Like Spring, secretly at work within the heart of Winter,
below the surface of our lives huge changes are in fermentation…
we find ourselves vulnerable
to a flourish of possibility
and we are suddenly negotiating
the challenges of a threshold…
In these few lines from a poem by John ODonohue, the word threshold leapt off the page right into my lap. A friend defines threshold as an edge we tolerate before something changes. We are all on this edge. There are moments I yearn to retreat from it and a minute later I am aching to step over and out. Maybe you are feeling this, too. The call for tolerance feels too much to bear.
But O’Donohue urges us to stand on this edge, build a tolerance infused with patience and attention. And also listen to our heart-speak since a threshold
…intensifies toward the end
into a real frontier that cannot be crossed
without the heart being passionately engaged
and woken up….
At this time in my life, what am I leaving?
Where am I about to enter?
Cooped Up, but Upbeat is a John Leland essay about old elderly New Yorkers in their 80s and 90s. I soaked in their communal wisdom from my newly sketched place of, what we might name, “young elderly” and was very moved. “Many in this age group are thriving during this catastrophe—skilled at being alone, not fearful about their career prospects. emotionally more experienced at managing the great disruption of everyday life…they offer a counter-narrative of resourcefulness and perseverance.”
Says Gary Kennedy, geriatric psychiatrist “Their pessimism and anxiety tend to abate with age. They’re no longer striving for material achievements, so what matters to them now is what is emotionally satisfying. They’re more likely to say I’ve been through this before.”
There has been a ton of research about how life satisfaction shifts as we age. In general, older adults have a positivity bias. In the long long long run, the slings and arrows of any life do a fine job prepping us for threshold moments like this. Although many of us (like me!) are slow learners who need to be pummeled repeatedly before patience, attention and heart come as natural responses.
The O’Donohue poem closes with this:
It is wise in your own life…to take your time
…to listen inward with complete attention
until you hear the inner voice calling you forward:
“The time has come to cross.”
So we stand on this bewitching threshold together. Sometimes it’s an other worldly mystic training retreat. Other times I’ve been abandoned in some dank dungeon. On this edge I drop into moments of intense creative outburst and there are nightmares illuminating a sub-conscious deep at work. Mostly I hang at this brink in clear equanimity, punctuated by lovely highs and despairing lows.
My four Zoom teaching appointments anchor me to my week. Treating an occasional patient in the Zoom room has been a fascinating delight. I hope our paths cross in cyber-space soon.
In the meantime: patience, attention, heart….love, Bella