Ancient Romans celebrated the beginning of a new year with an offering of a jar of honey to the deity Janus. The hope was to get the new year off to a good start and to “ensure that the year would be sweet” with good fortune. Janus was known as the “God of Beginnings and Thresholds”. Doors, entrance ways and gates were held as sacred places in the daily life of the Roman.
Throughout history, among many cultures, continuing into western psychology, the door has been a symbol of opportunity, a metaphor for transition.
The door to our home provides us protection and privacy from the outside world. We feel secure, electing when we will come and go, who gets to be invited in, what our personal spaces will reflect about us. The door to our future is often the one we feel most fearful about. Anyone who’s been victimized in their own home knows that our security can be an illusion. Behind the door we face are certain to be circumstances we would prefer to avoid. We deny ourselves new possibilities, chances and the growth that lies beyond if we don’t step through.
Deepak Chopra, Stephen Covey and others have taught us that everything that exists in our physical world first existed in our thoughts and minds. Like the Romans, we may wish to be considerate and thoughtful about the real doorways and passages we travel through as we prepare ourselves for the emotional doors we are about to encounter.
WHICH DOOR IS YOUR HOME ENTRYWAY?
In Creating A Beautiful Home, Alexandra Stoddard noticed that the customary door for coming home was the garage or back door. Not exactly the most “gracious.” Is this a pattern that could be improved upon? I confess that I use the garage door. To make the space more welcoming, I hung a Paul Simon print of an European path to the harbor to greet me. Doug and I also assist each other in keeping the space clean and free of clutter. Maybe sometimes we all need to be a guest at our own residence and walk through the doors reserved for company!
WHAT ARE YOUR DEPARTURE AND ARRIVAL RITUALS?
Are the transitions from your home life to your professional or community life serving your goals to live peacefully or happily? Have an evening routine that supports you getting out the door in the morning more effortlessly. Always placing your keys in the same place eliminates frantic hunting as it is time to leave, for example. Doug has taken to accompanying me as I pack the car with my daily necessities and giving me a kiss. This brief, romantic gesture helps us keep the important important and sets a pleasant tone for the rest of the day. At night, I like to take a break with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and converse about our day. What could be done to make your transitions to and from home more pleasurable or meaningful?
WOULD YOUR DOORWAYS BENEFIT FROM SOME REDECORATING?
The Chinese have specified laws pertaining to doors. Practitioners of Feng Shui aim to facilitate a home’s good “Chi” or energy by having doors that are of solid wood and open into cozy spaces. The French adopted the practice of a cozy, welcoming space, calling it a foyer. Interior designers like to create a sense of “beyondness”, seeking to extend enclosed spaces behind doors out into the expansiveness of the natural world. Front entrances into the home welcome our family and friends, giving them hints about our tastes, preferences and interests. A flowering plant to the side of a doorway announces something is growing and thriving just on the other side. Apply a fresh coat of paint or stain, install new hardware or repair worn weather striping. These can be areas we neglect because we do not live in them. I suggest we adopt an enthusiastic attitude about the comings and goings in our home so that the virtual doors we come upon are likely to hide things that are positive and desirable behind them.
HOLD THE DOOR FOR SOMEONE ELSE!
It used to be when a woman approached a door, a man would usually hold it open for her. I know some feminists balk at this practice but I am sure the doors of previous generations were heavier than the ones we contend with today. Regardless of who is arriving after us, it is good manners to hold the door open for others. Be mindful of those around you that need a helping hand and open a “door” literally and figuratively for them whenever you can.
Alexandra Graham Bell noticed that “when one door closes, another door opens”. Helen Keller observed that “often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us”. Their insight encourages us to turn towards the way that we are presented. Inherent in their wisdom is the expectation that we find the courage to cross the threshold into the unknown.
(A drizzle of honey at mealtimes in honor of this month's namesake might not do any harm.)