When one door closes another opens


Posted by in December's Magazine

Sally Fraser ponders the ever evolving shape shifting that goes towards making a life 

The sky looked like the sand this morning. You know, the swirly, patterned bits of sand on the edge of the shore. The bumpy stuff, where the tide has gone in and out, and where you get quite a nice foot massage if you walk across it with no shoes on. I have a similar pattern all over my belly, from stretch marks, and shrink marks, and stretch marks and shrink marks again. From when I had the babies, the tides of life, the changes, leaving their mark. And this morning the sky was like that, as if to say, the sun is up again, another change, over and over, coming and going. 

South Leith graveyard and church

When one door closes another opens, people keep telling me. Like change is a good thing. I mean, I know it can be, but I don’t like it. As I look at all the various lines on my body; see my face change, hear the creaks in my knees. I wonder why nothing has settled yet. 

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I am not sure if it ever does. I’ve been very lucky in that I get to talk to lots of very old very wise people all the time and one of the great joys of that is you appreciate that we are all always moving, always renewing, and in the same way no-one ever feels rich, no-one ever feels old or grown up. 

I hear people say things like ‘and she was only eighty-six’, or ‘the thing is, I’m not a Leither, I have only been here sixty years’ and I question my right to feel settled at all. People who can list all their houses and jobs, who realised long ago that we don’t really get to cling to anything, we just have to hold on. Even though there will be times when that doesn’t feel very nice at all.

When one door closes, another opens, but you meet hell in the hallway, someone else told me, and I thought yes, that feels more like it. I am very much in a ‘the hell in the hallway’ phase right now. I was sitting in the graveyard at South Leith church, taking advantage of the last few days before they start taking the wall down, feeling sorry for myself about that. A gentleman walked past who I first met doing outreach work, and sensing I was a bit fed up came to talk to me.

“Does God talk to you?” He asked. It must be the question I get asked the most in my life.

“Nah,” I said. “Not me. But I read recently that God only ever says Yes, No, or Wait, and most of the time he says Wait.”

“Sounds about right”.

“But it’s not easy”

“No, it’s not.”

So, wait I will do. I noticed the other day that I have been writing, dear reader, on these pages for seven years now. When I started, snatching the odd hour here or there when my children were at playgroup, I couldn’t have imagined what the next few years had in store, what all the open doors were going to be. 

People who can list all their houses and jobs, who realised long ago we don’t really get to cling to anything, we just have to hold on

Remembering that, makes the hallway a little less hellish. I mean who knows what will have happened by even the next issue, never mind in another seven years time?

Maybe I will still be sitting on the walls of Leith occasionally feeling sorry for myself but generally doing okay. Maybe I will still be working in the church, listening to God through the people I meet in the street and the amazingly wise old ladies I chat to.

Maybe I will write another novel, or play or a sitcom – a bit like Fifty Shades of Grey, but with more incense, or Fleabag with less sex. Or Father Ted, except the person in the corner drinking and swearing is this little northern English woman rather than a priest.

Maybe things will get better and maybe they will get worse, but hopefully I will get to notch up a few more wrinkles and a few more anecdotes to write about and one way or another I will still be finding blessings to count.

We aren’t promised answers and we aren’t promised an easy life. Nobody ever said, take up your cross and follow me, but if it gets a bit uncomfortable put it down and have another slice of cheesecake while you watch The Apprentice

What we are promised is that we are seen and heard in our struggles and that we have hope. The tides will make their marks on the sand, the sun will rise and stain the sky however it chooses.

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