After weeks of seeming stasis, were sheltering in place, physical distancing, online learning, working remotely, wearing masks in public, and other heretofore unheard of phrases and behaviors were becoming the norm, we are receiving conflicting messages about the restrictions lifting, businesses opening (at reduced capacity) and the possibility of life returning to some semblance of “normalcy.” Whether one agrees with the timing or structure of this shift or not, we seem to be on the threshold of tip-toeing out of our homes and into a world that looks vastly different from the one we knew prior to the pandemic.
What does it meant to be “on the threshold?” The word itself has some interesting definitions: a point of entry or beginning; the magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, or condition to occur or be manifested; the level at which one starts to feel or react to something or at which something comes into effect.
In other words, a threshold is that moment right before the change actually happens, when we are standing in the doorway looking out at an unfamiliar landscape, wondering if we are prepared for whatever we are about to encounter on the other side. Change is difficult for most of us. Even for those who thrive on adventure and new experiences, feeling a bit of anxiety in the face of uncertainty is common. In that moment when the training wheels come off and we are wobbling this way and that, frantically peddling while trying to adjust to the novelty of trusting our bodies to hold us in balance instead of relying on the machinery of the training wheels or the strong arm of a parent figure holding our bicycle upright from behind, we struggle to have confidence that we can fly instead of falling to the ground. It is the space between the trapeze bars, when we have let go of the one and not yet grasped hold of the other, suspended in mid-air, hoping we have stretched far enough to reach the safety of the handle swinging before us. It is the unknown territory we have not yet traversed, and it is . . . scary.
Brandan J. Robertson, in his article, On the Threshold of Tomorrow, writes, “What are we to do at such a threshold moment? . . . In moments of transition, we are simply to be. We are to pause and acknowledge that a transition is taking place. Instead of seeking to abruptly pass through a threshold, we are to tarry. . . . A new reality is emerging, but we cannot see beyond the threshold. All we know is that we exist in this moment, where everything is in transition. We may experience a new way of being, but we cannot yet sense what it will look like.”
After the end of World War II, all the Dutch citizens living in Indonesia were expelled and sent “home” to their native country, the Netherlands. My mother, along with many of her fellow expats, was born in Indonesia, and up until that point, had never even lived in the Netherlands. At the age of 15, my mother went “home” to a place that was entirely foreign to her. Worse yet, the Dutch citizens already living there did not welcome these returnees back into the fold as terrible shortages of food, fuel, and housing were compounded by the return of these refugees, who were awarded double ration cards due to the starvation and hardship they experienced in the concentration camps during the war. She remembers feeling lost, alone, and afraid in this country where she was supposed to belong but whose customs, climate and conditions were unfamiliar to her. Her mother’s sister, Tante Truce, took in the battered and bedraggled family of five and fed them, cared for them, and helped them over this threshold to adjust to their new life.
It is ok not to know what’s next. It is ok not to know how to feel, what to think, or how to behave in this new landscape we are finding ourselves in. It is ok to ask for help, to turn to each other for connection and comfort, and to find our way forward together, with uncertain, even wobbly steps. We may fall off our bicycle (or horse, as I did last week. Twice!) We may miss the trapeze bar. The important thing is that we allow ourselves to be helped back up by others who are traveling this new road with us and that we don’t try to figure this out alone. We may linger on the threshold and decide we are not quite ready to cross over it yet even though we see others doing so. And that’s ok too.
Because you are not alone. We are all in this together.
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