seniors might hold themselves to a higher standard, which puts them under undue pressure such as always trying to be helpful. This is a Catch-22 if they are unable to muster the courage to say “no thank you” when they feel overwhelmed and need to take time to nurture their own spirits. So these women push wholeheartedly to open a door. The paradox is that by tapping into the reservoir of courage that already exists in each and every one of us we can open and close all doors with greater ease and grace.
In general, seniors may consider slowing down to examine their spiritual path and level of happiness by asking this difficult question: What is the courageous conversation I am not having?
Reflecting on that question seniors might discover that they are stuck in courage obstacles such as apathy, self-doubt, blame or full-blown denial. These obstacles confine seniors in the hallway without even noticing that there are doors! Once seniors have declared their willingness to confront their personal hurdles they have moved into the zone called “courageous intention.” Then, the path ahead opens and clarity reigns.
If fear occupies the hallway know that fear is nothing more than being stuck, and stuck is mired in inertia. So ask yourself: “Will you stay in the hallway or make a choice to open the door?” “Choices determine consequences,” David R. Hawkins, M.D. writes in Truth vs Falsehood: How to Tell the Difference, “which is a mechanism that is really impersonal and operates automatically…. One then realizes that there is no hand on the tiller but one’s own and that ‘I myself am heaven and hell.’”
Ask yourself: “What positive lifestyle choices have you made to align your life with your heart that exposes your true Self?” In fact, “heart and spirit” is the root of the word courage. Tapping into your courage enables you to stand in your true Self—your solid core. But, a senior must act to begin the courage process. Recall and list some of the times you found yourself in the hallway wondering if and where the next door would open. What patterns do you see? What are the feelings in your body?
Courage opens all doors. Seniors have the answers that brought them to the hallway; they have always been accessible. Perhaps, upon reflection you’re where you are because, in reality, most growth in consciousness comes in the lonely hallway. Pacing in the hallway, reassessing your hearts desires, delving deeper into your values—this may be the place where you discover loving acceptance for your life’s precious journey.
Grant yourself permission to use the hallway as a positive growth opportunity. It is never the place to stay, but a place to rest and reflect. Time in this hallway acts as a foil to the animated energy we need to claim the courage to act on what we know must be done.
When seniors give themselves permission to claim and apply their courage they feel renewed and able to continue facing life’s challenges. All you have to do is choose to awaken from the poppy field of dispiritedness and live from your essence. You do this by applying your innate courage! It is a perfect starting place if you’re a senior who wishes to “make courage my daily legacy.”
The door is open. What are you waiting for?
For more than 20 years, Sandra has engaged audiences from Vancouver to Mexico. She is the award-winning author of COURAGE and two other books on courageous leadership.