I’m not going to talk about failure. Instead, let’s discuss liminal spaces.
It’s been exactly one month and four days since my last post. For regular bloggers, that’s internet suicide. Your audience falls off, your readership plummets, everyone’s disappointed. No one moreso than yourself.
When I finally settled down about a week ago from moving apartments and jobs, I was frustrated at having let myself slack off with The Slowing. Nonetheless, I thought, “Always a new beginning.” And yet somehow I still failed to write.
I failed because I didn’t need a new beginning.
Let me explain: Last weekend I went to a forest bathing retreat.
(Quick note: forest bathing is just a fancy way of saying a really slow walk through the forest.)
Yes, my boss forwarded the “hippy-dippy” event flyer to me as a joke. And, yes, I actually went.
On the walk, one of the leaders stopped us at the edge of a clearing and began to talk about liminal, or transitional, spaces in nature. She explained that at the edge of a forest where a clearing begins — THAT’S where the interesting stuff happens. Opposing habitats meet, weather shifts, species with distinct living requirements interact. These edges are places of growth, excitement, and… tension. She related this to our lives — she was a psychotherapist, after all — and pointed out our tendency to run from these edges.
We are constantly looking for a beginning or an end.
We want a new job, a new boyfriend, a new apartment. We want OUT of the boring career, stagnant relationship, or cramped house we already have. Starts and finishes. Secure, known, comfortable fulfillment.
The rhetoric we hear around self improvement is that of “fresh starts” and “new beginnings.” The transition, the liminal space, is glazed over because it feels unsettling and anxiety-inducing. But if we’re honest with ourselves, the beginnings aren’t where change and growth happen. It’s in the space between knowns.
Think back to your last huge transition. Maybe you changed jobs. Moved cities. Started dating someone new.
The toughest and richest parts of those experiences were most likely the weeks leading up to the beginning. It wasn’t the decision itself, nor the aftermath, that helped you grow the most. It was the questions you had to ask yourself before the change in order to move forward. Maybe you were out of work for a couple weeks, looking for any kind of purpose, so you started painting more often. Maybe you knew no one in your new city and had to determine what kind of people you wanted to pass your life alongside, so you started going to a hiking Meetup to make friends. Maybe you were finally welcoming your fears of loneliness when you met Lucy.
Everyone wants comfortable, known, secure. We are wired to want to understand our surroundings.
But as you move forward thinking about contentment and about crafting a considerate life, start appreciating and reveling in the moments that offer you the most amount of freedom and growth: the liminal spaces.
So, let’s get back to me “failing” at this blog thing. As I said before, I didn’t need a new beginning. I simply needed to take a single step forward in this crazy time I am in.
In fact, thinking of forward movement as a “new beginning” was a hurdle in itself.
The pressure to write this “re-introduction post” was so great that it stunted my writing. I finally realized I only needed a single step in order to craft the life I want.
So, where does this leave you? The next time you are tempted to rush to an ending or beginning, sit with your life where it is. See what you are learning from the situations that make you squirm. Watch your fears come up over and over. Don’t judge yourself for those fears, but notice them and begin to learn what motivates you, positively and negatively. When the time comes, move forward steadily. With a single step. And rejoice in the terribly uncomfortable, unsettling, and vibrantly alive weeks that follow.