Walking in the Dark

Almost the first thing I notice: nothing looks the same. Though, normally, I have a strong internal compass, suddenly I lose my bearings easily and often. Shadows and pools of light transform even the most familiar streets into alien territory. At corners, I move up close to the street signs, shining my little key-fob light at the words, verifying that I’m someplace familiar, in spite of appearances.

Walking in my neighborhood at night, I notice little things like the discarded banana peel I almost stepped on (imagine what a story that would have made!), or that a surprising number of motion-activated flood lights pick up movement in the street. And I notice big things: the dearth of sidewalks; streetlights shining up into the orange leaves of the sugar maples. I notice clouds scuttling across the bright white harvest moon, blown by the freshening winds of autumn.

Recently, I have been grappling with issues and transitions in my life. Mostly, I have been unable to share them in this blog for two reasons. First, some stories are not mine alone to tell. Second, there are practical considerations which prevent me talking about some of these processes for now. But this blog has become my way of inviting others to share my journey, and your companionship on the road has truly motivated and inspired me to keep moving forward. To be bound to silence for the time being – this has truly been difficult.

Add to that the discomfort we all feel at the thresholds of new places, when we know we want to enter but are unsure of what awaits us – and I am all verklempt. Inside, I roil. Emotion threatens to overwhelm me. An impetus to speak, to act, to move pushes outward from my core – yet I am in a moment of stasis before the rapid acceleration I am certain is to come.

When I must do something, I head out into the night to walk. Up and down streets I’ve taken for granted for years. Past houses full of neighbors I’ve never met, past dogs in yards begging for attention, past fallen leaves and trash cans set out for the morning collection.

As I walk, I talk to myself. Admonitions. To-do lists. Corrections to my faulty thinking. Snippets of poetry. Half conversations – some real, some my lines in imaginary dialogues. Occasionally, I check that this running-at-the-mouth is truly internal, that I haven’t started actually speaking out loud like the mentally-ill homeless woman who alternately breaks my heart and frightens me.

The parallels between the metaphorical road I am walking in my life and these actual night walks are not lost on me. In both cases, I am treading familiar/not familiar territory. Change is surrounding me, from the physical changes of autumn to the emotional and psychological changes required by liminal moments. I have to move forward, with determination and without fear (hello, since when have I not been afraid of the dark?). Focus is required to avoid tripping and to keep from psyching myself out. I am treading both paths alone.

I walk until my shoulders start to ache, usually the first sign of fatigue, which slows the mental synapses and causes my internal voice to grow quiet. My mind is finally free to notice the big and little things I mentioned earlier. I begin to hear the sounds occurring outside my own head: the scuttle of a squirrel chase, the frantic tinkle of windchimes, a distant siren’s wail. I lean into the wind and breathe deeply. Finally…finally…I relax. Finally, I can stop trying to force things. I can let go of the need for specific outcomes, and just lean into the now. Lean into the perfect red-orange of a fallen leaf on the black asphalt at my feet.

The Pause

Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself. -Lucille Ball

 On Tuesday morning, I rolled out of bed with only one eye open. I tripped on several items strewn on the floor of my bedroom because I just hadn’t gotten motivated to pick them up over the weekend. I dressed for my TRX class at the gym and stumbled out to my car. As I backed out of the driveway, I noticed something unusual: my windshield, which faced east, was filled with the bright orange and pink tones that precede full sunrise, tinting the morning sky. In my rear window, dark night reigned – complete with a huge, brilliant white full moon. Straightening out my wheels and heading up the street, morning rode on my right hand, night on my left. I felt as if I were driving the dividing line between the two.

In some belief systems, this time of day, the “in-between”  or “liminal” time is when sacred or magical things can happen. It is when the “veil between the worlds” is thinnest, and folklore abounds with stories of humans who accidentally wandered into fairyland at dawn (or dusk, also an in-between time). In psychological terms, “liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning ‘a threshold’) is a psychological, neurological, or metaphysically subjective state, conscious or unconscious, of being on the ‘threshold’ of or between two different existential planes” (thanks, Wikipedia).

This is how I have felt, these first weeks of 2012: as if I am on the threshold of something. I don’t know what it is, but all this forward momentum of the past few years has slowed way down. And, as often happens when on the threshold of something new, I am in a state of pause. Something will happen, of this I am sure. Perhaps it will be an internal change, perhaps a new external path will open up. But for just now, I need to breathe in The Pause.

The Pause can’t last forever, though. Stasis isn’t, ultimately, my goal. Which is why I chose the word “Move” as my one-word for 2012 after viewing this video last week. As I have been thinking about this word, I have realized that many advisors tell us not to move without a plan, to make your moves count. We plan our lives, we set goals, we live into the future. For me, that type of life-planning is paralyzing. If I am in that mode, I can’t choose which foot to put forward first, in fear of making the wrong choice. In that mode, I would look at morning on my right, and night on my left, and feel I had to choose one or the other. And that would be an impossible choice, so I would stay rooted to the spot I was already on.

Instead, I am looking at “Move” as an imperative to make joyful choices – to try new things, go new places, take new steps in my life. Not as part of a formal life plan, because that hasn’t worked for me. Instead, my informal plan is to Move. Just move. The next step may be a mis-step, but if the imperative is to move, then I can take another step. I want to welcome change within my life and in my heart – whether I move to the right or the left, I move into beauty. What a choice that is! Choose this or choose that – either way, BEAUTIFUL!

So, for a moment, I am pausing on the threshold. But liminal times don’t last forever – dawn always banishes night, night always overcomes day. That’s how it is supposed to work in the world, and in our lives as well. Pause, breathe, move!