Doors & Paths

A life lived long and well (or short or not-so-well) is a continual series of choices, appearing metaphorically as doors or paths. Open a door, and the universe’s equivalent of Monty Hall (Let's Make a Deal TV game show host) will either celebrate with you on what’s behind the door you chose: “You won a living room set complete with entertainment center!”, or commiserate with you if you picked the wrong door: “You won a blind-in-one-eye pig, a slop bucket and a shovel!” Take the wrong path, and you might delay your fated journey, influence it by what you discover there, or reach a dead-end and flounder, stuck there for good unless you find the courage to backtrack to the fork and take a different path.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by - Robert Frost

Truth is, the human spirit and our autonomic survival instinct can overcome picking the wrong door or path to a point. We cannot know ahead, of course, whether doors we open or paths we take lead us to a good life. Our view of what our lives could or should be is ever-evolving, constantly shifting throughout life influenced by preceding doors opened and paths taken as it is by our developing maturity and connection of millions of dots over a lifetime.

There was, Alicia realized, a single hour that all the days since your birth pointed you toward. What you thought was a maze of choices, all the possibilities of what your life might become, was, in fact, a series of steps you took along a road [or doors opened], and when you reached your destination and looked back, only one path—the one chosen for you—was visible. - Justin Cronin, The City of Mirrors, The Passage trilogy book 3

That quote from Cronin’s dystopian Sci-Fi/thriller (a great read) inspired my deeper thoughts leading to today’s blog post.

We measure the arc of our lives in various ways: family relations, intellectual pursuits, health, accomplishments, lives touch, and much, much more. What we make of our exposures and opportunities can influence our true path, or at least affect it, as we move along.

This philosophy embraces failure, of course, because through failure we learn what didn’t work, thus getting closer to what might work. Even in my youth, I always grimaced at those in my life (mainly sports coaches) who stressed failure as unacceptable. I thought then (and still do) such barking is a psychologically damaging response. Fear of failure often translates to fear of trying, and I’ve known many who, after such encounters, simply shutdown and took less-likely-to-fail paths through their lives, never opening doors until mostly sure what was on the other side. What these people might have accomplished or nudged the world in good ways we’ll never know.

I’m not suggesting one should open any and every door encountered, or take any and every path in front of our feet. A certain amount of stillness and listening for inner guidance plays a necessary part in our choices, as does the influence from efforts, learnings, and acquired skills achieved up to that point.

Pondering this blog post's core idea led me to think about my life and the myriad doors and paths I chose. Would I have chosen differently now that I know what I do and experienced what I have? Possibly… potentially… but no, not really. I’ve happy with who I am, where I've been, and what I’ve done. I long ago dropped dogma thinking about the past (the woulda/coulda/shoulda trap). Had I gone through different doors here and there or trod down different paths, I imagine I would have liked how that person turned out, too.

As of this very moment, I, unlike Alicia in the novel quote above, am not looking back, seeing all that led me to this hour as “my point” in life. I’m not through exploring doors ahead, be they short, tall, skinny, wide, battered or freshly painted (or even locked thus taunting me to break through them)… nor am I finished taking paths well trod or seldom walked, weedy and overgrown, light and airy, or even dark and gloomy. The adventure of doors and paths will continue for me… until it doesn’t.

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