Rumi wrote a poem entitled Who is at the Door in which the main character will not allow a friend into his home because he responds to “Who is it?” by saying “It is me.” At the end of the poem, we witness the following interaction:
His friend called out, “Who is that at the door?” He answered, “Only you are at the door, O seizer of hearts!” (The friend) said, “Now, since you are me, O me, come in, (since) there’s no room for two ‘me’s’ in the house.
While this poem was suggested to me because of my love for writing and passion about all religions and how they intersect, the friend who suggested it had no idea that a simple poem would change the course of my life. I realized that I was standing at the door of my life and not letting myself in because I was responding to “Who is it” with the wrong thought process.
Today I hope to inspire you to reflect upon your own life as I share with you how this poem helped change my life and has made me look at the world and my place in it a bit differently.
Change 1: Realize I Am Only A Speck In This World
This poem helped me realize I was spending too much time being “me” and not “you” to the world. I was not taking time to smell the proverbial roses. Instead, I was smelling the Jersey turnpike and was not pleased with the abuse to my nostrils.To change this, I had to get outside of myself. I had to remember I was but one of many in the world and if I wanted my voice to be heard and to make a change, I needed to get off my butt and start doing something about it.
I began speaking to teens at an inner city high school about the effects of teen dating violence and how to prevent getting into a bad relationship. I began volunteering with local charity efforts and stepping outside of my comfort zone. I helped others and in the meantime met some great people who are now friends. By stepping outside of myself, I was able to experience the world again. In the past year since making these changes, I have been involved with a lot of charity work, helped many people find their passions and uncover their dreams, and have learned how much I love connecting with others in real relationships that produce encouragement, love, and openness.
Change 2: Free the Boyfriend
I had begun seeing this guy who was the type of guy I am often told “girls like me” (divorced, two kids, career-driven, opinionated) don’t get to have. You know the type of guys with brains, good jobs, and great futures. However, it was clear that our plans didn’t mesh and our personalities would lead to another divorce. I could see that for us to be happy together we both had to change who we were, what we wanted in life, and the paths we were traveling. This didn’t strike me as a better alternative to living a happy life alone or waiting for someone who respects a “girl like me”.
When I thought of Rumi’s use of “me” and “you”, I realized that the boyfriend and I would never be on one accord and therefore needed to end it. This was a huge step for me – to give up something that I was told I would never achieve because of my past – yet I faithfully stepped forward and broke up with him and suffered the consequences with friends, family members, and being back to watching movies at noontime in a theater with other people who supposedly have too high of expectations for love.
Change 3: Dump Some Friends
I learned after making Change 2 that you can’t free your boyfriend without realizing you have made some horrible choices in friendships. It seems when you start evaluating one type of relationship, others follow suit pretty quickly. As such, I began evaluating every friendship I had.
I asked myself whether I encouraged him/her? Whether we talked or had become lost in the internet connection that stands between us? Whether we had had a give and take relationship or only giving – and for those who were giving only I had to ask myself if there were other reasons to remain in the relationship. I found myself looking at every friendship and acquaintance as if it were a friends list on Facebook…but I didn’t have the luxury of just “defriending” some of them by clicking an x near their picture. Instead I had to sit with some and explain why I didn’t feel there was a mutually beneficial friendship and why I needed to end the relationship. Others I had to apologize to because I realized I was the one taking everything they were giving. And others I had to explain that while we were mutually beneficial to one another, I felt the season for us to be friends had come to an end and I needed to move on. This might sound overly rambunctious, but as one of my closest friends says, “You are the person who comes off so open that no one realizes how closed you really are until they get to know you.”
With each friendship that closed its doors, I became a step closer to “you” and not “me”. It was freeing. But there was still work to do. The hard stuff had not even begun. I was finding myself wishing Rumi had kept his thoughts to himself or that I didn’t have so many late night thoughts that fly through my mind.
Change 4: Abandon Myself (well…pieces anyway)
Rumi notes in the poem:
“The two ends of the thread are not (suitable) for the needle. (So), if you are a single strand, come into the needle.” (Only) the thread becomes connected with the needle; the eye of the needle is not appropriate for a camel.The camel’s existence can never become thin except by (means of) the shears of strict exercises and work. (But) for that, O so-and-so, the Power of God is needed– since it is the “Be! And it was” for every (apparently) impossible (situation).”
This brought to mind immediately a documentary on Disney that I watched a while ago in which I learned that the company was built on making the impossible only a state of mind. I thought to myself – if I am going to let go of the boyfriend and friends, in the name of wanting to become more aligned with my true self – wouldn’t have to also let go of pieces of me? This was perhaps the hardest part – as I am my own worst critic and had just freed my boyfriend and several once-close friends. To say I was a bit vulnerable and hard on myself could be downplaying the true severity of the act of abandoning pieces of myself. I had to make a few lists before I could step away from myself and really look at myself through the door and say “This has to go. This can stay.” (For example, my love for hiking and Cummins engines will never make it through a removal process…but the selfishness that had begun to take residence in my life when it came to my time needed to go out with the trash immediately.)
Change 5: Change Myself in the Areas Requiring Improvement
Not everything in my life prevented me from becoming “you” at the door. In fact, few things really needed to go out with the trash, but several others were scarred or weather beaten and needed some improvements and renovations. So I started, and am still in the process of, refining my behaviors, thoughts, and overall actions toward certain situations and people.
I am learning to step outside of myself so I can grow, believe that “Impossible is nothing and everything is within my limits as long as I am willing to go out of bounds sometimes when the lines are preventing me from achieving success yet don’t break the guidelines I set forth for how I want to live my life” (noted within the Disney documentary). I began spending more time traveling and volunteering, cancelled cable so I spend more time outdoors or reading and writing inside, and started making friends with children my youngest daughter’s age. In each activity, I have felt more alive and have started enjoying life again.
Would You Let Yourself In?
No single change was easy. In fact, some were a close second to wanting to undergo Chinese Water Torture willfully To avoid the process and pain. However, every one of them was worth it for what they have done to make my life better. In the years prior to making these changes, I had lost a lot of myself due to pressures from divorce, family, and career. By making these changes, I was slowly able to take my life back and put myself in the driver’s seat instead of allowing pressure and others’ opinions matter more than my own dreams.
I would encourage everyone to undertake a journey in which they evaluate every “room” in their lives and determine what needs to go, what must stay, what should be changed, and what should be demolished. Life will never be easy and our circumstances will always provide us with the desire to wish we had made different choices. However, if we are able to self-reflect and know that our circumstances are temporary, we can smile because we are on the right path toward wholeness and reconciliation. By undergoing this journey, I have become a woman I would be happy to open the to and allow in my home.
I want to challenge you to think about this question as I close, “If you were to knock on your own door – would you let yourself in?” If you wouldn’t, what can you change in your life so you will allow yourself to walk through?