Living Madly: The God of Doors

Living Madly: The God of Doors

By Emilie-Noelle Provost

One of my father-in-law’s favorite sayings was: There’s always the unexpected. No matter how carefully our plans are laid out, or how much we might want a particular thing to happen, or not, the possibility that something unforeseen will derail our desires is ever-present. Most people, including me, find this fact unsettling. Knowing what’s likely to happen in a given situation is comforting, while change, even when expected, can provoke fear and uncertainty.

But change can also bring fortune to those who choose to embrace it. Losing a predictable but dead-end job creates an opportunity to land a better role at a different company, or perhaps to change careers. Ending an unhappy relationship with a spouse or partner makes it possible to start over again with someone new.

Anyone familiar with tarot cards knows that the Death card, which often depicts the Grim Reaper riding a horse over the body of a king, rarely implies physical death. When this card shows up in a reading, it usually signifies a significant and often abrupt ending of some kind. This change will likely be difficult, but will hopefully foster the self-awareness needed to pull oneself together and start again, armed with wisdom gained from experience. The king on the card implies that no one is exempt from Death’s whims: It’s far better to roll with the punches and learn how to regroup than to wallow in self-pity.

The ancient Roman god, Janus, has two faces. One looks forward into the future, the other, backward toward the past. He is the god of beginnings and endings, the god of change. Janus rules thresholds, gates, and doorways. He is present when someone is born, when someone dies, and during transitional events, such as weddings and graduations. The month of January is named for him.

To the Romans, Janus was the most powerful god of all. He was fate’s doorkeeper, and they did everything in their power to gain his favor. On New Year’s Day, the Romans were careful not to say anything derogatory about another person. They offered sweets and gifts of coins to strangers, abstained from foul language, and performed good deeds in hope of creating conditions that would encourage luck and prosperity in the coming year.

Change has been rampant and unforgiving for a lot of people over the last few years. The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be the most significant interrupter in modern times, upending jobs and marriages, travel plans, and the trajectory of nearly everyone’s lives.

In September 2020, my mother died after losing a battle with cancer. In 2021, our adult daughter moved out of our house into a home of her own. Over a four-month period in 2022, my husband and I lost three of our college friends to cancer as well. My father-in-law died of heart failure this past October.

These changes have been difficult, but most of them have led to new beginnings that give us hope for a happier future. After losing so many people to cancer, Rob and I have made exercising and eating well a priority, and we are both healthier than we have ever been. Our relationship with our daughter has evolved and grown stronger, and after years of mourning my mother, my stepfather is now in a new relationship with a woman who seems like a perfect fit for him.

We’re entering Janus’ season. In just a few short weeks, 2023 will be over and a new year will begin. In 2024, I’m hoping to submit a new book manuscript to my publisher. And after years of working for the same company, my husband has decided to look for a new job. There’s no way of knowing what might happen, but here’s to hoping that the God of Doors looks upon all of us with kindness.


Emilie-Noelle Provost (she/her) is the author of The River Is Everywhere, a National Indie Excellence Award and American Fiction Award finalist, and The Blue Bottlea middle-grade adventure with sea monsters. Visit her at

5 Responses to Living Madly: The God of Doors

  1. Charles Gargiulo says:

    Another little gem of insight by Emilie-Noelle Provost. The Lowell area is blessed with so many present-day wonderful writers. My own “Mt. Rushmore of local authors are Emilie, Paul Marion,
    Stephen O”Connor and David Daniel. If you are looking for a last minute Holiday gift, you can still get over to Lala Books at 189 Market St. in Lowell and get one of their books for a loved one. I can guarantee you they will be very happy if you do. I would also recommend the 2020 memoir “Tales of the Time” by local running and Boston Marathon legend Bob Hodge for a fun trip back to the time when Bob was competing throughout the world with friends like Bill Rodgers.

  2. Charles Gargiulo says:

    When I said “THEY will be very happy if you do,” I meant the loved ones who you buy one of their books for will be.

  3. Paul Marion says:

    Thanks for Emilie-Noelle Provost and her thoughtful essays on the Howe blog. She always brings something memorable to the table. I learn something each time or at least am reminded of something that leaked out of my brain. Like the Janus story details. I’m a January birthday guy, so this hits home, especially. And also whatever Aquarius, the water-bearer, and starry source adds to the discussion. Thanks also to Charlie for the shout out and boost for the authors. Don’t forget his new book, Legends of Little Canada, which has quickly taken its place among Lowell classic literature.

  4. Tom Sexton says:

    Dear Emilie,

    What a fine essay in every sense. Having begun my own battle with cancer and heart failure, it’s exactly what I needed. Thank you so much.


  5. Ed DeJesus says:

    Thank you for your wonderful enlightening piece.

    It used to be we’d have far more little ones replacing the departed; now it seems we lose a former classmate, colleague, or neighbor every week.

    It’s been a tough year health-wise, but Emile, your words give me hope. I shall take a knee and pray for those who have left us in 2023 and enthusiastically rise and open that door for 2024.