Sometimes what we need is affirmation and renewal


There’s a doorway in the middle of my hallway. 

I discovered it only after living in this house, an old one with many stories to tell, for over 20 years. I’ve been painting, you see, an activity which causes one to stop and look at holes in plaster and other odd blemishes. This is not a doorway to a hidden tunnel or panic room or some other secret space I’ve only just discovered. It’s a doorway smack in the middle of the hallway. If you go through it, you’re simply going down the rest of the hallway. 

There’s no threshold, but an indentation where hinges once were tells me that at one time in this house’s history, there was, in fact, a door.


Two questions keep coming up: 

  1. Why haven’t I noticed it before? 
  2. Why would somebody put a doorway in the middle of a hallway? And, more curiously, why would anyone put a door there? 

I have no answers, but the poet in me believes there’s a message, a metaphor, and a reason I’m only just now finding it. In short, I’ve come to believe we all have doorways in the hallways of our lives that lead nowhere except on down the same hallway we are on. 

I Googled “life is a hallway.” I was surprised by the number of hits, how many images are out there, how many ideas, how many theories. Most common were articles about the doors opening off of hallways, opportunities we must choose. Some suggested we should avoid the monotony of hallways, that too often people get stuck in them, never choosing doors. Not once, though, did those writers and philosophers deal with the notion of a doorway in the middle of the hallway. 

Last Saturday, in the midst of my hallway painting, I was invited to join the AROHO (A Room of Her Own) Foundation’s Creative Renewal Camp. I’d thrown together an application the previous Sunday on a lark, thinking it would be fun to reconnect with some great folks I knew years ago when I participated in an AROHO workshop. 

AROHO, similar to Women AdvaNCe, is a women’s advocacy group, with a particular focus on writers and artists. It offers support, funding, and community. “Our Room. Our Work. Our Way,” its web page declares, and in its 20-year history, it’s advanced the careers of many creative women. I too have been the recipient of the foundation’s innovation and support. 

Saturday’s workshop, for me, was a doorway in the hallway kind of experience. Twelve women from all over the globe—Vancouver, Utah, Florida, France, New Mexico, and more—gathered, all at different times in our various zones. For me, it was the noon hour, and I tucked myself into my upstairs office to be away from the dog and other distractions.

I had no idea what to expect. Our leader and the director of AROHO, Darlene Chandler Bassett, encouraged us to begin by setting our intentions for the day and giving word to our emotions. My intention, because I was clueless about what the day held in store, was to be open to whatever the day offered. My emotion was, admittedly, a bit of fear of what was to come. 

Questions, comments, and suggestions grew from there. How are we already living the life we want? Why should we appreciate the person we’d become? Darlene encouraged us to look at our lives like Russian nesting dolls, those wooden dolls built one within another. We are an accumulation of all our past selves, she said, and all of them make up who we are. 

To this notion, she asked us to acknowledge our vulnerabilities as writers and artists. What is it that stops us every time? Where do we weaken? Lose confidence? 

Beside those vulnerabilities, we were to then list our gratitudes, those responses to vulnerabilities. In the time allotted for our writing, I crafted an anthem for myself that admitted those weak spots but vowed to address them. It was a powerful piece of writing for me, a frameable reminder of an attitude for approaching each day. 

We ended our session with these words from Darlene: 

“Renewal comes when we return to begin again.”

Sound like going down a hallway? It does to me. 

My AROHO workshop didn’t change me; it affirmed me. It told me to keep walking, to keep watching my feet, to go step by step down this sometimes difficult, sometimes celebratory life. 

I agree that we must take the doors that our hallways offer us, seeking what’s within the rooms. I agree that hallways can lead to nowhere if all we do is go up, go down, and go up again. 

But, for most of us, for every day, life is a hallway. It’s good to pause on that hallway now and then, to step through a door that ultimately says, “I’m headed in the right direction.”


Barbara Presnell lives and writes in Lexington and teaches in Charlotte. 

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