Brand New Door

There’s a sweet melancholy that comes after Christmas. Glad it’s over, sad it’s over. Christmas evening leaves me standing in a hallway – a door at my back, a door at my front. Both doors are slightly ajar; the one behind me still claiming me even though very soon it will close and push me across the corridor through the door to the front of me. To the newest of years. It is a moment of both rejoicing and regret to walk through that brand new door.

Sometimes in books when something really dramatic happens you might read that the character’s heart sank. I’ve often wondered if that is possible and what it feels like. Well, it is possible and it feels weird, unsettling, like your heart has fallen out of its place in your chest and is plummeting like a pinball through your lower organs.

My heart sank on Christmas Day when my husband refused to go to my parents place for dinner. I understand why he opted out – it has been a really tough year for him, they are notoriously difficult to please; but it put me in a position I didn’t feel like being in on Christmas day.

So there were my son and I driving south, knowing we were getting further and further out of the city as the bushland began to touch the road and we saw the houses change in style from Victorian to Federation to Californian bungalow to Prefab 1960s.  As we passed the house with the flock of stone flamingos on the lawn and the sky blue shutters we knew we were almost there.

Nervously, we pressed the doorbell, calling out: Merry Christmas with as much vigour as we could muster. My sinking heart was lodged somewhere between my liver and my spleen, still beating, but still sinking.

But sometimes people surprise you – even the ones whom you think incapable of surprising acts. My parents were fine about my husband being a no-show. They didn’t make a fuss about it at all. It was such a relief I felt my heart begin its ascent to its usual little chesty nook.

We had a quiet Christmas dinner, but a nice Christmas dinner. However, the thing I noticed, the thing that killed me, was how sad my parents were, as if they knew what they had done but didn’t know how to fix it.

I hate when people are sad. It’s the thing that upsets me the most. Even when people have hurt me and angered me, I still hate to see them sad.

My parents may have thought they couldn’t fix the situation but I decided I could. I would. So I forgave them. For all the nastiness and judgement and backstabbing. Usually it’s hard to forgive in one fell swoop but I think the little journey my sinking heart took loosened up a bit of the malaise that rents out space in my stomach and suddenly all those thoughts that plague you after you have pressed the process button on the Forgiveness App in your brain such as –

  • but what about when he….
  • But he told me that I was a ……
  • But she said….
  • But he said…..
  • They had no right to…..

just disappeared.

Does it matter what was said in the past? The sadness showed me it wasn’t meant; at least not any longer.

Driving back to the city we exclaimed at the colours of the sunset as we crossed the river. And then the birds rose up and over the bridge –shorebirds, plovers, sandpipers, stints – their long delicate beaks catching the orange and pink light and casting it over the road as if they were wielding magic wands.

They flew in an arc, untethered as angels, their exultation everlasting, then disappeared into the fading light. Just as my plaguing thoughts had.

The sunset pulled us home, carefree, effortless; pushing those things that lurk under stones out into the air. And suddenly it became less scary to walk through that brand new door.

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30 thoughts on “Brand New Door

  1. a beautiful, feeling story selma. and what better can anyone do with the holiday than love and forgive? and it isnt easy sometimes, but you did it well and saved the day. seeing the sadness in the eyes that need forgiveness and giving it is the best gift of all i think.

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    1. When you see sadness in someone’s eyes it is very hard to hold on to any ill feeling regardimg them. Forgiveness was the right thing to do. I just felt it in my heart, Tipota!

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  2. Yayayay – a happy ending. What lovely writing Selma – uplifting and magical. Things are looking up 🙂 Here’s to a great 2012 (and if it’s not, bugger it, I’ll finally get my time machine fixed and away we go to the best years, on continuous loop).

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  3. You’re a wonderful writer. I loved your door analogy. The thing I can’t figure is why your husband opted out of going at the last minute. It’s the kind of thing my father used to do, and it greatly hurt my respect for him because it struck me as mean-spirited.

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    1. I have to be honest with you, Snowbrush, and say I felt it was mean-spirited too. What upset me the most was my son noticed the mean-spiritedness and I don’t want him to think of his father in that way. There is a history of acrimony between my husband and my parents but it doesn’t excuse acting like that on Christmas Day. it was out of character and it surprised me. I know he regretted it. My hope is that now we all can move forward….

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  4. I, too, identify with your story, Selma. My husband is wont to pull that kind of last-minute surprise stunt, too – and my father before him, just to keep my Mum on her toes. Life is often spent on tenterhooks, trying to jolly along people with their different sensitivities and touchiness. Sometimes it’s quite exhausting. It’s been that kind of Christmas – and still another headache-inducing week until the last of the visitors leaves us to it … x

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    1. I’m sorry you have experienced something similar, Guybrush57. I agree that it can be exhausting. Juggling people’s feelings is hard work. I hope your week has been less headache-inducing than expected. So nice to see you!

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  5. Beautiful writing and a wonderful story.

    I am like you, that I don’t like to see those I love sad (and I know that heart sinking feeling too.) So glad of the happy ending. 🙂

    Here’s to walking through new doors! xxx

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    1. I just can’t stand anyone being sad, Susannah. I will do anything to cheer them up. It was great to have a happy ending for once. YES. Let’s walk through new doors unafraid with our heads held high!

