Advice from a Liminality Expert

Big word. I know. Liminality is that space between. When something is in the midst of change or transition. When the crazy is happening but hasn’t quite finished yet…

Have you ever noticed that we hate liminality?

Big word. I know. Liminality is that space between. When something is in the midst of change or transition. When the crazy is happening but hasn’t quite finished yet.

A pandemic is a period of liminality. And finding out that it is not finished with us yet, well, a lot of us are having a really difficult time with that.

I’ve seen lots of eye rolls. Noticed a bunch more grumbling resuming of late. And heard far greater amounts of “you can’t make me”s than I have heard in months.

We really don’t like liminality.

Now, I happen to be an expert on living in liminality.

Long before this global plague swept across the world, I had been living in a state of perpetual liminality for well over a decade. My late husband’s health has meant that we have been consistently waiting and watching for years. He was almost always stuck at home. And in the midst of that, my mother developed alzheimer’s, then died. We were doing three rounds of IVF, one of which ended in spontaneous miscarriage. Before my mother died, my dad developed dementia. Before that, my little brother caused a bad car wreck and has been a quadriplegic and on a vent for fifteen years. Then, before Brad nearly died the first time last year, his mom developed a rare form of ALS and ended up beating him to glory by three weeks. And we have managed three professional moves for me in the midst of all of this.

So yeah, my life has been in some state or form of permanent unusual change, transition, or crazy for a very long time.

What have I learned from all this liminality?

First and foremost, life is what happens in the midst of this wild crazy. Not at the end. If you keep waiting for everything to get back to normal for life to begin again – you’ll be waiting forever.

Second, you need to identify what is most important in the midst of everything that is happening. If you look closely at my list, you’ll notice there was a whole lot of death. So I would generally argue that preventing death and protecting life, especially if it is scientifically and easily accomplishable, would be the top priority. (Which means that, especially in the midst of the plague, there is a whole lot of getting over ourselves that needs to continue to happen and remembering the science is always gaining more answers, never having them to begin with. It’s a study of current knowledge, which is always changing.)

Third, make the most of life while you have it. Even if life is hard. That’s why we celebrate so many holidays in my house. That’s why we travel when we can afford it. That’s why we gather with our family and friends as we can. That’s why we seek to ensure everyone else in this world has what they need to do this – because it is not just about us.

The truth is that life is honestly all one big liminal period. But if that’s one big revelation too many, then start with this: take this rough plague period for what it is – a chance to learn to be better at being human.

Find life on the journey, not the destination. Do what you can to protect others’ lives as well as your own. And live life to the fullest every chance you can (and make sure others can as well).

That’s how you live in liminality – and one day, you might just forget the struggle and realize that you’ve finally remembered to live!

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