I have a new favorite word that captures midlife – liminal, as in a liminal space. It comes from the Latin word ‘limen’ which means threshold. So, the words “liminal space” refer psychologically to the threshold between what was and what will be. Liminal is a great word to describe those in-between states. Those times when we know that one way of being is over, or no longer works for us, but we can’t precisely articulate what we want the new way to be.
I am in a liminal space right now:
- I want more meaning in my life but am unclear exactly what that looks like – liminal.
- I have outgrown some longstanding community affiliations, and am ready to re-engage, but have yet to find new ones that fully call to me – liminal.
- I know the tattoo that I want on my ankle but have not yet been able to walk into a tattoo parlor – liminal? Nah. 🙂
- And, I am finally putting to rest some very old stories regarding my unworthiness but have not yet stepped into my full power – liminal for sure.
Last night, my husband and I were chatting with a friend about our respective kids’ recent return to their second year of college. We were commiserating about the challenge of being part-time empty nesters, which is the actual reality when they still come home for extended periods of time.
We shared our prior year’s adjustment of finally settling into the quiet of our kids being gone and figuring out our groove and our marriage sans kids at home. And then, summer hits and our kids came home for 2+ months. Though we were thrilled, it took a bit of time to readjust to the bustle, their increased independence, and their friends popping in and out when we were in our PJ’s watching TV.
Within a few weeks, the adjustment was complete, all was wonderful and then bam! Time to say those heart wrenching goodbyes again. It was like pulling a scab off of an old wound that had almost completely healed. Our friend said it should be called a coocoo nest, rather than an empty nest. I think it should be renamed a liminal nest :).
Being in a liminal space is not easy. It’s like standing on unsolid ground and not knowing what to grab onto to steady yourself. It’s akin to standing in a hallway with many doors, uncertain which door to enter. Most people find it uncomfortable, if not scary. Afterall, we aren’t meant to hang out in the hallway. It’s an intermediary corridor that brings us somewhere.
But being a liminal space is also an opportunity. It’s the chance to reflect, reckon and readjust. It’s a perfect time to dig dip and question whether you are engaged, fulfilled, and energized by what you do and who you do it with. It’s a chance to not robotically go through the same door but to consciously choose which door you want to enter next, even if you are not 100% sure what’s behind it.Who knows? It may be more excited than anything you could have ever envisioned.
Midlife is plush with liminal spaces. After having been in one for what seems like a very long time, I can feel the pull towards certain doors. And I am excited. But… I could not have felt that draw without having embraced my liminal space.
May we all gently be present to whatever liminal space we may be in and courageously explore what’s behind a new door.