thresholds

I have been thinking a lot about transitions. I have been thinking about what causes us to suddenly abandon what we’ve known in search of something better. I heard a few minutes of an interview on NPR the other day, and was struck by its timeliness. The interviewee was speaking about thresholds — literal and figurative. He spoke about the allegorical significance of the small strip of wood or stone which indicates a change. The world beyond the far edge of a threshold is different in some way from the world in which you have come to cross it. The speaker referred to the origin of the word, to the act of threshing: removing the grain from its hull. I missed the majority and I dare say the overall purpose of the interview, but it got me thinking about these small indicators which are so monumentous to cross.

I also began thinking of the more common usages of the term. Of the emotional threshold I have reached recently, which is entirely a product of my misplaced ambition. My solution to boredom is to work harder, do more. It is also my solution to unease. It is the catalyst to my unhappiness. And yet, I find that when I am unhappy, I work harder; as though I could force happiness through crossing out items on a list. As though I could push it across the threshold of my heart. Stubborn happiness, in love with Perfection, digging in her heels against my demands at the least indication of uncertainty.

In running, we often talk about “reaching threshold”. It is that place where all of your muscles ache, and your body tingles and you are dizzy and can’t take another step. But you do keep going, and then everything is different. The world gets a little softer. You suddenly begin to feel as though it is harder to stop than to just keep going. You are a product of your momentum, and everything else falls away. The world changes.

I think that the reason my mind grasped onto the concept of thresholds is that over the past few days, I have been installing them at the edges of closet doors; our new flooring finally finished. I am thinking of the room which sits empty now. The room which was supposed to become a nursery for the child I am not carrying. The child I may not have. It now sits, big and hollow, with neither of us brave enough to enter just yet. I am thinking of the doorway I have reached in my career (again), which I am not yet brave enough to pass through, because I know that on the other side of that thin piece of wood the whole world looks differently than it does from here.

So now I am ignoring my responsibilities. Listening to the garden fountain, watching the cat navigate the farthest corners of her world, and wondering when the golden leaves in the park on the hill will reach my backyard. It is the first day of autumn. Summer is on the porch with her skinned knees and mud on her dress, asking if she can come in. If there will be lemonade. Or hot apple cider and molasses cookies. There are a few sticks in her hair. She is barefoot. Her eyes droop slowly as she fights off the temptation of sleep, her shadow long in the setting sun. Autumn smiles, wraps a blanket around her thin shoulders and steps aside so she can enter. And like that, another season has gone.

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