Sunday, May 31, 2009

Thoughts on the threshold

It is less than a month until the wedding, and I feel what the "Conscious Weddings" website describes as "feelings of liminality." Limen is the Latin word for threshold: liminality is the feeling of being at the threshold between two stages of life. That definitely describes me right now. I am moving out on Wednesday, to go to Philadelphia to observe classes at the schools where I interviewed, and then to Wisconsin to put together last-minute plans.

I came to this apartment about eleven months ago. It was completely empty except for Olivia's bookshelf and my three suitcases. In eleven months, we turned it into a home. My photograph of the Shenandoah on the wall, the picture of a tiger I picked up at a curb giveaway, the Wal-Mart accent lamp. Olivia's table a friend gave her, her dishes, our stacks of books. I think of the meals I fed people in this apartment, of the sound of the train when it goes by at midnight, of the leaves that gathered on the porch in the fall.

I leave this apartment as I came to it: in solitude. I arrived here on a July night, late, driven by the airport shuttle. I got the key from the mailbox and let myself in, to find there were no lights except in the kitchen and bathroom. I sat on my suitcase and felt I had started new life. That overwhelming feeling of changes that enveloped me then is returning to me now.

Once again I am alone here: Olivia is gone for the week, though her possessions remain, to temper the emptiness left where my things used to be. I will leave early in the morning, before I would usually be awake, and walk with my two suitcases to the train station. Like I came, I will leave alone, with no one to see me off, as there was no one to welcome me.

Oddly enough, I like that. There is a huge emotion that comes to me when I begin or end a stage of my life. Another presence distracts from it, keeps it from being painful, certainly, but also keeps it from being acknowledged and accepted the way I need to do. When my life is changing, I don't like to be shuffled from one thing to another, to be conversed with and distracted from my thoughts. I like to have a moment of silence.

These few days, as I finish my grading, go to graduation, say my goodbyes, are that moment of silence. Like I did at the beginning, I wake up when I am not tired; I eat when I am hungry; I walk where I need to go. I am self-reliant.

Perhaps I treasure this self-reliance all the more because I know it is the last time. Soon, I will be a married woman, with someone else to answer to. I won't be quite so able to arrange things at my whim. I won't be alone anymore.

I have never been a person who craves solitude as much as company. I like people; I don't like being alone too much. But there are always moments when I need it; when, as a child, I climbed my holly tree to leave the busy world beneath me; or when, in high school, I would wander out to the farthest end of the driveway to pray my rosary where I could look at the sea. Even now, I always like to be the last to go to bed, so that I can settle my thoughts and feelings with myself before I go to sleep.

I ask myself, will I miss this? How will I find the time for this in my new life?

My comfort is that, though I depart alone, I will not arrive alone. I leave here on my own power; I arrive there with someone to catch me. First, the friends in Philadelphia, then my future in-laws when I go to Wisconsin, then --

After that, wherever I go, I will not be alone. I hesitate now on the threshold with my thoughts. But when the time comes, I will be lifted over it. My days of utter self-reliance are over, but a new era is beginning, one where I am received with love, where I am protected, where I have a place and a mission. Nothing is going to be the same, but it will, God willing, be better. I welcome the threshold and embrace it, for I cross over it into a new and wonderful adventure.

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