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Standing in the hallway - Martha Randolph Carr

There's an old cliché that whenever one door closes, another one opens, but an appropriate addendum would be, standing in the hallway is hell.

The old version of the saw is an optimistic belief that, as one opportunity winds down in life, another will present itself. Change as a never-ending agent of growth and possibility.

However, there's this stretch of time between those two end points that consists of knowing one phase is over, and not having a clue about what's going to really work out next. That's the hallway phase, and it never gets the attention it deserves.

It also happens to be where we are standing as a nation at this very moment.

The old cycle of living beyond our means on an ever-increasing level of credit is over, but what's going to replace it has yet to really show itself. In this void is where fear or faith can creep in and get a real toehold. That can affect what happens next.

If the operating-belief system for a human being is that we're all there is, then it's possible to give in to the idea that misery can last and last. There's no loving being behind any of this, and we've created a super storm of a mess that probably won't untangle in our lifetime. No wonder depression is on the rise.

But turn the other way and throw some weight behind the idea that something big, like a higher power, is not only all around us, but loves us regardless of our behavior.

Both of these philosophies are free of charge, so still in the budget. But they have very different payoffs. The first sees the hallway as all there is, and therefore, takes it very personally. It becomes a necessity to see everything and everyone in life as an exhaustive competition, in order to gain enough of an advantage to stake out some territory.

After all, if a body is spiritually alone, then all we have is what we can take in from our senses. Less of a retirement account spells doom.

Scanning the past for mistakes and projecting possible outcomes into the future might even be useful tools in order to prognosticate on dangerous possibilities and do our best to prevent them.

It's an exhausting way to live and never works very well. There are two reasons: Focusing on staying perpetually safe leads to feeling perpetually afraid. And, there are so many variables that can come along to change an outcome that the only thing that is accomplished is getting a good handle on what could go wrong. That's more wasted time with all of the attention glued to what are really still only imagined problems.

In the meantime, what's going on at the moment is completely overlooked.

Imagine though if it were possible to believe that a divine force really likes us in all of our super-sized, fast-food, over-spending, gas-guzzling selves. Add in that this same being also has an individualized plan in mind for every creature that includes a heart's desires, and can arrange the fastest road to get there.

We'd get going if only someone would light up the path like a landing strip. Show us first and then we'll go, though, is still the old way of believing we're all that exists. That's the big catch.

Try, instead, to step out first and head off in the direction of building something rather than protecting against the unseen. That's all that is needed in order to get started and then, keep going.

We can finally take a deep breath because action places us back in just this small moment.

Now, if all of the old style of worry is getting the desired results, keep doing that. But for those who are worn out enough, try asking yourself one small question. What is it that I could reasonably do today? Do that, let it be enough, enjoy the people around you in the meantime, and then brush your teeth and go to bed.

Then, it all becomes a partnership where the focus of a life is on what can be created instead of what might be lost. Solutions begin to appear and the sense of being alone dissipates. Try it on for size and see if this hallway doesn't seem just a little shorter.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.