Hell in the Hallway, Light at the Door: How to Move Gracefully Through Change into Renewed and Abundant Life

Hell in the Hallway, Light at the Door: How to Move Gracefully Through Change into Renewed and Abundant Life

by Ellen Debenport


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, January 24

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504340588
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 10/23/2015
Pages: 238
Sales rank: 683,195
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Hell in the Hallway, Light at the Door

How to Move Gracefully Through Change into Renewed and Abundant Life

By Ellen Debenport

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2015 Ellen Debenport
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5043-4058-8


The Hallway

When one door closes, another one opens, but it can be hell in the hallway.

The hallway is that place between jobs, between relationships, during a major illness or after a permanent change or crisis. Life as you know it has ended, and you're not sure what's coming next.

Groping through the darkness, you might trip and fall down, or give up and cry. Or cuss. You can't even begin to see a doorway out.

Yet this time of transition can be made meaningful and useful. It could become the launching pad for the rest of your life.

That's what this book is about — how to make use of your time in the hallway, then walk out into the light, whether it's the brilliant light of a new perspective or the dawning light of gradual acceptance.

Everyone spends time in the hallway. Chances are good you are in one now or know someone who is. Some typical hallways:

* Someone you love has died.

* A child is leaving home

* A baby is on the way

* A medical test is pending, a scary diagnosis has turned life upside-down, or recovery from illness is uncertain or impossible

* A new marriage is under way, or divorce is fresh

* You are going through unemployment, bankruptcy or foreclosure.

* You are being forced to move, or you are choosing to move.

* You are changing jobs or retiring.

Of course, not every difficult situation counts as a major life transition. A fight with your spouse, living with an obstinate 2-year-old or suffering a bout of flu are typical episodes that thankfully will come to an end. The hallway in contrast is marked by a definite door closing, an unmistakable shift in circumstances. It's a change that initially might beat you down but inevitably calls you higher.

This experience is an opportunity for nothing less than spiritual transformation. It might seem to have been forced upon you, and your first task might be to recover from heartbreak, betrayal, fear, grief or anger. But this painful period can be redeemed and, with conscious and deliberate attention, you will emerge with a changed view of yourself and new possibilities for your life.

When the dark night comes upon you — not if it will, but when it does — it's part of your soul's curriculum. Something will happen that you didn't want to have happen. The first thing you do is everything you can do to try to make it go away. When you discover your personal power is not big enough to make it go away, if you surrender to it ... a strange feeling will come over you that you don't want it to end too soon, because you really do want everything it came to give you.

Mary Morrissey


Doors close in different ways. Some slam shut: You get fired, your spouse walks out, your body breaks down, a loved one dies. Sometimes disability or illness in the immediate family rearranges all your plans.

Other doors slowly creak shut: You plan for retirement for years, or you prepare for the last child to leave home. Transition starts long before the event. Even though you know it's coming, the closing door means a permanent shift in your life.

Sometimes you close the door yourself and — boldly or with trepidation — step into the hallway: You end a relationship, move to a new city, start a new career, or leave a job without having the next one lined up.

And some hallways are invisible to the observer; they are only experienced within. This is often part of a spiritual shift, when divine discontent prompts you to close doors and undertake complete transformation, like a caterpillar entering a cocoon. You may or may not be aware that, at some level, you volunteered for it.

We will discuss each type of change in more detail. Just remember, all hallways begin with something that has ended, and the experience might look and feel like profound loss at first, might seem as if your life has gone terribly awry. But change is the only way life can be made better, and "better" often requires leaving behind what was merely good.

Hallways sometimes look worse than they are. We might dread them and resist them, resent them and avoid them with far more energy than it would take to move through them.

Terry Anderson, a reporter who was held hostage in Lebanon for nearly seven years, said: "It would be a shame if I went through that experience and didn't change. I had lots of time to think about who I am, what I believe, what's really important to me."

Or fighter pilot Charlie Plumb, who was shot down and held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for six years. He first considered it a colossal waste of time. Yet years after he was freed, he said it was a "beautiful gift."

A gift! Trapped in an 8 by 8 foot cell, not knowing whether he would live from day to day.

He said nothing could have taught him more.

"There's great value in getting blown out of the sky once in a while," Plumb said in a speech. "There's great value in that wakeup call that forces you and me to re-examine the way we're doing business. Said a little differently, adversity is a horrible thing to waste."

I am astonished at the gifts that can be received in the midst of painful adjustments to a new life. Going through chemo, losing a child, being laid off, saying good-bye too soon. You don't have to claim such events were blessings in disguise. You don't have to believe they were necessary.

But good can always come from them. These days, I've come to respect the hallway. It's not so scary to me now because I know good stuff can happen there. Growth happens there. These days I can willingly walk into the hallway and say, "O.K. bring it on!" and know that when I have done my work, a new door will pop right open, and I will walk through, confident of the new and exciting experiences the Universe is eager to provide.


Rachel makes the hallway sound downright happy, doesn't she? But she knows the depths of its pain. You will read her story in Part Two.

Here's another view, from a man who experienced excruciating grief after a friend's death. His full story is in Part Two as well.

