If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.–Marcus Aurelius
I saw my neurologist today.
After reviewing a recent MRI of my brain, he informed me that the deterioration that plagued my cerebellum appears to have stopped.
“That can happen?”
“Yes. In some cases, brain atrophy can stop.”
“Well, I guess that’s good news.”
He flashed a smile, leaned back in his chair and said, “That’s great news. Four years later…your brain is showing signs of stability.”
Like every previous visit, my neurologist put me thorough a series of tests.
Follow his finger with my eyes. Touch my nose, touch his finger. Open my mouth, stick out my tongue, cluck my tongue. Snap my fingers. Clack my heels on the floor. Stand up, sit down.
He opened the examination room door, turned, “you know the drill,” and I stood up and followed him out into the hallway.
I walked to the end of the hall, arms by my side, made a controlled turn–as if vying for my driver’s permit– and walked back to him.
“Your gait looks good. You’re walking more confidently then you have in years.”
We moved back into his office and sat down. He picked up a microphone that was corded to his computer and began dictating the results of my tests. Despite extensive cerebellum damage, the patient’s gait has shown improvement… .
I commented how when I first meet him, four years ago, he had to scribble down test results and appointment notes by hand.
He smiled, “Yes, this will definitely stave off carpal tunnel for a few more years. But to be honest, I miss the old-fashion thrill of physical note-taking. But…things change. Do you have any other questions?”
“I do. This may sound weird…I get a little uneasy around thresholds and doorways. You know, like I’m afraid to transition or something. Is it normal for people with cerebellar damage to have trouble crossing thresholds?”
He leaned back into his seat and crossed his legs, “The brain is wonderful mystery. Even a healthy brain can find thresholds problematic. It’s something primitive. Like the fear the primitive man must have felt while standing barefoot on some rocky ledge, looking for someplace to go. Crossing from room to room, from one plane to next has always troubled people. Evolution has ingrained it in our psyche. We’re simply afraid of transitions.”
Of course it wasn’t intentional, but he just conducted an unauthorized, in-office autopsy on my life.
“Do you have any advice on how to cross a threshold?”
“Crossing a threshold is often mental. The initial fear of just transitioning from one place to the next often prevents us from progression. But when you find the nerve to finally cross, you realize there was nothing to fear at all. ”
I stood up, shook his hand, said I was looking forward to seeing him in six months. He smiled, spun away, opened the door and disappeared.
I slipped on my coat and strode through the threshold, from the examination room into the hall and back into life.
A life born of thresholds, waiting patiently for us to simply brave up and cross.