Limbo and liminal spaces…

Today I am supposed to be moving into my new home, after months of living out of the proverbial suitcase. I won’t go into the dull ins and outs of the reasons why, I figure that people aren’t necessarily interested in the minutiae of someone else’s problems or relationships. So why am I telling you about this if I don’t think you will be interested, I hear you asking?
Well, it seems to me that for that last few months I have been in a kind of limbo waiting for my life to start again. Or, more accurately the next chapter of my life. Or even, to quote The Waterboys: “A new life starts here” (google them if you don’t know it!)
So what is/was this ‘limbo’ all about? I did at first, see it as an escape, a withdrawal from life. Which it clearly was. But that withdrawal has been nothing to do with where I was living or who with, but an inner withdrawal. It made me wary and weary of human contact. Like some kind of primitive instinct I was in ‘fight or flight’ mode. I didn’t have the will for the fight, so flight was my modus operandi, which I think is often a typical male reaction. Instead of safety in numbers, where, for example women tend to turn to their girlfriends in times of trouble, the male tends to deliberately avoid contact. It’s like we need to lick our wounds alone. Not make a fuss. This is also perhaps an English trait; stiff-upper lipped reserve and all that…
I realise of course that words are failing me and I am typing cliches and stereotypes, but then maybe sometimes these exist because of some truth at the kernel of them, you just have to crack the nut. Other times of course such stereotypes are false and need to be challenged and tested, like a balloon that is crying out to be burst. Do you ever have that feeling? However, enough of digression…
Later, my limbo became routine, almost dependable, like a dear, but slightly annoying old friend who you knew would leave eventually. It was liveable and even nice at times, and the generosity of friends and family was wondrous to behold. But I couldn’t help the nagging feeling that I should be at least planning what this new life should be. This however was a fruitless task and ultimately impossible. How can you plan for something when you don’t know what it is. The wind had gone; the sails were flat and listless; the horizon empty.
Now I sit writing this when I should be moving boxes and trinkets into my new home. Of course it is typical that even at this last moment the tide is against me. Those moving out from my house have yet to move out. They are lovely people and I cannot complain. But this hiatus gives me pause for thought…and some of that thought is revelatory…
I now realise that my limbo wasn’t a limbo at all. I haven’t been becalmed but actually living in a liminal space. An in-between space. So while I was worrying about the tide and the lack of wind, I have actually been busy reinventing myself, almost without noticing.
I first realised about liminal spaces when I was at a music festival many years ago (Cambridge Folk Festival, if you wish to know!). A friend I was with explained why they loved festivals. It was because they are places where you are free from the constraints of normal, everyday life. In that space you can do, and be pretty much anything you wanted to be. You didn’t have to conform to the roles assigned by society. You know; employee, son, daughter, mother, father, even friend. These roles we play out everyday by doing what is expected of us. Like Shakespeare knew; “All the worlds a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
At the festival we drank delicious smooth pints of Guinness (the best outside of Ireland). We danced under the stars and dared each other to talk to strangers in the most delightful and stupidly funny ways. It all felt so happy, lovely and free, and all who were there craved that feeling for years afterwards.
Now I realise that some of that freedom of the liminal space has been returning to me without my even knowing. Like the light of morning seeping through the gap under the door, beckoning; open the door! I have begun my new life already and I wasn’t actually waiting. I have self published books, who would have thought? I have travelled to Asia. I have this modest blog. I have started to play gigs. I do actually have plans, even when I thought I didn’t, plans just for me.
So what if I it takes me a few more days to move into my home? It looks like my ship was travelling in the right direction all along.
So I urge you to seek out the liminal spaces, they can be most delightfully surprising. What do you think?

© 2011 Simon Poore

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3 thoughts on “Limbo and liminal spaces…

  1. Simon…I know exactly of what you speak! I have gone through hardships of my own: In the past 7 months, I’ve been divorced; past 5 months I’ve been homeless; and for approximately 3 weeks I’ve been unemployed. Fortunately, I have recently got a new job and acquired a VERY modest living arrangement in a basement full of….”friendlies.” I know all to well the of the English man’s response to life’s changes. I’m a second generation Scottish/American (dad’s side), with a good “swig” of Irish (mom’s side). People never understood why I would withdraw myself. It’s because I needed to think. I think I think too much. 😛

    I’m glad that you have a new home, and I hope it will be filled with many, many happy memories! BTW, I love Guinness! So next time I’m at the pub, I’ll make a toast to you and your future. Hopefully, I won’t alarm anyone when I belch!

    Cheers to you my friend!

    1. Cheers! Hope you future journey goes well. Enjoy the Guinness, I shall probably do the same come the weekend, maybe in my new home, or the lovely pub around the corner!

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