You’ve been taunting me for 10+ years now. I have longed for you to be open sometimes, closed some others. I was raised with the open kind the first 20 years. A decade has gone by since my first days behind the closed kind. I used to wonder why no one ever knocked on my door. I used to wonder if my neighbors even knew I existed. I never met them in the one and something years that I lived in Portland. I never met them in the 5 years I lived in 4 homes in California. I never met them in the 2+ years I lived in Pittsburgh. The list goes on. Moving out of my first gradschool home away from my close friends was definitely one of the scariest things I’ve done. I used to obsess about emergencies when I first lived by myself. But the closed doors hid things so unbelievably well. So well that I was scared no one would even notice if something happened to me especially in the homes where I lived by myself. It took a little getting used to. But then over the years, life happened. Daddy A and I moved in together, we traveled, I traveled by myself a lot as well, enjoyed my few years of ‘husband only’ time (a stark contrast to the nomadic jing bang I’d had around me till then) and eventually had my little girl. Suddenly these closed doors started protecting me. They helped conceal the weariness of long nights, gave me the space to make mistakes as a new mom without prying judgmental eyes, allowed my child to grow and explore without hearing NO all the time and without overbearing absolutes and opinions, brought daddy A and I closer than we’d ever been in the thirteen years we’d known each other. Those closed doors made us stronger than any family we knew. We were proud of that. We visited parks, beaches, deserts, friends, family and many many other places but we always came back to nestle behind those closed doors. Our castle. Our fort. I owe a lot to your closed kind.
But things changed as little A found her legs and became more and more active. She needed more. I could tell. More than her strong proud parents, their small circle of friends, and Skype sessions with cousins and grandparents. The frustration grew. We started yearning for the doors to crack open a little without being forced open. Where are the neighbors? Who lives around here? Who’s that kid little A keeps talking about? We started getting more interested in the world around us. And the inevitable happened. I had gone a full circle. I asked that very question again, ten years later.
Why doesn’t anyone ever knock the door?!
Daddy A and my professional lives were intersecting. Who knew neuroscience and user experience could find such an exciting home together. As work got more interesting and absorbing, we found ourselves wishing we had the time and energy to widen little A’s social space even more. It was too late. Hitting 30s, caring for the child, the house and the career pretty much left nothing else for the social life. I started yearning for one. For my little girl. For her sake. I knew I had to get out there and show her a life outside of her mom and dad’s world then. I wanted the door to open up. Let more people in … not as many as I’d lived and roamed with back home. Not so many. That would be too many. Just a handful more than the close close ones I already had. Maybe mommy friends I asked?! Maybe mommy friends. When it started getting harder to open that door ourselves .. we cracked and caved. We decided it was best we moved back ‘home’. ‘Home’ … where the doors would always be open. Where people came in and out. Where little A would learn masterfully, to negotiate space and learn about relationships. And we would have help. All the help and the village needed to raise this child. And the startup would flourish. Yes it’s ok to open them up wide .. if that’s the only way .. then so be it.
Such fools we were!! Such fools. We completely underestimated the power of the open door. We got everything we asked for. We got everything we thought we wanted. And I still want most of it. But you … you my dear are playing games with me. You’re testing me. I thought it would be a breeze. On one hand it’s so lovely how many people stop by to say hello, for coffee, to check on my little A … on the other, it’s bloody annoying how everyone always wants to know what’s cooking, which piece of decor I put up today, why little A was screaming last evening, who’s the guest that just walked in. It’s even worse when little A runs out no matter what state she’s in .. nangu, a total streaker in the community once a week. This open door thingy is so new to her … she just shoots out the moment you’re opened for any reason and I don’t need to give you reasons in this place. There’s someone at the door every 5 mins anyway. And she runs right into any other open door she sees. I’ve been trying to explain the concept of space to her. You can’t walk into their bathroom asking for your friend. You can’t walk out the door without clothes. You have to knock on the door. The lessons in space are endless. But at least she’s responding. She doesn’t dart out of the house like she’s been trapped in jail or something anymore. She’s loving her new home with every passing day. And she’s loving the bonding time with mommy. It’s getting better. As in progress in the right direction, not fixed yet, but progressing. But how am I supposed to negotiate space with neighbors when you’re open all the time now?! And even if you’re closed, you somehow seem to open to them. They just knock and ring the bell till someone opens the door. Or listen from outside anyway. The lady upstairs always tells me she can tell what’s going on at our place. I swear we’re not that loud. We’re very aware of sound. But the lady insists she can hear little A all the time and our conversations with her. So clearly they listen anyway. Some say it’s just a phase. I mean I’m playing stay at home mommy for 3 months helping my girl transition. The door will be shut when you’re away at work anyway. Whatever, some say. Another friend who showed up last night said she’ll teach me how to shooo them all away.
But why are there just two states I ask? Why only closed or wide open? Why not subtly negotiable states? What about the states in between open and closed? You’ve put me in an awkward position. I’m still learning to say No around here. It’s really hard. I’m beginning to feel like a door mat. Being walked over by everyone around me. Being dragged out in the open for judgment, unsolicited advice and nosy business. I realize these games you’ve played .. they’ve been to help me learn how to say No and to deal with the new world I’m in. I guess it was well intentioned. It’s just really sad that I don’t have the time or energy to teach all these other people about space. It’s not an easy thing to teach anyone. It’s only learnt when one experiences that. I had to learn it the hard way back there. But I’m trying to find middle ground now. And it’s soooooo evasive. It’s so hard to find. It’s so hard to set boundaries, negotiate and move them contextually when people don’t get the meaning of space. I am not saying I don’t want anyone in my life. I’m not being snooty here … I’d just like you to not follow my every step and be so shameless declaring it so loudly. It’s much much easier with my little girl in comparison. And I’ve kind of figured out how to manage this with family over the years. But an entire community at once. This feels like a bit much. I seem to be a magnet for these kinds of people. A total magnet. And you’re not really helping with middle ground. You’re either closed or open. I might start brainstorming weird solutions to redesign you. Really. If that’s all I have left, then that’s what I’ll do.
Why not design doors like modern day status messages? Why not make negotiating space as simple as Facebook and status messages have made them (albeit dumbed down .. but it’s a start). Maybe I should talk about that to daddy A now and see how to make this a reality. Maybe a few months from now .. my door will have different states. At least I can have a few foolish moments of experimenting with signs that say “Nope … she’s not screaming tonight, let’s find something else to talk about tomorrow” .. or “Grumpy morning .. knock at your own risk” .. or “You can come in .. if you have no questions”. I am doing so bad with boundary setting right now, this might be all I have left if the next few months are as bad as the previous two. No one seems to get subtle, polite statements about where I want them to be … that language ain’t working. Maybe they can speak to the door instead. These door messages might just be the answer. It’s growing on me, the idea. Really.
P.S It’s sooooooo freaky what just happened. As I finished typing here and looked up at my door to take a picture, I realized I had two doors in the living room. I’ve owned this screen divider which I’ve always put up next to the door in my house as another door. One real one and another fake one. I carry this red door everywhere I go. It must be some kind of subconscious representation of all this. Every time this house door opens, can I walk into this red door and disappear? Anyone have an app for that?!