It is said that when God closes one door, he opens another. But he had thrown me face first into the pitch-black hallway and slammed shut the door to a normal life ... let alone a joyful one. And there was no hope of another door anywhere.

Jerry Magar


People regularly tell me, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," which is patently untrue. Sometimes what doesn't kill you ruins your life, if you let it. Some people are forever weakened by events and never re-emerge. And sometimes, what kills you is supposed to do exactly that.

Death eventually will claim each of us, and the process of dying can be the most profound, healing and loving transition of all.

There is no disgrace in scrambling to find your bearings in the hallway, and you will read more in later chapters about that initial confusion.

An oncologist once told me that high anxiety seems to short-circuit people's brains. He called it "cerebral fibrillation," which I suppose is medical humor to describe what the Buddhists call monkey mind, a brain that can't focus, become still or settle on solutions.

But then bravery kicks in. The doctor said the best and bravest people he sees are ordinary women, mostly middle-aged, who would never think of themselves as courageous. The key, he said, is to become comfortable with not being in control. There's so much we don't know. Even the doctors and experts don't know.

You won't always know how you ended up in a dark and unfamiliar place, or why or how long you'll be there. Regardless of what happened in your life, what happens next is an inside job. And therein lies the key to maneuvering through each hallway to a new door.

You are the creator of your experience, which means you have more power than you have yet imagined. You are not a victim of circumstance or of other people's problems, and this is not a test from God. You are a spiritual being having a human experience, and you have the ability to call forth divine energy, even in the darkest hallway.

Look closely, and you might see a crack of light shining underneath the next door.


* The hallway is that place of uncertainty when one door has closed and the next has not yet opened.

* Doors might slam shut or creak shut. Some you close yourself. But all hallways are journeys of inner transformation.

* Change is the only way life gets better. Sometimes receiving what is better means releasing what was good.

* It takes less energy to move through the hallway than to avoid or deny it.

* No matter how a door was closed, the work of the hallway is an inside job.

* Your growth in the hallway, and the next door you open, are within your creative power.


Divine love and support are with you as you dwell in this time of uncertainty. You may be feeling loss in your life and dread for the future, or you might be thrilled with anticipation. Either way, your life is changing.

No matter what brought you into the hallway, know you are not alone. So very many have been here before you, and a new door will open. You will leave this experience with gifts and insights.

Turn within now. Search more deeply than you might ever have searched before. Inside, you will discover that all the guidance, clarity and strength you need are available to you.

Immerse yourself in the awareness of a Presence that is stronger, more powerful and more loving than you can imagine. You are never separate from this divine Presence; you are one of its many expressions. Draw from it like a deep well to nourish yourself on this journey.


Doors That Slam

The most dramatic and difficult hallway experiences often start abruptly. A day dawns routinely and ends with life having changed forever.

A phone call brings news of a death. A job ends.

Divorce papers are served. The doctor's diagnosis will mean months or years of treatment. You don't know how long the upheaval will last or what's behind the next door.

Sometimes a door slams so loudly, it reverberates for the rest of your life.

Consider these stories, and witness the resilience, healing and growth of those involved:


Russell used to lose his voice every Christmas. For years, during the holidays, Russell couldn't talk. He had no way to explain that on Christmas Day in 1992, his younger brother had committed suicide.

"Over the next days, weeks and years, I was in the hallway in a real way," Russell said.

"I grew up in a very Ozzie and Harriet neighborhood, and I really thought I came from the perfect family. Holes were blown wide open in the fabric of my life.

"I remember thinking, 'How am I going to explain this to my children?' and I didn't even have kids yet. I remember thinking, 'What kind of a brother would let his brother spiral so far out that there was no coming back?'

"I found myself unable to spend time in grief and healing with my family because I was too busy racing back and forth between past and future. Of course I blamed myself (and I wasn't the only one — there was a small group of us). I had no idea how a family was supposed to be after something like this."

Russell spiraled downward, working longer and harder — sometimes all night — resenting family and friends.

"I hated myself, I hated my family, and most nights I went to sleep wishing I wouldn't wake up. If there were a hell and I had woken up in hell, it probably would not have looked any different."

April had arranged the perfect life for herself. She was a marketing research executive with a doctorate in public policy, and she was teaching statistics and research at a local university — all by the time she was 31 years old.

Then one day, she bent over to place a pen in her briefcase and felt her back go out.

"Within the next few days, I lost sensation in my left leg and my ability to walk without assistance. Back surgery soon followed, along with intensive therapy and several months off work," April wrote.

One doctor insisted she should take addictive narcotics.

One coworker said, "Look at you, disabled for life. And so young! What a shame."

April's boss encouraged her to leave the company in the eighth month of her recovery.

"I decided to step away from the everyday noise and move into a place of mindful, peaceful healing," she said. "I prayed — oh, did I pray — I listened, and I spent less time with the Less Supportive and learned to redefine who I was from the ground up."

Kat adored the grandparents who supported and encouraged her as her guardians. She and her grandfather were devastated when her grandmother died of breast cancer, but as months went by, they began to "laugh a little more and cry a little less," Kat said.

