Liminal Space: The Place that I did not know that I live in.

My husband wrote a paper recently for the end of his term.  In order to read it well, I had to look up a number of words and concepts.  (Yeah – he real smart.)  And, in doing so, I came across a term I had never heard before…

Liminal Space

I asked him about it and he described it to me.  As I listened to his answer, my whole heart said, “OH MY GOSH. That is where I am. That is me. That is where I am living, and where I have been living.”

As I spent quite a bit of time looking up information on this concept, I found that many people have been writing about it since the early 1900s.  It is based on the concept of Liminality which comes from the Latin word, Limen, meaning threshold. It refers to the empty space between two places.  There is a whole movement in the art world that focuses on liminal spaces in the physical world.  Empty school hallways, car parks, etc.  It was fascinating to me.  And, yet, the way that this struck me so profoundly was as it relates to my inner world.  My inner experience of my life as it has unfolded over the last decade.

Father Richard Rhor writes, “Liminal space is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next. We usually enter liminal space when our former way of being is challenged or changed… The very vulnerability and openness of liminal space allows room for something genuinely new to happen. We are empty and receptive—erased tablets waiting for new words. Liminal space is where we are most teachable, often because we are most humbled.”

To be honest Father Rhor…I feel a bit more leveled than humbled (though humble is in there too).  And, still, your words resonate deeply with me. 

This is how I would define liminal space: “It is the space between what was and what will be. But, you are not yet in the place of what will be.  And, you are keenly aware of the loss of all that was.”

Here is what I mean…my life 10 years ago was drastically different than my life now.  The people.  The places.  The traditions.  The homes.  The gatherings.  The illusion of a net.  The family I had.  The feeling of normalcy.  It’s all different.  And, the loss of so many of those things has leveled me.  There are days when attempting to process it feels like attempting to summit Mt. Everest without any training time.  All the old is gone.  And the new is not fully here. 

I hear you thinking, ”You have so many beautiful things in your life.”  Yes…that is for sure true.  And, I am grateful for them.  My husband and partner with whom I get to adventure.  Our precious son…to describe how much we love him seems impossible.  The family that still is.  The new homes.  The new places. The truth of living in trust and faith without the illusion of the net.  Yes.  All of these things are beautiful, and I am full with gratitude for them. And, the fullness of the gratitude doesn’t take away the loss.  It’s not math.  They don’t cancel each other out. 

Grateful.  Yes.

Grieving.  Yes. 

Both.  Always. 

I now know that I live the land of Liminal Space.  Between what was and what will be.  And, my companions on the journey are the gifts of Gratitude and Grieving.  They are wise and loyal companions.  I have made the promise to myself that I will keep going.  That I will rest.  That I will allow what was to be gone…grieving as I need.  I will be open to what is to come…without allowing just anything to fill that space.  I will BE and DO what I was made for…and I will be kind to my body and soul in the process.

Here are your questions for this month as you think about where you are and the concept of Liminal Space.  I hope that these questions give you an anchor for this part of your journey:

  • Where are you?  Are you in the what was?  Are in the space in between?  Are you in the what will be? 
  • Do you feel the depth of your gratitude?
  • Do you feel the depth of your grief? 
  • What do you need as you journey further on? 
  • How can you know the depth of your soul more fully? 
  • Who can you be with as you rest and repair? 
  • How do you care for yourself while also doing and being who you were created to be?