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Closure Brings Openness

Endless gates

Farm track going up a hill, with a gate across it.
Life is full of gates we open and close.

Imagine turning up at the office, eager for another day of work. You put your lunch in the fridge, hook your bag on the chair, sit at the computer and log in. A friendly co-worker walks by the door. You wave and flash happy white teeth. Within minutes you’re in the thick of whatever it is you do so well. Then you’re called to the manager’s office.

Your contract has been terminated,’ she says. ‘You no longer work for us.’ She says more, but the words swarm like bees inside your head, a low, threatening sound you hope to make sense of later. ‘Collect your stuff and leave,’ is the final direction. This you understand.

As you walk back to what minutes ago had been your office, the corridor walls move in and out in a hazy dance. You feel like you’re wading through knee-high water and you almost forget to breathe.

Someone has turned off the computer. Your personal effects are in a cardboard box that a short while ago held reams of printing paper. The lunch you’d been looking forward to eating in the company of others sits on the top, like a mocking final touch. You can see the contents through the clear plastic holder: cheese and crackers, walnuts, a dried fig and a shiny Pink Lady apple.

This has happened to many people. The Pink Lady apple may not have featured in these countless events, but the gist remains. Something unexpected and inexplicable has taken place.

What next?

When drastic things happen to us, we want closure — an answer to the biggest question in the whole wide world, the one we’ve been asking since we were toddlers: Why?

And the second biggest question in the whole wide world: Why me?

The term closure was coined by the social psychologist Arie Kruglanski. We want to know why it happened to us. We fossick through fuzzy facts and fading feelings until we come up with a satisfactory answer, so we can move on.

In the article ‘The psychology of closure — and why some need it more than others’ (, psychology lecturer Pam Ramsden wrote:

When we seek closure we are looking for answers as to the cause of a certain loss in order to resolve the painful feelings it has created.

Why do we want closure?

Why do we want closure? So we can be open again to whatever we performed closure on.

For instance, if you find closure at the end of a relationship, you then feel open to commencing a new one, because you think you know why the last one ended.

When you believe you have adequate answers (closure) on why you were fired, you feel confident to apply for new opportunities.

Once you accept (gain closure on) your father’s death, you can step into the space that celebrates his life.

When you comprehend what led you to join a cult (closure through self-understanding) you can move forward with confidence that you won’t fall into such a trap again.

Closure can bring to mind the image of a gate. It’s swinging wide open, so we take a firm grip and shut it with a satisfying click. ‘That’s done,’ we say smugly, dusting our hands together. ‘Now everything is safely inside or outside, where it should be,’ forgetting that life is a series of gates that open and close, suddenly and seemingly at random, over which we may have little or no control.

Living with mindfulness

It’s helpful to recognize that not everything can be explained or justified to your complete satisfaction.

Sometimes things just don’t make sense, and no matter what you come up with, closure eludes you.

What do you do then?

You simply leave the gate open and move on.

Consciously leaving a gate open is a form of closure.

It’s an acknowledgement that life happens.

Leaving a gate open lets life through.

With love, Marlane

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