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0.7 | Liminality
I’m sitting again.
This time surrounded by the small mounds of things that make up my collective possessions.
I notice myself in a transitory state, one where my home has started to no longer feel like home, and the next place, not yet home.
The new home still ripe with the exciting unknown that leaves me grasping for hopeful thoughts of recreating a familiar state, but not quite sure of the steps it’ll take to get there.
I’m about to move again, maybe for the 12th (or 15th or 17th) time. It’s a familiar experience for me, one that, comically at this point, feels more natural than staying in one place. But this move feels different – it’s not just the symbolic act of moving myself and my belongings from one location to another.
No. This one – this one coincides with a decided willingness to walk into this next season of my life, not really even sure what to expect at all.
It’s daunting, exciting, and sorrowful all at once.
The first time I chose to move, it was a radical choice – for me – to leave all of the familiar, the world I lived in and loved, and venture to a new city, with some rolling suitcases and the excitement of so many unknowns.
It was, entirely, also, a naive move. One where the consequences of my choices, the loss of people, of familiar routines, of foods I loved, and memories I wanted to have, felt insignificant when compared with the wonder of the future.
I didn’t know then that those losses stay with you.
The loss of the paths you could have gone, but now never can, replaced instead with where you are now, for better or for worse, though likely both.
And these positives and negatives don't outweigh each other. Instead they both exist together, emblemized by your present.
No one told me about the listless drunk nights passively wondering what things might of looked like, if one seemingly arbitrary decision had been replaced with another.
The other major time I moved, it was a choice to run away from the world that scared me. A world battered by a newfound disease, that made everything, even my own body, feel unknown. It wasn’t a deliberate choice to run towards something I knew I wanted, but rather a yearning to run away from a storm towards a perceived calm. A calm in which, hopefully, I could find the stillness to heal.
I’ve even gone back to the previous homes. Homes that are always a garland of deja vus. A revel in the past, that are, just like the oddly familiar, odd.
Something still feels hopeful, like the ebbs and flows of life aren’t meant to take everything from you. My memories, my ability to revisit the amorphous structures of my past, the adopted families I never really left behind, all there.
So maybe then, familiarity is the atonement for loss.
I want to hold onto to each item, listening the stories of each memory, and sometimes even, the lack-there-of that each one initiates.
It isn’t even the thing itself that I care about. Nor the memories even.
Each thing, to me, represents an anchor to a consistency. To a stability I can’t automatically have when I arrive at my next destination. Each item I take with me provides me with the ability to reach out and grab something in my next unknown, and know that I’ll be grasping something familiar.
A phantom negotiation with the world for some semblance of stability.
So then what should I take?
I want to be judicious about what I choose to bring into this next season of my life. The default sentimental panic (and expensive) urge to pack it all and mule it over to my new life is there. But I am, also, acutely familiar with the cost of taking this easy way out.
Each item serves as an anchor to my previous life, and those points keep me connected, yes, but with that also, give me a way to keep me from truly experiencing the new found life that I seek. The distraction that extra weight brings to my life, inhibits me from experiencing the weightless and open potential of the newly encountered unknown.
The real reason I move.
“Should I take my bear can?” I question myself. I hold it, recounting the memories of it serving me a half dozen times in the various forests of the PNW. “Maybe I’ll find a use for it in the concrete jungle of New York”, I humor myself, already knowing I won’t.
What about the studio lights I acquired, hoping to kickstart a new pathway into portrait photography? Or the books I was once so eager to read. How about the chair that I sat on through countless video calls, or the art that I stared out for hours, looking for something to wonder about?
It’s funny how we encounter the best and worst parts of ourselves in the things we choose to inhabit our environment.
How some things evoke a hope for life, a dedication to a value, or enable the performance of a joy that few other things can compare to. And how other things represent failed starts, forgotten dreams – the cruft of a life left from an unanticipated wake of change.
I came across the idea of liminality a few years ago, almost casually, while cooking lunch and listening to a podcast in the new home I had just moved to.
Liminality as a quality can be expressed both in the physical, as a place, and in the immaterial, as a time.
We are surrounded by liminal events, and often we choose to celebrate them – funerals, weddings, graduations, New Years, new jobs, new moves. They are times that mark a transition from one state of being to another. In our society, so many of our ceremonies and rituals result from these events, characterized in all the proclamations that go hand in hand with those transformations.
And then liminal spaces – the places that feel most like home to me. Airports, hotels, bridges, bars. All providing temporary refuge from one major place to another. Places were the rules of society feel different, where you will have dinner for breakfast or a drink at 4pm with international strangers in some new city, or where you will meander across a divide in an activity that is, in itself a pleasure.
I ponder attachment. Why it hurts to leave and change, even though, as the flippant phrase declares, "change is the only constant".
I find myself walking the razors edge, with a rope of my left pulling me towards attachment, towards all that I’m leaving behind, and rope to my right pulling me towards detachment, an existential need to let it all go.
And so I walk, slipping, falling, as each tug from the ropes sways my balance.
The goal really isn’t to not fall, but rather to continue to walk the edge without fearing the slip.
So I’ll spend the week, tending to my routines with the pendulous baggage of finality. I’ll see the friends that I won’t be living in the same place with again. I’ll visit the places I’ve loved, the mini sanctuaries of familiar foods, views, and comforts. I’ll pack my bags, and repack them, a little lighter. I’ll wonder what delights and sorrows I will encounter ahead. I’ll think about all the places I’ll want to see when I come back.
And then the swarm of movement, and all the busyness that comes with it, will take over.
And I’ll find myself in some other home soon, taking in again whatever I am, whatever I have, and whatever I’ll soon become.