the obvious thematic quality of doors

Posted by on August 30, 2007

I’ve taken a lot of photos of doors in the past two years, without consciously setting out to do so. I recently photographed the door above while visiting my sister in Wisconsin, walking around her small town. I liked the colors, but also just the fact that it was a door…in somewhat shabby shape. I suppose shabby would be the modifying adjective of this ongoing photographic theme. A letter from a friend I received recently contained a quote from her sister, who is a young Catholic nun: “Our God is a God of themes.” I agreed with it wholeheartedly as soon as I read it, and decided to frame it and hang it up permanently on the limited wall space of my brain.

The friend who wrote the letter spoke specifically of the phenomenon of certain books finding you at times when you need them, and coincidences surrounding books– such as finding out that someone important to you is reading the same book at the same time– perhaps even an obscure book.

But it seems to me that themes can run through an individual life in many ways–themes or coincidences– however you want to describe it. Like, for example, a friend of mine whose baby girl, born a few days ago, was born on the birthday of her mother, who just passed away a few years ago– as if the birth of a child by itself is not enough to make everyone giddy.

I asked myself why I keep taking pictures of doors– not just one door, but door, after door. Perhaps it has something of the seventies game show association–multiple doors, in which each symbolizes a surprise just behind it, and you have to choose, not knowing what you’re commiting to. I think that perhaps my attraction to doors has only a little, if anything, of that in it, because I don’t seriously consider all doors equal, in the way they’re presented in game shows. Very few doors present themselves for serious consideration, and even fewer as the obvious choice for entrance. And this quality of door-obviousness becomes apparent through a thousand thematic details which arrange themselves outside of the realm of my own control. As themes float up into my line of vision, without my having wrested them into being, I feel reassured enough to go forward into the unknown. I know all of this, and still I occupy myself with all the doors around me, everywhere, as if they were all being presented to me as equal choices, when clearly, they aren’t. They may be the doors that other people around me are going through, not for me, and still I obsess.

As Esme approaches her first birthday, I have been preoccupied with the issue of whether and when to have another baby. It’s the multiple door phenomenon. Now that I have a better inkling of what motherhood entails, I weigh the potential joys and hardships of pregnancy, childbirth, caring for a newborn, caring for multiple children, sibling dynamics, family dynamics, the future with older children, my own health and ability. There is also the mountainous fact that I’d like to avoid another c-section and the challenges that entails. The truth is, I’m simply not ready for another pregnancy, and I know that, but I look around at other women who go forth bravely into pregnancy upon the heels of the one before, and observe them with part admiration and part trepedation. I’m afraid I’ve been rather obsessed with these issues, and find myself talking the ears off of an innocent husband and friends who are surely weary of my repetitive holding forth.

I’m the game show contestant sweating beneath the colored lights, forced to make a choice with nothing to base it on, fearing that the interior I enter will prove to be the lesser prize. It’s wicked, I know, and a mental quandary of my own making, not even close to the reality of how life is really unfolding before me in a manner that is actually quite kind, gentle, thematic, and subtle, not at all like a dehumanizing televised game show. And in this gentler reality, the actual, there is nothing–nothing–that can happen that will be more than I can bear in the moment. Oh, if only I could inscribe the “one day at a time” (one door at a time?) cliche upon the tablet of my heart once and for all.

  1. Jenny
    August 31, 2007

    Jules,

    YEAH! You posted. I was worried that perhaps your computer had died and you would never post again. I shudder to think of it.

    This post is lovely. The door images are AWESOME and your words move me. I totally agree with your idea about God working in themes–and gently, too.

    About baby #2, I think it makes sense to wait for the desire to be strong. I suspect that your whole being will begin to ache for that second child when/if you’re ready.

    It took me so long to begin to long for Natalie–but now I can’t imagine life without her!

    Anyway, you’re in my thoughts and prayers as you stand before these doors of infinite possibility.

    I LOVE YOU!
    Jenny

    P.S. Visit my friend Bethany’s blog http://bethanypatchin.blogspot.com. She’s linked to you with some kind words about your blog.

  2. Julia
    August 31, 2007

    Thanks, Jenny. I remember visiting you in Chicago two years ago, before Natalie (or Esme for that matter) was in the works. We were driving into the Trader Joes parking lot and talking about whether or not you should have another baby. You seemed torn over the question too at that point, so I thought you might be able to relate to me in my current state. I think your advice is good: wait until the desire is strong. I really like that. Maybe it will be a month from now (doubtful) maybe a year or two. Thank you!

  3. anna j
    September 2, 2007

    Bless you for posting again, Julia! I was so missing hearing from you. You are insightful as always–I only wish I had insight to offer in return . . . but I fear I can offer no wisdom, only my undying devotion to a dearly missed friend!

  4. Bethany Torode
    September 5, 2007

    Julia – (nice to formally meet you in comments-land!) I loooooved this and so, so needed to read it tonight:

    “It’s wicked, I know, and a mental quandry of my own making, not even close to the reality of how life is really unfolding before me in a manner that is actually quite kind, gentle, thematic, and subtle, not at all like a dehumanizing televised game show. And in this gentler reality, the actual, there is nothing–nothing–that can happen that will be more than I can bear in the moment. Oh, if only I could inscribe the “one day at a time” (one door at a time?) cliche upon the tablet of my heart once and for all.”

    I can give you $.02 as someone who did not wait until the desire was genuinely there in my heart to have #2, and then who didn’t feel ready for #3 2-1/2 years after that, and then who REALLY didn’t feel ready for surprise conception of #4 six months after that. It is the biggest regret of my life, not listening to my limits. That regret is completely separate from my happiness that these four human beings exist. But it’s still there.

    I gave the illusion that I was confident, strong, happy, ready for (at least the second) pregnancy – but it was a lie, and I’m still experiencing the aftershocks.

    Jenny is my sanity model, and I have learned so much from her example. I remember her saying that Anna’s conception was a “deep, unemotional knowing” that the time was right, so that could be the other thing you’re waiting for.

    Love
    Bethany

  5. Lucy
    September 5, 2007

    Have I told you that I think you’re becoming an ace photographer?

  6. Julia
    September 5, 2007

    Bethany: It is nice to meet you in comment land too. Thanks for telling about your experience. The more I hear from other women, the more I feel able to refine my own thoughts about these sorts of things. The words “deep unemotional knowing” are so helpful– they perfectly describe how I felt when I knew I was ready to try to conceive a child the first time. The motivation was completely whole, with no vascilating or pressure. But I can easily see how a multitude of noisy, surfacy voices could motivate any pregnancy (first, second, third, whichever). I never really heard these voices before, but now, for some reason, I hear them all, and they really seem to come from all sorts of sources and fall into a variety of categories. Some are based in fear, some in peer pressure (I live amidst mostly Catholics), some in the desire to control things that are so clearly out of my control, like “the perfect spacing of siblings so that they don’t feel competitive but aren’t so far apart that they can’t become friends.” Total absurdity! How do I even know that I can conceive again anyway. Nothing’s guaranteed. Anyway, it’s been harder to hear the “deep unemotional knowing” underneath that is saying “no” but may change to “yes” at any point. From now on, I’m going to be listening more intently and try to block out all the other voices.

    Lucy! Thanks for the compliment on my photography. Let’s just get one thing clear. I know that we both know that no matter how good I get, you’re always untouchable– the true artist that will always be taken seriously as such.

  7. Liz
    September 7, 2007

    hi julia,

    i really like reading your blog. the little insights and perspective and humility . . .
    just letting you know i’m out here, happily reading away.

    liz fallon