Threshold is the stage I am living through on my cancer rite of passage. As you may recall during the first stage, Severance, I released all my work activities. This in turn led to a separation from my creative endeavours, that was not a conscious decision, more a consequence of cutting all work ties and the darker space that followed.

The last few weeks have been a bit of a challenge, and I have struggled to understand what has been going on mentally. Only lately have I had some clarity and been able to talk about it with my lovely partner. It certainly helps to talk, there is something about getting the words out of your head and into the cool light of day, that softens their tenacious hold.

I consider myself quite a robust guy, able to deal with most of what life throws at me. So, to find myself in a place of unsettled confusion was unexpected, and in itself added to the uncertainty. However, in the last couple of days the fug I have found myself enveloped in has lifted a little.

What is this fug of which you speak, I hear you ask? For me it manifests as low energy levels every afternoon and evening, and a low mood. Not a dark space, but certainly one lacking brighter light. I feel disconcerted and a little blue. We joked it was because I had given up alcohol as preparation for my liver operation later this month. The reality was more to do with this threshold stage I was living through.

Threshold or liminal stage

In some explanations of this middle stage of a rite of passage the word liminal is used to describe it. This is from the latin, limin for threshold. “During a rite’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold” between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way (which completing the rite establishes).” Wikipedia.

Reading about this and understanding how it related to my feelings and experience was a help. But I initially didn’t understand the existential nature of this stage. By releasing all my commitments and several opportunities and contacts, I had lost some of the ways in which I described myself: an artist, a tutor, a photographer, and someone who supports other people to live well with difficulty. How ironic. I now found myself in the space that others were in when the came to my courses.

Now I understand. This had elements of loss of identity and a deep uncertainty about my future. But why could I not use the very tools I offer to others to support myself? Why could I not explore these feelings using my own camera and vision of the world? I wasn’t sure. I felt separate from any creative interest. I was too far from myself. But now the fug is lifting, I can see what I am living through, and begin to understand that I just have to live through it, and talk through it. Now, perhaps I can begin to support myself with mindful photography as well?

The future is uncertain. It always is. During a cancer rite of passage, the existential threat means that it is even more uncertain. Many of my future possibilities and ways that I spend my time have been lost or are at least up in the air. I have no idea what will follow. Will I still create and share art? Will I want to? What will I want to do with my time, energies and interests? I have no idea, and I know that now I just have to accept that this is where I am at. I know that it will change, because every rite of passage has a third stage, Incorporation, and what I am living through now will eventually lead to this place. I will bring together all that I am learning and emerge back into light. Patience and trust Lee, patience and trust.

6 replies
  1. Les Hall
    Les Hall says:

    Hello Lee,

    As these things sometimes happen, I was just thinking about you yesterday. And here you are now 🙂

    The first thing I thought of when you described what’s going was Sundown Syndrome. When I was in hospital for various bumps in the road, post-cancer treatment, I would have these terrible experiences in the late afternoon, early evening i.e. as the sun was going down.

    Eva diagnosed it for me. I avoided researching online about my condition, reckoning that most of the posts were negative and there were a far greater amount of people, although sadly silent, who had good results. When I started to go nutty at twilight, often the same time she would go home and take care of the dogs etc., I felt I was going insane. She researched and told me about Sundowner’s Syndrome. I never looked it up, her explanation sufficing. But I did Google it today and I was surprised to see that it was associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s – neither of which I have. So I just caution you if you feel like looking deeper into it…

    My moods were more extreme than what you describe, but the association with circadian rhythm made me wonder if longer, summer days might be affecting your mood. Worth checking out maybe?

    I have started shooting a lot lately and the improvement of my mood when I am doing that has been wonderful. It has been years since I felt that simple joy of just walking around with a camera, and I see the benefits that your teachings espouse. So…. “Physician Heal thyself”! Maybe get a new lens, try new techniques – you know what to do! I recently changed over to Fuji and that has also helped, and hit my wallet.


    • leeaspland
      leeaspland says:

      Hi Les

      Great to hear from you. I forget, but what type of cancer have you recovered from?

      I don’t think its been sundowner syndrome, I usually love that time of day. More a combination of tiredness from the liver cancer and the existential crisis not being understood and completely accepted!

      I switched to Fuji a few years back. I love ’em now. My standard walkabout is the XT4 + 35mm (50 equivalent) lens.

      Lovelee x

  2. Adrian Wyatt
    Adrian Wyatt says:

    Hi Lee.
    I have absolutely no idea what you are going through, even having watched my wife diagnosed but then recover.
    What I can say is that your writing, your insight your images, your strength your insight and your sharing are as inspiring, if not even more as they have ever been.
    I won’t waste time trying to think of something insightful only to share thoughts and prayers are with you.

    • leeaspland
      leeaspland says:

      Thanks Cheryl, good to hear from you and thank you for your well wishes. I’ll be doing an update of the first 2 weeks recovery post op this week, hopefully!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *