How to grow up in one piece, a 40-page book of quirky advice about people and everyday things, is one of my all-time favorite books. Read by adults but written as if for the uninitiated, that is, for children, Robert Paul Smith’s humor permeated my youth in the 1960’s. The most memorably amusing and appropriate topic for me as an adult turned out to be Doors.
Smith explained, to those who wanted to grow up ‘right’, that doors were either open or closed, and that open doors needed to be closed and closed doors needed to be opened. “So,” he wrote as I recall, “open all closed doors and close all open doors. You won’t be right, but you’ll be busy.”
Open, close, open, close…busy, busy, busy. I wanted to be ‘right’ so mindlessly busy I was, even though I still wasn’t perfect.
Wait, why do I feel like a busy worker bee? I wonder what exactly a worker bee does. What is ‘right’ for a worker bee? This morning, I stopped opening and closing doors and did some research.
Worker bees are female and, for the most part, non-reproductive, but hardly unproductive. They gather nectar for honey and pollen to feed larvae, queen and drones and, in the process, pollinate most of the world’s crops. To regulate the temperature of the hive, worker bees collect water and fan the nest with their wings to cool or huddle together to provide heat. They build, defend and repair the hive, nurse the young and clean the cells of dead bees and larvae. Most worker bees specialize and do what is ‘right’ for them rather than doing everything.
Like reproduction for a worker bee, some doors stay closed, and it’s no use trying to pry them open. But other doors open for a short time or a lifetime. Worker bees see open doors and know what to do. Rather than waste time trying to be ‘right’, worker bees get busy and put their minds to their jobs, however mindless or routine. In so doing, they rightly keep the hive alive and help to feed the world.
What open doors are right for me now that some doors, like reproduction, have closed? Do I want to grow up in one piece and try to be ‘right’ by opening and closing doors all day? Or do I want to ask: What skills have I been given, and what work am I supposed to do? What open door, worker bee routines are ‘right’ for me?
What open doors are ‘right’ for you?