I believe in doors. Windows are fine, but only for visual teasing. Doors call for action.
Five years ago I entered a doorway, fell over misplaced construction equipment, and landed with five tendons, two nerves and one artery severed in my right hand. In hindsight though, I’m grateful to that door. It changed my life, and my outlook.
We’re always going through doors. My bedroom door is first in the morning. Then my front door, my car door, my office door. Passing through familiar doors I don’t notice welcome mats… outside or inside. These doors are just the transitional markers of my ordinary day.
But doors also lead to unknown places: that ambulance door, two subsequent unconscious trips through the OR’s swinging doors, and innumerable entrances into the rehabilitation center. In my normal routine I would never have met a Vietnam vet — dressed in an orange jumpsuit with ankle jewelry — a nice man who’d robbed a convenience store just to get his shoulder repaired.
Regaining use of my hand was difficult and painful to say the least. The greater struggle was accepting that my world had effectively shrunk to the space surrounding a single event, one body part, and the dread of what this might mean. There were so many things I could no longer do, so much time and effort spent rethinking, relearning.
I was not alone, however, in redefining what was possible.
My accident happened a year after 9/11. That day the world changed; fear began to permeate the air. Endless talk of safety and, sadly I think, that talk has proliferated ever since. Is our food safe, our toys, our neighborhoods, and of course what about travel?
I’ve always felt exhilaration leaving an airplane. Foreign travel is an adventure, an opportunity, the more alien the greater the rewards. So my son’s invitation to Afghanistan persuaded me that my hand was as good as it need be, and that this trip could be a portal to reclaiming my life.
Walking beneath budding pistachio trees, drinking mint tea with shrouded women, and experiencing the dun-colored vastness of this blood-soaked land renewed my perspective. Afghanistan is still littered with land mines, only some marked with red painted rocks. But I already knew that there are metaphoric land mines everywhere… that staying safe, being safe, means staying behind closed doors.
How do I define a door? Something hard, impermeable, an obstacle. Something that, once opened, may lead out… or in. The cover of a book is a door of sorts. A state of mind is a door. Going through one door surely means missing another. I believe in doors because they offer choices. I can slam a door and lock it shut. I can peek through or burst through. I can even smash one down. So which door do I choose? Door #1, #2, or #3? The safest door or, with determination, a more dimly lit one, planning all along to leave it ajar for somebody else.
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