“Thresholds are dangerous places, neither here nor there, and walking across one is like stepping off the edge of a cliff in the naïve faith that you’ll sprout wings halfway down. You can’t hesitate, or doubt. You can’t fear the in-between.” — Alix E. Harrow
We are once again on the threshold of a new year, bidding adieu to the old one with its joys and sorrows and welcoming a new one that is ill-defined, open-ended and questionable. What will this year look like? What will it bring?
I had not planned that we would still be wrestling with new variants of COVID-19 at the close of 2021. I thought we would be able to put that behind us. We are weary. The grief continues. The sorrows mount up. The losses are many. The end is beyond our sight.
I suppose every year is full of unknowns, but somehow this year they seem larger, hazier, and darker. How do I enter this new year with so much unresolved?
We are in a great in-between. We don’t know how long it will last or where it will take us. We hope to survive it.
A new year reminds us of the cyclic rhythms of life. Endings make way for beginnings. Over and over. Yet, each time we come to a new year we are different, the world is different, our hopes and dreams are different.
The back entry of the house where I grew up was a threshold into the rest of the house. It was the entry we always used. Maybe once or twice a year, some stranger came in the front door, but rarely. All our friends and family knew that the way to come in was through the narrow entry that opened to the kitchen where all of life happened. It was where we transitioned from the outside world to the inside one.
In that entry was a small closet for jackets and a cardboard box crammed with winter boots, muddy shoes and whatever messiness had to be left at the door. My father was in construction and he was often caked with mud and layered with dust. The door to the basement came right off the entry and when you were really dirty, you went downstairs and left your clothes there.
The entryway held all the mess. No matter how often we cleaned it, it was soon in disarray. That is what entryways are. They are messy. They are the place to leave where we have been to enter where we will soon be. The question is: How long, how far, how dark is that entry?
Thresholds and entries are places of transition. William Bridges, author of Transitions and Managing Transitions describes transitions, whether they are personal or organizational, in three stages: Endings, neutral zone, new beginnings. The neutral zone is the time between when we have let go of the old and before we have fully entered the new. We have been occupying that neutral zone for almost two years. When will this be over? When will life return to normal? What is normal?
Embrace the threshold, accept its messiness, don’t be afraid. Know that it leads us from what was to what can be.The neutral zone is uncomfortable, disquieting, agitating. We are all residing here. We don’t know when it will end and we don’t know what the new beginnings will look like. We are on hold, impatient, eager to get somewhere but not sure where that is.
The neutral zone is also the seedbed for new beginnings. We are in a threshold between life before COVID-19 and life after. This is the seedbed of what will be.
So it is with the new year, we are not quite finished exploring the past year and all that it held before we are thrust into the new one. If these past two years have taught us nothing else, they have taught us that the future is not clear and when it comes, we will have to adjust, readjust, and adjust again.
How do we make room for what is to come? How do we let go of the old so we can be open to the new? How do we plant seeds for the future when we don’t yet know what it will look like?
I have three things to suggest: Unpack our burdens, forgive ourselves, turn toward what we really want.
Camels entering the ancient city of Jerusalem came loaded with household belongings that made them too wide to go through the narrow city gate. Nomadic people carried everything with them. To pass through the city gate (which was a threshold), the traveler had to unload the burdens from the camel, bring the camel through the gate, and repack the load. What are the burdens we carry with us? What burdens can we unpack and leave behind as we enter this new year? What might lighten the load? What are we not quite ready to let go? What am I still hanging on to like a favorite pair of pants two sizes too small or magazines with last year’s news or broken memorabilia I have yet to fix? They only get in the way of what needs to come next. Make a list of burdens and choose which can be left outside the city gate.
Secondly, I can forgive myself. Forgiveness is a way to clean things out. It is so easy to hang on to the self-flogging for mistakes we have made, shame for people we have hurt, embarrassment for inappropriate things we’ve done. We could write a letter to ourselves asking for forgiveness: Dear me, I am sorry for hurting you, embarrassing you, being afraid. Please forgive me. I love you.
It is hard to forgive others when we have not yet forgiven ourselves. Similarly, it is hard to show compassion to others if we cannot show compassion to ourselves. Let go of those old stories. We cannot change the beginning of our stories, but we can write a new ending.
Finally, what is it I really want? When I peer into 2022, what calls to me? Is there something, someone, a way of life that draws me? Maybe I want to simplify my life, or bring more purpose, or more people, or less people, or more quiet, or less busyness. Am I living the life I want or the life someone else wants for me? Have a visit with the “you” that you are now and ask: What is it you want going forward? Then set your internal GPS to get you there.
Embrace the threshold, accept its messiness, don’t be afraid. Know that it leads us from what was to what can be.
Happy New Year!
Mary Lou Logsdon provides Spiritual Direction in the Twin Cities. She is an instructor in The Sacred Ground Spiritual Direction Formation Program. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Last Updated on January 6, 2022