Sunday, June 12, 2011

Doors with Rooms

 I often hear people talk about the doors they pass through as they go through life, different stages they go through as they progress. One door closes and another door opens. I am sure this is true for most people including me, but what about the rooms on the other side of those doors? Those rooms are a big part of our lives. They also guide us toward that next door. Often there is a choice that has to be made as to what door you are going open.

For myself, I would have to say that my life has not been one full of doors. That is not to say I haven't had a good and interesting life because, for the most part, I have. Maybe it is because of how I define "doors" that makes the difference. To me, a door is just the opening or a passage to a new stage. Once you cross through that door, you enter the room or the next stage of your life.

One room I remember with great fondness is my childhood. I had a dream childhood, a father who cared deeply about us and a mother who loved and cared for us above all else. We were not a rich family financially by any stretch of the imagination but we had each other, and life around our house was always happy and filled with many adventures.

One of  those adventures was camping. It was wonderfully new every time. We were like world explorers stepping out into the wilds of the unknown. You never knew what strange beast was just around the next juniper bush or what undiscovered indigenous people you would encounter on the other side of the lake. If you looked really hard at night, you could sometimes see them performing some kind of mysterious dance around a campfire. And all of this from the safety of our campsite in Algonquin Park under the constant watchful eye of our parents.

As I grew up, the room I entered was one where I prepared myself to give to my future family what my parents had given to me. That became for me what life was all about. I had to find a well-paying job, find a good house in a good neighbourhood and prepare to be a good parent. This was the room that I saw as my main target and purpose in life.

When I finally reached the door that led into the room of parenthood, I was ready. My plan was complete and solid, or so I thought. But everything was about to change. I quickly realized that you can plan until you're blue in the face but for some reason, life doesn't alway go along with the plan. My kids were certanly a big change from what I thought it would be like.

When my son Christopher was born, I stepped from the room of preparation into the room of parenthood. This room was scary, exciting, happy, sad - did I leave anything out? The room that had opened was what I had been working toward all of my life. But as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men... Regardless of the amount of preparation I had put into this plan, it had to be modified, constantly.

I did my best while I was in this room. I took a very active role in raising my kids. Even though the plan did not go exactly as I had envisioned, life did go on. From this room came two very wonderful people that I am very, very proud of. Now it was time to move on.

Another door was opening leading to a room I knew nothing about and had given very little thought to. Here I was in a room that I had not planned for. I had made the mistake of not considering what came after kids. What was I supposed to do here anyway?? When I first stepped in, it was empty, completely and utterly empty. It was a pretty scary place to be, at first. In my mind, I had not even considered this room. I had gone straight to retirement. All this time I was thinking too far ahead. I had been concentrating so hard on what I perceived as the next room, retirement, I wasn't ready for this one. Midlife.

So here I am, furnishing this room from scratch. What do I need to do to make it work? I have been stumbling through the room of midlife for a few years now. It has been full of many surprises. One of those surprises has been myself. I have discovered that I have interests of my own. I have found so many things that I want to do. Some are a bit far-fetched like taking a cruise around the world or sculpting in steel. I always wanted to be an artist. Other things like learning about the martial arts are more real. I currently have an orange belt in karate and I have started studying Iaido, the art of the Japanese sword.

So, as I pick my way through this room, building, changing and rebuilding, it is beginning to look like a bit of an adventure. So here I am again fighting with my enemy, time. Once again there just never seems to be enough of it. I often find myself getting mad at myself for sitting still and wasting some of this oh-so-precious commodity. I need to keep going to reach my goal for this room. The trouble is, I don't really know what my goal is! Do I even need a goal while I am here? Maybe I should go back and start the previous room over again so I can be better prepared, have a better plan. But I can't. Once those doors are closed, that's it, there is no going back.

As I have been trying to figure this out, I am beginning to see that this room has windows in it. This is a first for me. I can see or at least sense what may be on the other side of that next door. Retirement. That must be what all this is about. I am getting life in order for retirement. Now, with all that I am trying to do, the door to the next room almost feels too close sometimes. I'm not ready. There is so much I need to do. So many things I need to get ready. Can I afford it? Do I want it? Again, what will I do??

My instinct and training tells me I need to plan, in detail, for what is going to happen next. I can't help but try to plan just about everything. Life can be so full, how can you just let it happen? You might miss something.

The reality is that no matter how much planning you do, life still just happens. I am not for a second suggesting that planning is a waste of time. I am just saying that sometimes things just don't work out the way you plan. Sometimes you just have to let go, step through that door into the next room and let it happen. After all, isn't that what retirement is all about? I hope so.

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