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A door slams shut, you hear it loudly and clearly. The job for which you receive a rejection email. . . the “let’s have lunch” offer that’s rejected with a “good idea, I’ll give you a call when I can,” . . . the request to a boss for whatever that’s turned down; these are easily perceived, often with sadness or anger, along with disappointment. The door slammed shut and you surely heard it. But how about those silent closings, the ones that creep up over months or frequently years? No slamming sound, no “aha” moment of disappointment or revelation, no lost sleep on any one night.
What is a silent closing? It’s the job you didn’t apply for, the guy or woman you never asked out for coffee or a drink, the article you thought about and outlined in your head, or perhaps even on paper, but never wrote, or maybe the piece you wrote but never submitted again after that first rejection notice. The silent closings, the ones that make no noise but lurk somewhere in the rear of the brain and stealthily emerge years later as either regrets, or pain that you then might just quickly smother with clever rationalizations. Perhaps as the “woulda, coulda, shouldas" of your reflections that somehow hit you at strange times – driving in traffic or sparked by a word or two at the office or at home at night that recalls a memory of what you could have done once but didn’t, or a certain look from a spouse or significant other – partner or maybe adult child. Is it a regret that develops? Or are your defenses so well-honed that what comes out immediately after the thought of the missed event is a plausible, perhaps in one’s mind even a wise explanation of why the “not” happened? More an acceptable justification than an excuse. Silent closings. Those doors that are closed now, closed slowly and silently over time. Why didn’t we keep trying for another kid? Why didn’t we adopt? Why didn’t I go to AA twenty years ago or quit smoking or get that exercise program going or buy that house instead of renting, apply for that job or those jobs, take the chance and change careers, or why didn’t we take the risk of moving to that other city for that opportunity you or I had, we could have made it work.
Doors closing...we all have them. I am 76 years old and, being human, have my share. Luckily, I was a risk-taker as was my family, and many of my risks – my self-pushes – paid off. I would not trade my career or family for any other, and my career is still keeping me happily busy – but not too much! Nor my personal endeavors – running for my health, running my first marathon this fall – something most runners don’t do at 76. The trip we took by car to the Arctic Ocean, the one where you weren’t supposed to go off-road with that rental car but we did for a couple of thousand miles, spent an hour washing it before returning it. And more. But I’m human and I do reflect on some silent closings, admit the rationalizations are just that – tempered by what we all can allow ourselves to say: I made the best decision I could at that time in my life, given what I knew then and the circumstances I was in. Allow yourself that. That’s OK. But also, especially if you’re 20 or 30 or more years younger than I, look around at your doors. Which are silently closing? Why? Do you want to stop that closing? Can you? What is standing in the way? And importantly, will they become sad regrets that you rationalize when you’re my age? Or is prudent to let that door close – are you sure?