Then one Saturday, 18-year-old Kat discovered her grandfather had collapsed on the floor of the den, dead of a burst aneurysm in his neck.

"Almost the instant he died, I was in the hallway. In the hallway, calling for help. In the hallway, spinning with fear and shock and anguish. In the hallway, thinking this was not real and mostly thinking, 'What about me? What do I do now?'

"I struggled to survive every minute of every day for several weeks. In that hallway, I felt abandoned and isolated and emotionally wrecked. In that hallway, I raged at God. In that hallway, I thought suicide seemed like the easiest way out of that emotional hell."


How does anyone survive the hallway? Time. Effort. Grace. Ultimately, it is a spiritual journey.

Before it ends, you might pass through long periods of darkness. Sometimes it seems impossible to release the anger, blame, fear or guilt. You might feel you've lost your connection with the divine, and inner voices of guidance fall silent, drowned out by the cacophony of emotion.

Sometimes life just hurts. We are not on earth to transcend our humanity but to experience it fully. We came into human form because we could learn something here we couldn't learn otherwise.

Kat's grandparents were among six of her family members who died within seven months. Even so, Kat knew there had to be relief for her misery. She relied on the intense support of her teenage friends.

"Finally, after many weeks of turmoil and darkness, I found a door out of that hellish hallway. I found that God was with me all the while and that he never abandoned me, even though I felt like he had. God sent me angels to help me escape. I was reminded as I saw that first, slight glimmer of light, that beyond the hallway of depression, there was a world filled with light and love and joy and possibility."

Kat also gave back, making a point to help others in need. She focused on friends who were experiencing loss, breakups, illnesses including AIDS and challenges with jobs or school.

"Assisting others is an excellent way to get out of the hallway, if even for only an hour or day or week or two," she said.

Russell, in the years since his brother's suicide, has put together a happy marriage with children and stepchildren.

"When I get some objectivity, this is the hallway that I see: a passageway between what was to what will be, a conduit from possibility to presence," he said. "If chaos is a place of all-potential, then being willing to move into the hallway without resistance is real faith."

April, who struggled to walk, made a conscious decision to heal. She focused on a mental vision of her perfection or oneness with Source, her divine blueprint of well-being, even while those around her argued.

"My family was convinced that I should spend more time expressing my pain. They worried that this 'trust of my perfection' talk was not healthy, that I was not facing the reality of my situation."

But April did heal, never taking her eyes off her inner vision of perfection, seeing only the divine being that is her true nature.

She regained most of the feeling in her leg and finally could walk without a cane. She focused on her teaching, which fed her soul, and spent time resting and taking care of herself.

"To heal, I had to find my own path apart from the perceptions and criticisms of others — to fight for my ability, not my disability — and distance myself from the doubt, anxiety and toxicity of others.

"I had to become centered in the Source, in my perfection that is not defined by my career choices, education or others' comments. My perfection just 'is.'"


* Life can change in a day, a phone call, a word or a look. A door slams, and you're in the hallway.

* Abrupt changes might begin a descent into hell, but hang on. The hallway is a passageway, not a final destination.

* Your life may be chaos, but chaos is a place of pure potential. Move into it with faith.

* Sometimes life hurts. We are not on earth to transcend our humanity but to experience it fully.

* As you walk through uncertainty, keep your eye singly focused on your divine perfection.


Everything has changed. Everything may be different from now on.

And yet, the Presence never leaves you. It guides, supports and loves you, whether you can feel it today or not.

In this period of uncertainty, know that the prayers of all who have ever been thrust into a dark hallway are with you. Their love reaches back to pull you forward.

Life might never be the same again. But someday, in ways you cannot yet imagine, you will know that all is well.


Excerpted from Hell in the Hallway, Light at the Door by Ellen Debenport. Copyright © 2015 Ellen Debenport. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction, vii,
A Word About Hell, xiii,
Part 1 - Welcome to the Hallway,
1 The Hallway, 3,
2 Doors That Slam, 11,
3 Marilynn's Story: Finally Feeling Worthy, 17,
4 Doors That Close Slowly, 22,
5 Choosing the Hallway, 27,
6 Inner Hallways, 35,
7 Endless Hallways, 41,
8 Short Hallways, 48,
9 Group Hallways, 56,
10 Feelings in the Hallway, 63,
Part 2 - The Work of the Hallway,
11 What Now?, 73,
12 Jerry's Story: Leaning Into Pain, 84,
13 Where Is the Good?, 91,
14 So, Where Is God?, 103,
15 A Time to Forgive, 112,
16 Power of Prayer, 123,
17 Lisa's and Jan's Stories: The Healing Hallway, 135,
18 Volunteers, Not Victims, 142,
Part 3 - Opening the Door,
19 The Threshold, 155,
20 Design Your Life, 165,
21 Go Ahead, Ask for Help, 177,
22 Finally, Take Action, 186,
23 Why Isn't It Working?, 195,
24 Through the Door, 208,
Acknowledgements, 217,
Credits, 219,
About the Author, 221,
To the Reader, 223,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews