Thresholds – crossing over into a new view

“Write about a threshold you crossed—what you expected it to be like, how that differed from reality, and what it took to make it though.” Isolation Journal – Prompt by Lindsay Ratowsky

I am still in the throws of construction at my house so when I read the word threshold in the post from Isolation Journal’s blog I thought about the doors being installed in the basement and the space that it divides. The moving from one environment to another. I saw the door taking us from a large open room into the tiny bathroom or the door that does not swing but will quietly slide to the side showing us the small storage area along the back wall. A place for a few hanging shelves, an over sized gas meter and empty space for the extra things in our lives we are not quite sure what to do with. There is also the door into the laundry room that holds another door to the outside world.

Each of these doors moves us into new spaces and a very different view of the space. There are colors or things that connect all these areas together. They are the threads that pull our life into a whole but there is still a different experience in each space.

All well and good but that is not what Lindsay Ratowsky was talking about. She was not thinking of physical spaces or the wooden board you place on the floor at your door to step between rooms. Lindsay was reflecting on the emotional and internal change that happens when you experience an event in your life that is or becomes life changing. These life changing events can be positive or negative but most times I find them to be a mix of both. This space we travel through becomes a threshold if and only if we take time to reflect and learn from the change that happened.

I have watched many people experience a large life event and then just return to their day to day world. Maybe these are subtle things that change internally and we as outside observers never get to see a change but my thought is that some of us don’t stop to think about these big events so that moment of stepping across a threshold just does not happen for them.

May is a month that always, repeatedly, steps me through an emotional threshold that happened some 28 years ago. It is not so dramatic a shift now but I still feel it. Not the pain of the event but the glory of our world that I discovered after it. The wonders of tiny buds pushing their way out into the world to create leaves or apples or acorns. The green of trees and grass that in my eyes glow with color brighter than before. The world each spring is always powerful for those of us who live in the northern climates. For me it is several steps deeper now.

It is the power of life itself that rushes over me each May. The amazing miracle of living and breathing. Each living soul became precious and of value. The trees were no longer just trees. They had/have become friends that helped me breath and live. The flowers and plants all send joy slipping through my veins. It is as if spring actual happens within me as well as around me. I leaves me marveling at the world we live in.

I was 42 with two young children, a teaching career, husband and home. Life was good and on a roll until I noticed a slight change in my right breast. Yes, you know where this is going. Silently inside me growing were tiny cancer cells. They were a bit hard to track in that there was no tumor just the cells.

There were lots of them circulating around in that area. At that time life seemed to stop, to be put on hold as we went through the steps of sorting this out during the last months of winter grey and cold. It was very fitting for my emotional state as well. The color and life seemed to hang in an uneasy balance.

The next weeks were spent working out the steps we would take physically. The steps in how to express this to two small children and to my work also needed thinking through. I had a classroom of third, fourth and fifth graders. How do you talk about women’s breast and cancer, let alone my breast with this crew of children. Like my own children at home I could not just say “Hey I am sick and will be gone for awhile.” At that time I did not look or act sick in any way. Remember these cells are silent until they are not! Also remember this was 28 years ago and our society was not as free about sharing issues like breast cancer. Many women were still keeping those things private (hiding it from everyone). I found myself holding my breath often. I needed to remind myself to breathe!

I could go into the gory and the glory of this life event but that is not my point really. Yes, this could have been life threatening and we thought it might be. We/I was lucky. This turned out to be only cancer cells that had not yet traveled through my system. The gory was I lost a breast. The glory was I recovered fully with this new view of the world.

It was not sudden but as I spent May slowly recovering from surgery with family around me I began to see a change. We took drives around the city lakes. We took oh so slow walks at the nature center or just down the block at first. Each step with children and family by my side showed me how nature recovers. How plants fade away in the fall to sleep the winter away and rebuild themselves each spring.

I too would rebuild myself this spring of 1994. As I walked through this threshold of life, I understood that I could recover from this round – this life event. I learned that my family can also move forward with me as we learned to live with the many events that life gives us.

Over the years my family and I have faced many events and each one has held a new threshold for all or one of us. A time that becomes sacred. A time to pause, observe and reflect on what this event makes possible.

A threshold may be hard, scary or one filled with joy but each one gives us a chance to see a new view. Thresholds give us a moment of pause to see our life in a fresh new way. It gives us a moment to make changes and hold on to the precious moments of life itself.

This spring of 2022 I still feel the rush of spring in my veins as I walk the streets of my neighborhood and see the trees go from bare branches to tiny buds to flowers and leaves. I feel the hidden strength of the natural world around me helping me through each new threshold that arrives. (and there have been many of then. That is for sure!)

So today in mid May – take a moment to check out your local trees or bushes. Listen to the birds as they call to one another and hear the breeze blowing through the branches of the trees as the leaves appear.

Take a moment to breathe with the world.

PS – I know I did not follow the prompt – I was struck by the word threshold and all that word can mean. So this is where my thinking took me.

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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2 Responses to Thresholds – crossing over into a new view

  1. Beautifully expressed and just what I needed to read today. I also think you followed the prompt but went so much deeper with it. Reflection keeps us sane and provides hope. I got as much from your tangible, concrete, and sensory descriptor as I did with the emotional writing. I also have a new writing prompt for when I next get stuck.

  2. Ramona says:

    A beautiful reflection, Joanne. I knew that your daughter faced cancer as she was expecting her first child, but did not know (or had forgotten) that you had also faced this same dragon. Kudos to you for breathing and embracing new life each spring. I heard the birds singing this morning as I stepped out of the car at daughter’s house. What a beautiful way to begin a day!

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