We are living in a “liminal space” right now. You might be wondering, “what does that mean?”
The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word “limen” – meaning threshold. A “liminal space” is a threshold sort of time – a time between “what was” and “what is next.” It is a place of transition, a time of waiting, a time of not knowing, a time “in between.”
When you are in a “liminal space” – you don’t exactly know where you are. You’re not where you used to be. You are not yet where you are heading. “Liminal spaces” can be very disruptive and very disorienting.
Are we going back to what it was like pre-COVID? What will the “new normal” be like? How long will this all last? When will we enter into “phase 4” of our BC Restart Plan?
These are just some of the kinds of questions rattling around in my own head and heart as I try to embrace the “liminal space” that we are currently in right now. These thresholds of waiting and transition – of not knowing – can be difficult to navigate.
In a recent Sanctuary podcast, Markku Kostamo describes what this space can feel like well when he says, “liminal space is disorienting, it’s tiring, it’s new, it’s—you know we might get more uptight, we might be more anxious.” More “uptight.” More “anxious.” Anyone relate?
Attending to our mental health while we are in these spaces is vital to experiencing some measure of wellness, and even flourishing.
Self-care. Self-compassion. Coping skills for managing our stress. These are critical right now to develop. THIS IS a hard space to be in. What are you doing to care well for yourself? Remember – self-care is “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” What activities are you engaging to care for your health?
Let me ask you another question – how are you having compassion on yourself?
I know one of the adjustments I am continually needing to make right now is to adjust expectations around productivity. I am simply not as focused and productive as I was before COVID-19. I’m not. I’m learning to show myself more compassion in this area – recognizing that getting down on myself for the loss of productivity is not a healthy way to cope. What are you discovering about yourself that may require you to be a bit more compassionate towards yourself?
Checking-in on your own mental health right now is important. And getting help and support when you recognize your mental health is starting to languish is critical.
Not only is attending to our mental health vital to navigate liminal spaces – but opening ourselves up to God’s work in our lives through these times of uncertainty and disorientation can bring unexpected transformation. It’s tempting to try to quickly get out of “liminal spaces” – to do anything to avoid the discomfort of the uncertainty and disorientation. But – perhaps God has an invitation for us during this time.
Author and Franciscan friar Richard Rohr describes the opportunities that are latent in liminal spaces when he describes the spaces in this way:
where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. . . . It's the realm where God can best get at us because our false certitudes are finally out of the way. This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy (Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for July 7, 2016).
What new things might God want to birth in us and through us as we experience this time of transition together? Let’s keep our eyes and hearts open. And let’s support each other well during this “liminal space.”