When is the last time you weren’t sure what to do? When was the last time it felt like you were smack in the middle of nowhere with no clear idea where to go? Last year? Last week? Right now?
We’ve all been there: in the place of betwixt and between when it seems like there are either too many or too few options. Some call it the interim time. It’s also called liminal time, which literally means “relating to a threshold.” For most of us, it doesn’t matter what you call it: what it is is flippin’ uncomfortable.
In 2012, when I took a four-month sabbatical from teaching Nia, I was eye lash-deep in liminal time. I felt confused and disillusioned and did not see a clear path in any particular direction. I had a pile of things I was interested in and another pile of things I didn’t give a rip about and I spent a good deal of time fiddling around with those piles. After a couple of months, it became clear to me what mattered and what made my heart beat and what I was ready to toss into the recycling bin. Slowly in some cases and like a AED shock to the heart in others, during my time away from teaching things got clear.
After the Radical Sabbatical, I noticed that interim times are happening all the time. They might not be dramatic, but nonetheless, there I am standing in the middle, unsure what to do. I am discovering that whether it’s a big deal or small, what moves me through the liminal times is to show up with intent and trust that things will get clear.
Just this afternoon, I set aside an hour to write this post. But first I felt like I needed to do some things for the family, and I had to run to the store, and then couldn’t find some information I needed, and then I only had 20 minutes left of that hour. What to do? I could show up and write for 20 minutes. Orrr, I could organize my desk, or read that article on Facebook, or look at that cute bunny video. Besides, I wasn’t really sure that the idea I had for this post was all that great anyway.
There’s the rub: I was afraid to start on something that might not turn out well. What if my point was pointless? What if someone makes a nasty comment? Or worse, what if nobody pays attention at all?
Liminal time is actually incredibly rich and essential and it’s helpful to get let yourself be there. When I’m feeling betwixt and between, it means that something interesting is waiting. Doctor and psychologist, Joan Borysenko calls it the time of “no longer and not yet.” Something is over and something else hasn’t started. If I avoid these times of not-knowing by rushing to a decision or staying the course because it’s familiar, it’s like tilling over seeds the day after I’ve planted them.
Rushing to SOMEthing to get out of the feeling of INBETWEEN is when I really lose my way. Avoidance of liminal time is the stuff that rebound relationships are made of.
I’ve come to perk up and take notice when I feel myself in interim time. I do my best to relax when I feel the uncertainty then show up and trust. When I feel like I don’t know what to do, the whole truth is that some part of me does know, knows exactly. My job in those times of doubt is to wait for that part of me to speak up. Desk straightening and trolling Facebook and pretending that I’m not feeling like I’m feeling just tills under the seeds of wisdom.
Show up, and trust. I’ve got to do both. If I just show up without trust, I’m likely to make the quickest, most obvious choice and not be alert when wisdom arrives. If I just trust and don’t show up (that is, if I only trust and don’t do the work), wisdom hides.
Show up, and trust. You may not know now, but it will become clear. Just keep showing up, being present, asking the questions, telling the truth, and doing the work even if you don’t know where it’s going. Trust that something will shift. A sprout will sprout. A light will come on. It takes courage to show up and trust. Take a breath, ask for help, and keep doing it.
And in case you’re wondering, I wrote the beginning of this post in those twenty minutes.