Saturday, April 18, 2009

Doors and Maps

"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 opened for us."

-Helen Keller

I came across that quote on a longtime colleague's blog while catching up on my blog-reading this morning, and I marveled at how little tidbits of wisdom seem to drop unbidden into our lives whenever we need them.

Right around the turn of the New Year, the door that was my relationship with Jeremy unexpectedly, abruptly and jarringly closed, leaving me bewildered, sad and wading through seemingly endless waves of grief. It made our marriage one of the shorter ones on record, I am embarrassed and sad to admit, and it has changed, to steal a turn of phrase said to me the other day, the map of my life in fundamental ways that have left me feeling, at times, lost, dazed, and utterly confused.

There have been innumerable awkward moments over the past months since that door shut, and almost everything – like bad break-up songs that suddenly take on a new and somewhat irritating poignancy at times like these – has the potential to remind me of this incredible change in my life. Nonetheless, I have found that I have really wanted to remain somewhat private up until now about it all. A student asked me at a question and answer session a little over a month ago whether all the travel and time away required of me was hard to deal with in my personal life. A journalist remarked to me during an interview that it must be difficult maintaining a relationship over such great distances. The answers I found that I could muster were simply – yes, it can be difficult and it is hard. And it has been.

Despite the sadness, remorse, and guilt that I have felt about that one, significant door being shut, I find that Helen is wise. There are multitudes of possibilities for happiness and fulfillment before me. Taking stock of my life in those moments when I am firmly locked in the present, I am able see new adventures both musical and personal that await and promise to bring much happiness, growth, and fulfillment, and I regard them with excitement and anticipation, reveling in the new-ness and exhilarating unpredictability of it all. The challenge has been keeping my focus pointed both forward and in the present, and not looking backward at what was and is, ultimately, no more. Reading tidbits of wisdom like the one above, it's frustrating to know that such things are easier said than done, and that while there is much to look forward to and enjoy in terms of the incredible possibilities that are in front of me, there is no shortcut around the pathway of grief.

In the meantime, as I am home to celebrate Greek Easter with my family for the first time in almost a decade, I am trying to focus on the parts of the "map of my life" that remain constant and unchanging, grateful for the stability and comfort that they provide.

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