Standing in Liminal Space

365 Grateful 05-29-2018I stand in liminal space – in the space between what was and what will become. I’m oddly at ease here; I know I mustn’t tarry, though it is gently restful.  The space is soft, comfortably empty, peaceful.

At another time in my life I would be uneasy with this emptiness. My mind reaches out, a test of sorts, to see how I feel about being here. In truth, I am only slightly surprised that I do not clamor to leave it. Always before I would hasten from this place. Always before I would be compelled to move beyond into something more familiar with structure and safety and a sense of knowing. Always before…. But I glean, somehow, from deep inside myself that there is no need to rush. It is enough to be here in this moment, to recognize it, and to rest a bit. It is enough. For now.

Almost imperceptibly, I hear achingly plaintive music. I listen intently. Ah. My mind considers a few seconds then recognizes Mathieu Lavoie of Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam. The words swirl around me. “Let me fall. Let me climb. There’s a moment where fear and dreams must collide.” I sigh and lean into the words. “Someone I am is waiting for courage. The one I want, the one I will become will catch me. … All I ask, all I need, Let me open whichever door I might open. there’s no reason to miss this one chance, this perfect moment, just let me fall.”

I stand in liminal space – in the space between what was and what will become. I will stay here, though not long, until I discover the one I will become.

CS Lewis understood liminal space. He wrote of it in The Magician’s Nephew, calling it the wood between the worlds – a stopping off place.  It’s a place to catch your breath, a place to find your purpose, a place to regain your footing when something ends, morphs, changes. It’s as good an explanation as any I know.

Liminal space is always there – it weaves the path from every ending to every beginning – but it is not always a space that suits us, given as we are to action, and movement, and forward motion. Like any transitional space, it is not always a place of comfort, and it can be unsettling. Society teaches us to strive for decisive boldness, to quest always with our vision clear and compelling. Liminal space calls for introspection, for consideration, for reflection. Liminal space is filled with potential and with not-knowing. Not all of us are friends with such things.

Few of us can claim the kind of unimpeded vision self-help books tout. Sometimes endings knock us over, loose our hands from the rudder, or cloud the horizon. We lose the path – for a moment or a lifetime. If we are lucky, an ending kicks us into liminal space where we can float for a time, until we see the one we will become beckoning, ready to catch us as we climb toward a new beginning. If we are blessed, someone will help hold that space for us, waiting with us, as we float. Or we will learn to do it for ourselves.

In Book Club, Diane Keaton’s character floats in liminal space following the death of her husband. Indeed, each of the four main characters – Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen – experiences liminal space in this movie. But it is Keaton’s character that speaks so clearly to me, as she discovers the one she will become, claims her, and launches her new beginning.

Such is my sojourn in this liminal space now. Caught between relationship and loss, severed by death, like Keaton’s character. Reconsidering my identity. Who am I now? Who do I want to be? Who will I become?  Shedding, as surely as a snake, the skin that suited who I was before I was thrust into this space.  I know I could choose to return, as The Magician’s Nephew returned, to who I was before, to what I left behind. That would be easy. But even Lewis’ character discovered that the world he had left behind was not the same once he returned, though it forged for him a new beginning there. Like he, I would not be unchanged, but I would be diminished.

I am oddly pleased to realize this. I cannot go back; it’s no longer enough. I can only go forward. So for now I will let this liminal space be my cocoon, where I can rest and think and seek until I find the threshold to the one I will become. I trust she will catch me when I leap.

3 thoughts on “Standing in Liminal Space

  1. Lynda Edwards says:

    “Shedding, as surely as a snake, the skin that suited who I was before I was thrust into this space.” While stunned at how beautifully you’ve expressed this thought, I also must note that I (and no doubt a good many others) believe that certain elements of the “skin” thus shed will ease gently into the new one. And we’re grateful, for those very elements form a part of you that we’d sorely miss if they dropped out in transition. Meantime, though, cheers to the evolving you!

    1. Jennifer Johnston Crow says:

      Ah, Lynda. You are absolutely right. I see the shedding of a snake’s skin as the growth into a new skin that’s more glorious than the old; the old gives birth to the new, so it must be integrally intertwined with the new skin! Thank you for your insight.

  2. Susan Moore says:

    Oh so true, Jennifer! What a wonderful writer you are! This has caused me to stop and reflect once again about being in this liminal space and time myself…like the monarch slowly releasing itself from her cocoon!

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