Crossing A Threshold, A Hard Goodbye & A Language Without Words

Photo taken by Jill B. Ware at the lovely home of the Di Napoli’s in Rhode Island while on tour with Amaranth Contemporary Dance. My youngest son, Riley, went on tour with us and we found this leaf on a beautiful, clear morning:)

Threshold: 1. a piece of wood, metal, or stone that forms the bottom of a door and that you walk over as you enter a room or building. 2. the point or level at which something begins or changes. 3. gate, door 4. end, boundary: the place or point of entering or beginning. 5. the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced. 6. a level, point or value above which something is true and below which it is not. 

You stand up up from all of the confusion and from all of the wants surrounding you. Something is wrong. Something doesn’t feel right. This was supposed to be a better place. Wait, it is better isn’t it? You look around. You listen. You use your senses. You make a concerted effort to silence the noise. Everything seems to be in order, but you just know there is a thorn, a pea, a synthetic buzz, a not right something settled in somewhere deep. You just need a moment to think, to feel what it is – what is it? You take a deep breath in and let the air calm your thoughts. You focus. Once quiet, a real question forms, and the world fades away for a moment. You ask your heart this question with sincerity and hope, and wait for the answer.

In the meantime, you move. You snuggle your children. You stretch. You breathe. You cook. You yoga. You dance it out. You draw. You water color. You love. You cry. You wash dishes. You light candles. You sing really loud. You let go.  The universe shifts beneath your feet. You feel it happening, but you have no idea of the set-up barreling towards you, and now, there is no way to stop it. You tell yourself that maybe this time will be different, maybe it won’t hurt. Maybe the lessons will be kinder. You ask yourself what is this incessant need to question things?  A mild panic sets in, and slowly escalates. The question you asked your heart was of the big and deeply felt-kind, and you start to wonder if this whole thing was such a good idea. A shiver crawls up your spine, as you remember the last time you had a big question to ask. You know you can’t stay here, and pretend everything is fine. You know this. You’ve lost your foothold. It’s just gone, and there is no getting it back. And like the silly human that you are, you think you will be strong enough to weather all of the changes hurling towards you. Maybe you will be. Maybe you should start making deals with anything that will listen. Maybe you should count your blessings. Maybe you should bolt everything to the floor.

After a while, you begin dreaming of a door. Night after night, it stands there, beautiful and still. There are symbols carved with care into the wood, a lotus, a swan, a fox, a rabbit, flowering vines, moons, hands, eyes, rivers, gardens, paths, caves, and it glistens with fresh oil. It’s been painstakingly created, lovingly shaped. And in your deepest heart, you know it was made just for you. You eye it, and wonder where it leads, wonder what it would feel like to walk through it, but night after night, you won’t walk through it. Instead you pace back and forth in your sleep, mumbling no over and over. You tell yourself there is no way you can walk through this strange, unknown door set before you even thought it’s obviously your door, you recognize every symbol, but no. It would be crazy – you don’t know what is on the other side. You can’t walk through it because there are a million reasons why you can’t. You list them for yourself so that you remember, so that you stay right where you are. You try to convince yourself that things aren’t that bad. There is no thorn, there is no pea, and there is definitely not a buzz, and even if these things actually existed, you can work with it. It’s livable. You wake up and feel as if you haven’t slept at all. And you haven’t. Not really. Not for weeks.

But then one exhausted night as you tumble through your sleep, you walk over to the door, and rest your head against it. You immediately recognize the pulse, the warmth to it’s surface as familiar. You reach into your pocket and find a key that you didn’t know was there. You take the key and place it into the lock. You turn it. You shake your head as the irony sinks in. You place your hand on the door knob. You take a deep breath, open the door and you step through it against every no you’ve ever said to yourself, and in that moment, the action becomes your answer. And as you cross the threshold, you exhale as you watch the last of your constructed world fall apart. You exhale more. A million band aids are pulled from a million wounds. You exhale the last of it. And the pain is unbearable, but you keep walking through anyways. It hurts like hell, but it means everything, at least it means everything to you. It feels like forgiveness. It feels like acceptance. It feels that way, because it is.

Standing on the other side of the door, you hear a half giggle from the deep underbelly of the universe at the drama of having to come to this place to remember what is real and what isn’t. The destruction. The illusions. The dismantling. The absurdity. The heartbreak. The lessons. You take out the thorn that is now plainly visible in your side. You remove the large pea from under your mattress, and you shut down the power source to that incessant buzz.

When you wake up, you hold your children close. You look straight into their eyes, you take their hands into your hands, smile at their beautiful faces, and explain how the largest oceans, the highest mountains, the most expansive sky has nothing on how much they are loved, a depth that knows no limit in any time or space. You stand up while still holding on to their hands, you look around at all that is now present and surrounding you. The clarity is beautiful, and peaceful. Breathing comes easily. So does a smile. You take note of all blessings, all triumphs. You take stock of this moment, and with your fullest heart, begin to rebuild once again.

The question I asked myself was this…what stands in my way?

The answer was me.

When it came down to it.

I learned that an awakened spirit is a spiritual gift that is only the beginning of the story. Fully  accepting that spirit as beautiful, perfect, and whole is something else entirely, and takes a continuous, generative commitment to life and love. For a moment, I saw my path clearly.

But then my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and three weeks and one day later, he was gone. I watched him disappear in front of my eyes, and it felt as if a bomb went off where my soul once lived. Now, I’m numb, hollow, and more sad then I have ever been in my whole life. I watched my Mom lose her husband, my brother lose his father, and our worlds change forever. The waves of grief that people talk about are real, but they are only a small part of the story. They don’t talk about the daggers of grief, or the grief that jumps out at you from nothing, or the physical heaviness. I said goodbye to my Dad and talked to him while he left our world, and the realness of that takes my breath away.

The hardest hit area of my life has been my dreams – running through endless houses with endless stairs – never getting where I need to be, navigating through wooden furniture, porches, fields, white pianos, words carved in wood – sweetheart, the smell of grass, clear night skies, re-experiencing scenes from growing up, and endless conversations with someone that I can’t see but I know that my dream-self knows who it is…so frustrating. I know I am trying to make sense of the trauma my Dad experienced, the trauma I just experienced. I know I’m trying to make sense of the un-sensable. I know that I settle my deepest things in a language without words.

I thought I had found some sort of solid ground for myself, and for a moment, I think I did. But for now, I’m not even in the same realm of time or space. I don’t know where I am, or which way to go from here, and I’m not sure I even want to go back to where I was. Nothing will ever be the same, so wouldn’t it be a waste of time to try to get back to something that is gone? I’m not sure of anything.

At this moment, I’m just trying to breathe, and keep our lives going. I’m trying to say yes to this experience. Even this experience. Because even though the pursuit of the question I asked my heart happened before my father’s illness and death, the lessons I learned and continue to learn through the answering of that question has led me to the present moment, and the love and acceptance I have found for myself and those closest to me. Everything happens in the moment, and only in the moment can anything really change, can anything really be honest, can anything be felt or truly experienced. So I take these lessons forward, even in grief, in joy, in whatever is next for me, for my children, for my mom, for my brother, for my family. I say yes to this unknown, unrecognizable place, and what it has to teach me. I hope all of my Dad’s family and friends say yes to this experience too even though its hard, and sometimes seems impossible.

I hope they say yes anyways.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s