My mind is a sieve. Words slip by like shadows without my grasping them. And, yet, true to a form I hope foreshadows 2021, I am sitting and writing through the clouds that are my mind.
Cloudiness is normal. I pause, for just a moment, not sure what to write next. I question whether or not this fits for others. It fits for me. Cloudiness. Fogginess.
The result of such a state of mind in 2020 includes countless burnt meals, forgotten Zoom dates, missed virtual school meetings, and skipped meals for pets too kind to nudge me when they see I am already so close to the edge. It’s not a ledge. It’s an edge. The difference is that there is a boundary and it holds me. Rather, I am the boundary and I hold myself. The space within the boundary, however, is liminal.
I wade in liminal space.
Mental health professionals are familiar with holding and sitting in the liminal. It’s a transitional space. It’s overlapping and in-between. It is neither here nor there. It’s filled with the longings and hauntings of what was. It also holds the mysteries of what will be. It is a space of becoming. It requires a certain undoing.
I’ve been in the throughs of undoing.
In addition to the collective experiences of liminality thrust upon us by COVID-19 and social unrest, I’ve been experiencing the liminal space of a slowed-down transition from my previous career identity into what I am forging (or foraging) into what is to come. I have finally made peace with the fact that I don’t know what that looks like.
I have tried:
- making sand trays
No matter what I did, I couldn’t visualize the future I wanted. I can barely think beyond the day (school schedules x four and piles of dishes) in front of me. I live for the weekends my husband is home and we can all relax … while making sure the boys catch up on their school work and we order the food we will need the next week.
I’ve considered walking away from what’s next. COVID-19 has made walking away from a career so easy. My children need me. Our home is their school now. My husband works more. Did I mention that we got a puppy? It would be so easy to keep my hands in the sourdough and my eyes on paint pallets in between the demands of virtual school and keeping up a house while still decorating it.
I just don’t see myself in regular clothes and shoes again, let alone as the professional I once was. Despite this, I’ve decided to move forward … into the unseen. I’ll create what is to come. In the dark. I prefer having visuals.
I had a vision. Then, the pandemic happened. Suddenly, I was a single mom guiding four boys through virtual school. I was a liminal space holding and shepherding four liminal, and sometimes livid, spaces. Then, my husband returned from his deployment, and I morphed into a liminal space holding him through a mini-crisis of meaning. Then, we were two liminal spaces holding each other through questions about our decision to move so far away from my family. We wondered if we should walk away from the life we were building here and go back to the familiar capillaries of the town we knew: the familiar roads, yes, but more so the familiar ties to people. And to the familiar visions of what could be.
It’s so easy to go back to what we know, even if it doesn’t quite fit.
Now, back to the collective liminal spaces in which we find ourselves. There are many of them. The decomposition and letting go of what was both invite grief. This transitional grief compounds the collective and personal grief of losing so many people, be they strangers, neighbors, or loved ones. Grief itself is liminal. Here we have layer upon layer of grief and liminality and it is exhausting.
I hope the word liminal helps you as much as it has helped me. Words provide definition and holding. They bracket our experience. Tonight marks the closing bracket for the year 2020. Many of us have cursed the year despite its innocence. Twenty-twenty didn’t create the transitional spaces in which we find ourselves. It didn’t demand transformation. It simply is. Or was, depending on when you read this. Still, I am happy to bracket it. Open and closed brackets add concreteness to what has, for the most part, been so intangible we have barely kneaded it into much-needed new meaning. Much remains at the threshold of meaning-making. It is yet to become, yet to be clear, and yet to be seen.
Even though I don’t quite know what it will look like, I will not walk away from a career. I may not be able to see what is to come, but I will still create it. I’ll just have to get comfortable with surprising myself along the way. I will continue to be here for my family first and foremost. I will continue to support them through their developmental challenges brought on by our social distancing and virtual schooling. I will continue to take all the time I want (and perhaps need) outside in my garden. I will continue to do that which relieves my anxiety and lifts my spirits. It didn’t feel right to be fully immersed in a full-time job. And it doesn’t feel right to be fully immersed in my family. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for this opportunity to be focused so fully on what we are needing and guiding us through the uncertainties that are. But I know this won’t be right for longer than it is necessary. One day, they will return to school. And I will return to … well, I don’t think I will return to anything. As I said, I don’t quite know where I am headed. And I’m OK with this. I take the steps as they become clear at the moment.
At this moment, writing is clear to me. I didn’t know what I was going to say before sitting down. I did know that it was the only thing that would invite me to myself. So here I am sitting with myself. Sitting with you. (In liminality.)
Hello, me. Hello, you. Hello, 2021.
Will any problems go away with 2020? No. Enjoy the closure that comes with the end of a year. Process what the brackets offer. For me, I am finding comfort in focusing on being in what “is” rather than what I had planned “to do” …
May we find our footing in the liminal as we step into 2021.