They say that in times of transition there is always something to let go of and something to hold onto. Personally, this seems to be my constant state of being! Do you find that fantasies of letting go of bad habits and taking hold of shiny, new, healthy alternatives are nearly always hovering around? Especially after that night on the town or that third piece of chocolate gateau. And—halleluiah—sometimes the will finally kicks in and a lasting change takes hold. This must be celebrated hard because it can be rather rare.
But the fact remains that in times of crisis or significant change, we may not quite know what is worth holding onto and what should be jettisoned.
When major life change comes knocking on our door, we humans can tend to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’.
Times of transition are sometimes called ‘liminal’ space—this word comes from the word ‘limen’ which means ‘threshold’. When the past has gone, but the future has not quite arrived, we are in liminal space. Betwixt and between. Such times can be exciting, such as leaving home, moving countries, leaving a job. Or they can rock us to our very core such as separation and divorce, a house fire, the death of a loved one or a protracted illness.
Liminal space can be traumatic but it can also be filled with creative possibility.
Particular times of the day are liminal—dawn and dusk, for example. (No wonder these are such fruitful times for prayer or meditation—also very liminal activities.) Or think of those beautiful, suspended days when summer has passed but autumn has not yet arrived.
Pregnancy is liminal too—you are not yet a mother but you are no longer childless either. Travel is also very liminal—and places such as airports, railway stations, bridges, roads and pathways. You are no longer where you were, but you have not reached your destination either. So next time the kids ask, ‘Are we there yet?’ you can answer, ‘No, kids, we are still in liminal space, and anything is possible.’
Liminal experiences, whether pleasant or traumatic, can be powerful catalysts for personal change.
A new identity can arise—this is the greatest promise of liminal space. Through the fire of change, something outmoded in our way of thinking and being may be burned away, and something new can take hold.
A great thing to do when travelling through liminal times in your life is to gently reflect on what is worth retaining and what has run its course and needs to go. Ask yourself ‘What will I hold onto and what will I let go of?’ It may feel impossible to know, but if you can be patient and aware during liminal times, answers will surely emerge. (Til then, please pass the cake.)
by Karen Bedford
Author of The Nature of Strengths
Published by St Luke’s Innovative Resources, 2014