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  6. You can see how painful this must have been for you, but it’s an important post for us. Forgiving people, especially those we care about the most, is so hard. I hope this has dissipated some of the bad feeling and that New Year’s is full of love and fun for you.

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    1. It’s true, Sue. You would think forgiveness would be an easy thing to do, but it really isn’t. I feel the bad feeling has dissipated. It really had to. It was wearing me out. Hope you have a great New Year!

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  7. As you know, I’m going through something very similar with the monster in law. It’s difficult to forgive, to get past the he said/shesaid/theysaid crap.I try to remember this:, they’re too old to change, but we’re old enough to understand that. They are people too, they make mistakes like we all do, they do the wrong thing, like we all do and have regrets like we all do. In short they’re human too even if they do act like monsters at times.

    I’ve spent alot of time thinking about this and I have to wonder what went wrong in their own lives that made them so judgemental and mean spirited ya know? And that if we behave the same back to them,aren’t we then perpetuating the same blame and bad feelings? Somehow, we have to find it in ourselves to be the bigger person if only to let go of the darkness in ourselves regarding them.

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    1. I know you’re going through a similar thing, Cathy, and I know how hard it is for you. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this too and you are 100% spot on with your point about us perpetuating the same blame and bad feelings if we also behave badly. That said however, it is incredibly difficult to just let everything go because some of those things that have been done to us or said about us really hurt, don’t they? Being the bigger person is the hardest thing in the world. For myself, I don’t want to look back in ten years and think :’I acted as badly as they did.’ I don’t want to be ashamed of myself but it is so hard to be ‘big’ about it. I think I’ll tackle this with the baby step approach and see what happens.

      I’d like to tell you, Cathy that your advice and insightfulness re. this issue have been invaluable for me. You have really helped me make sense of it. Thank you :mrgreen:

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  8. Oh how I empathise, Selma. My husband used to do the same and Christmas was never a happy time for me. I couldn’t cut myself in half so he always won. There is nothing worse than being in the middle. I agree forgiveness and love is all and I did manage to forgive him some years after our divorce. I found it cleansed my soul! Bless you.

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    1. You are so right, Adee. Being in the middle is horrible. I hate it. It’s so distressing. Good on you for forgiving your husband – you inspire me. And that’s a good point to remember – forgiveness cleanses us, so for that reason alone it has to be worth it!

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  9. sounds like a sweet end to your christmas. perhaps things aren’t as bleak as you imagine.

    hope more beautiful and wonderful things will come your way. have a great new year.

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    1. You’ve hit on a really key point with me, Lissa, I do sometimes imagine things are bleaker than they are and are unfixable. But a friend of mine said something the other day which I thought was very wise and that is – pretty much everything is resolvable if both parties choose to resolve it. KI am hoping that might be true in this case.

      Have a fantabulous New Year, Lissa. You are such a lovely person xxx

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  10. I wonder if your husband’s absence finally conveyed to them how much they’ve hurt you in the past, and they don’t know how to make it right?

    If that’s the case, I hope they do find a way, soon.

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    1. I don’t think they know how to resolve it. I did get the impression that they regretted how heavy-handed they have been in the past. Perhaps I can pave the way for them being able to move on from this. I hope….

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  11. This is a lovely piece, Selma. You write so beautifully. And you have a big heart.

    I empathize with your husband. My mother-in-law never said anything mean to me, but her behavior spoke volumes about how little I and my kids (from a former marriage) mattered in her world. We weren’t “family” (even though my husband and I have been married for 20 years and together for 27). I tried to forgive, but when the reminders came over and over again, it was hard. I think she didn’t even realize she was doing it (which I saw as yet another example of my being invisible). She’s been gone since last February, but as you can see, I’m stillnot over it.

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    1. I’m really sorry to hear about the way you were treated by your mother-in-law, Patti. You would think that considering you and your husband have been together for such a long time that she could have let it go. Sadly, I know that many, many people have trouble letting go of their critical thinking. I think for some people coming from a place of judgement becomes habitual and it is very difficult for them to alter their mindset. What
      a shame. I would be delighted to have you as my daughter-in-law. What fun we’d have writing stories together ♥

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  12. You’re right, sweet Selma, that forgiving is not an easy thing to do but I’m happy that you had this chance to do that with your parents. I like to think that if mine were still here it’s something I could do, too, but maybe not. That’s the thing about the holidays, it brings alot of old hurts to the front.
    So here we are, at the start of a bright, new beginning, a time to forget the old and think about the future … I wish you great joy in this exciting New Year. And I thank you for sharing so much, especially the images of doors, one of my favorite things!

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    1. You’re so right, Susan. I think at this time of year we lapse into contemplation and we can focus too much on past hurts. The way I look at it is we all at some stage do and say things we shouldn’t. I would want to be forgiven if I had hurt someone, so therefore why shouldn’t I be the forgiver? It’s hard to initiate but I do feel better for getting the ball rolling…..

      It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know you this year. I’m going to do a post on doors just for you. I have heaps of photos of them. I’ll try and do it in the next week or so. Happy New Year!

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  13. You know, forgiveness really is the way to go. Forgiveness of others, and forgiveness of yourself at the same time. It is truly the answer. I’m so glad you were able to reach that place, Sel. I definitely know it’s not always easy, but well worth the effort. xoxo

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    1. I think what it does for yourself is the key. Carrying around all that resentment is not healthy. You’re right, Steph, it is hard, but definitely worth it!

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