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Troubadour Creative | beyond the door

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beyond the door

beyond the door

I’m sure you all remember being afraid of the dark as a child. That irrational uneasiness that would take the otherwise safe haven of your room, your bed, and plunge it into a labyrinth of worry and danger the moment the light was switched off and your parent left the room. Do you also remember bargaining for exactly how “open” the door was allowed to be? Critical inches of access to that hallway light made the difference between quietly suffering through to sleep, or endlessly bouncing in and out of bed, unable to relax. Eventually you’d lay in bed (upon threat from your Mom about NOT GETTING OUT OF BED ONE MORE TIME) and miserably stare toward the door, seeking rescue by any passing sibling, or more likely, the dawn the next morning. 

I think alot about doors and how they are natural metaphors for transition, for movement, for choices. Warm and promising when open, mute barriers when closed. Which got me to thinking about times in life when doors seem both open and closed at the same time, like the ajar door of my childhood bedroom, and how unsatisfying it feels to be halfway between. For me, the times when disquiet and curiosity drove me out of bed to eavesdrop outside my family room door (see poem ajar, below) were far outweighed by the times I lay in bed, immobilized by fear (of both monster and Mother variety). Where does the invitation of the half-open door end and the iron fizz of your own heart begin? Where does one find the courage to open doors, to walk through doors, or to close them? 

Sometimes what you find on the other side of the door doesn’t provide any answers, but just another door, like some Inception-esque carnival attraction. As a child I could feel the dark and confusing tremors that lived in my house and the desire to decode that mystery was compelling enough to push me out of bed and through that door. As an adult with agency over my own life, it gets more complicated. Maybe less about doors and more about a long hallway.  There is a road, no simple highway and all that …

So, wherever you might be, I wish you courage. And if all you see is closed doors, perhaps find a window to climb out instead? If all else fails, I still have the Peanuts pillowcases and would be happy to loan one out.

*Artwork credit: Sliver of light, Alison Farrer


I’m alone on the dark raft of my bed
Staring at the pool of light that spills past the half-closed door
I keep swallowing but I can’t clear my throat of the fear
It trembles there, caught
My eyes are fixed sharp on the sliver of light as it begins to shimmer
The shutter closes and I feel my world tilt

My eyes snap open and a small wave of seasickness rolls through me
Probably brought on by the blue sailing ships on my bedspread
Or perhaps from my Noah’s Ark sheets… all those animals marching into that cramped boat
Slowly, carefully, I stretch one leg down until my toe touches the barrier of stuffed animals 
My feeble defense against the terrifying unknown that lies beyond
I pull my legs back up higher – better safe than sorry – and press my face into my Peanuts pillowcase
Knowing that Happiness is Being Part of the Gang

I get out of bed and tiptoe to my door, opening it just that tiny bit wider to allow myself to slip through
Silently I creep down the hallway, inching along the wall
To stand at the closed family room door
The door that keeps me separated, cut off
Children on one side, adults the other
The door my brother slams shut when I am practicing the piano in the living room

I stand there shivering, ear against the door
All my senses prickling
Poised for flight
But there is no conversation to overhear
No pent-up sharing of grown-up talk or strained, keep-your-voice-down arguments
So there is nothing new to help me understand the heavy weight that hangs over this house

I stand there for what feels like a long time
My heartbeat hammering in my ears 
Alongside the muffled noise of the television and the gentle kathump kathump of the dryer
I wonder why they can’t sense me
Or is my mother asleep on the couch, the hand-knit afghan pulled up to her weary chin
And has my father long since left the room, always uneasy in his own home

Empty-handed I retrace my steps back to bed
Careful to leap over the spot on the green hall carpet where my cousin once threw up