About this story
I created this story for my own company, Playing Mantis Coaching and Facilitation Development. The brief to myself was to write a story that could introduce the theme of threshold guardians for coaches and facilitators. The workshop was aimed at helping them externalise and deal with obstacles in the way of their professional development.
The Threshold Guardian
As I near the door, he looks up, greets me with enthusiasm and that dazzling smile of his. Do I detect a hint of naked mockery in the glint in his eye? Is it just an odd reflection in those glasses that he wears with such distinction? He faces me with his immaculate suit always perfectly tailored, not a spec of dust on it and his equally immaculate hair cut. In his hands he holds a smart device with the most popular project management app flashing its notifications and announcing the latest updates.
“Ready to try again I see Miss Kirsten – after all these years he still does not recognise either my marriage or my degree. “Dr. Janse van Vuuren” I correct him, but he just smiles at me knowingly. They don’t count in his book. For him the only thing that counts are the details of the task: any task.
A written text: are all the typos removed, all the references correct and all the formatting consistent? A household task: Does everything look like it did before I engaged with it – the counters like new, the floor squeaky clean, everything sparkling and germ free? Everything in their place – even things that have no place. An organisational task: Are all stakeholders on board, up to date, informed, happy and ready to say ‘yes’? Are the schedules worked out, up to date and are they being adapted and kept so as things develop? Administrative task: have all the papers been filed, all the names listed and dates filled in, all the contact details completed, all the events responded to all the emails sent? A marketing task: has it been spell checked, visually designed, linkedinned, facebooked, tweeted and all comments retweeted, liked and otherwise acknowledged?
I drop my head, but not before I notice the curve of his perfect mouth.
“Is your blog up to date? Every entry SEO’ed and keyword maximised? Are the children happy, well behaved, socially active, physically active, up to speed academically, socially, physically and health wise? No coughs, no runny noses, no tooth decay, no rashes, no tantrums,no crying, no talking back? Do they know that they are loved? Is the husband happy, working hard, helping in the house, getting enough love, being listened to enough? Are you sleeping enough? exercising enough, meditating enough? Eating properly? Spending enough time with family and friends? Getting to church often enough? Visiting your ageing parents often enough? Contacting far away friends and family enough? Are your finances healthy? debts being paid, bills being settled, savings growing, taxes up to date, budget balancing? Do you look professional? Hair suit your face shape? Clothes suit your skin colour and body-type? Toe nails and finger nails looked after? Make up neat? Clothes ironed and clean and fashionable?”
“Well, it’s just…“ I see his strong jaw line suggesting confidence.
“Are you still authentic, being yourself and able to shrug off the little rejections of live? Are you able to compete just with yourself and nobody else? Do you know you are good enough? Do you know that you are cared for and loved? Do you have faith? Do you believe that there is good in everyone? Do you love your neighbour as yourself and do unto others what you would them do unto you? Do you laugh enough? Are you happy? Well… ARE YOU?”
I lower my eyes and catch his masculine scent, he smells of determination.
“No? Sorry honey, next time then. And he turns his attention to the device in his hand with a shake of the head. You do not have the right kind of energy to enter here. Your karma does not align with what is needed here. You do not have the right intention, the right attitude, the right background, the right beliefs. You do not have the instinct for surviving here, or the talent for making the right decisions here.”
“No, but…” I sense the slender taught muscles of a lean body under the perfect tailored suit, ready for action.
He looks up: “Yes, I know that everyone on this side of the gate cannot tick all these boxes either, but they never tried to enter from the same place as you are trying to. They came through a different door, a door not available to you because there is no route from where you are to any of the other doors. You are where you are and you cannot get through this door from there unless you tick these boxes. You cannot tick the boxes, so you cannot come through. It was not meant for you.”
The suit, the hair, the mouth, the jaw, the scent, the body stands there smiling, not turning away.
And so I must tear myself from him in recognition of my defeat — again — another failure to my record. Hoping I could find a different door but I never do. Always I return to this door draw to it by that smile, that suit, that hair, the mouth, the jaw, his scent, his body, my failure.
* * *
But not today. Today I do not turn to leave. Today I stand quite still. What if the door of my yearning could be turned into the door for his escape? What if I do not accept his tick boxes as criteria for my success? What if there was, in fact only one criterion, one measurement – how long I can remain in his presence without squirming, without taking action of any kind…?
I stand fast and smile with a mocking glint in my own eye, or is it just the reflection of those glasses that he wears with such distinction? My eyes travel from his hair cut to his eyes and from this angle there seems to be no glint. I continue the slow appraisal, appreciating the dazzling smile of that perfectly curved mouth. Slowly I trace with my gaze the line of the jaw and I purposefully withhold my touch. He does not talk, but with confidence and precision he takes a step closer.
I catch the scent of his breath and the fragrance of him. I delight in it, but I do not move, my breathing slowing down. I feel the warmth of that body so ready for action, for conquest and still I stand letting my eyes travel back up to meet his and I hold them. He breaks eye contact first and leans in closer his mouth brushing my temple ever so slightly as he whispers: “You do not comply.” “Oh? According to whose measurement? As far as I am concerned I am succeeding with flying colours.” I say clearly, though perhaps somewhat breathlessly.
“Your boxes need ticking.”
My words come out measured and decisively one after the other. “I have but one box to tick, sir, and you don’t get to do it.”
We stand like that for another moment or so and then he drops his head to rest his forehead on my shoulder. He swallows hard and he seems to find it hard to tear himself away.
“You win” he says and turns his body aside to let me pass.
As I do so I notice that his collar is skew, his tie is loose and his shirt is becoming untucked. Sweat is running from his brow and his hair looks disheveled. His smart device is dead without any power. He was in a fight it seems.
How long have I stood my ground?