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flailing at doors
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During my first week at the University of Chicago, I fell into a door. I no longer remember if it was the sprained knee or my avoidance of frat parties that resulted in me dining in the almost-empty cafeteria with several third-years, one of them the eight-fingered cellist I would date through the middle of my first year of graduate school. I'm no longer in touch with him, but one of his best friends was a physicist whose wedding I attended last year, and whose child will be arriving soon, which naturally provided me an excuse to send him and her one of my favorite picture books of all time, No Matter What.

I feel like I've figuratively concussed myself on several doors within the past twenty-four hours, so this is me reminding myself that in spite of my klutziness, things do tend to turn out for the best, and even when they don't, there's usually a story that can be wrung out of them.

I took the dog to the vet for her annual exam today. As usual, she was plenty docile getting into the car, and reasonably well-behaved in the waiting room (even rolling onto her back so I could rub her belly with my feet) -- but once it came time for blood to be drawn, nails to be clipped, etc., the flailing was mighty, and the techs ending up having to poke both front legs to extract their measly three drops:

From photoblogging

Last week, at several blogs I visited, I noticed several riffs on Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the thing with feathers" (usually bbq-tinged, pessimistic lot that you are). This week it's either doors or grilled cheese sandwiches, which Havi posted on yesterday at the Fluent Self.

Let's say it's doors: I've been reading Parker J. Palmer's Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, and this passage leapt to mind when I saw Havi's title:

"Have faith," [the Quakers at Pendle Hill] said, "and way will open."

"I have faith," I thought to myself. "What I don't have is time to wait for 'way' to open. I'm approaching middle age at warp speed, and I have yet to find a vocational path that feels right. The only way that's opened so far is the wrong way."

After a few months of deepening frustration, I took my troubles to an older Quaker woman well known for her thoughtfulness and candor. "Ruth," I said, "people keep telling me that 'way will open.' Well, I sit in the silence, I pray, I listen for my calling, but way is not opening. I've been trying to find my vocation for a long time, and I still don't have the foggiest idea of what I'm meant to do. Way may open for other people, but it's sure not opening for me."

Ruth's reply was a model of Quaker plain-speaking. "I'm a birthright Friend," she said somberly, "and in sixty-plus years of living, way has never opened in front of me." She paused, and I started sinking into despair. Was this wise woman telling me that the Quaker concept of God's guidance was a hoax?

Then she spoke again, this time with a grin. "But a lot of way has closed behind me, and that's had the same guiding effect."

I laughed with her, laughed loud and long, the kind of laughter that comes when a simple truth exposes your heart for the needlessly neurotic mess it has become. Ruth's honesty gave me a new way to look at my vocational journey, and my experience has long since confirmed the lesson she taught me that day: there is as much guidance in what does not and cannot happen in my life as there is in what can and does -- maybe more.

As it happens, the theme of the services at my church last Sunday and this coming Sunday is vocation. During her sermon, my minister quoted a line from Frederick Buechner's Wishful Thinking that she's written into daybook after daybook for years: "The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."

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