I was drawn to acting back in my youth. I had opportunities to explore this craft and played character roles in high school and college productions. Then I spent some time studying improv at The Second City in Chicago. While I did not “make it” as a career, the rush of performing has never left me.
In a performance there is this moment, just before the curtain opens or the lights go on, where a sacred space exists between the audience and the actors. It is a space of anticipation on both sides of the curtain. In this space, all things are possible. There is a sweet suspension of time, balancing what will be with what has been. And then the balance tips and momentum takes over.
I am experiencing such a space right now, at this stage of my life, but with new insight and added appreciation for what I can learn. At times I am the audience, waiting to receive a new learning and hoping to be carried away. At other times, I am the performer, anticipating how I will pace my delivery and wondering whether what I am offering will be accepted and embraced.
This is not the first time I have experienced such a threshold. I remember graduating from college, not really knowing who I was or what I would grow into, but keenly aware that I was leaving a space that had nurtured me as I matured. I was leaving that safe haven and moving into the unknown somewhat blindly and taking on faith that the journey would unfold with relatively few barriers.
Now I am transitioning from being someone defined by her career into a different version of myself, where what I do defines me far less than what I think and feel. The obstacles and barriers I did encounter during the intervening years turned out to be not only survivable, but actually necessary to my ultimate growth.
At this point in my life, I am exploring nuances of give and take. I spent most of my career as a giver. It is a role that I am very comfortable playing. Now, however, I am learning about what it means to be on the taking end.
My life-long pride of being able to do things by myself is now giving way to the shared enjoyment of having people do things with me and for me. It is also shining a light (holding a mirror?) to the things I am no longer able to do for myself or even want to do for myself. Pride is grudgingly giving way to humility and acceptance. And inevitably, joy.
As Above/So Below
In my liminal space I am keenly aware of the interrelationship between the material world that surrounds me and the inner world (divine) that occupies my thoughts. There are moments when I am driving at either an early morning hour or a late-night hour, when I am the external observer of homes where lives are being lived. As I drive down the empty streets, I am fully present to my own experience of being part of, yet separate from these lives.
Every so often, I leave my own ego-centric awareness and contemplate what other intelligence might be observing me. What conclusions are drawn? What inferences made? How am I judged?
Conflict and Resolution
Right now I am safe in a world that is on high alert. I am free to move without fear of being pulled over or shot or attacked. I harbor no enmity toward others and expect others to feel the same way toward me. In the current state of our world, this is pure luxury. I do not take it for granted.
My situation is not guaranteed, however. All the more reason for me to take a stand for non-violence and do my very best to support those who are working to resolve conflict and bring an end to suffering. Sometimes I do this by bearing witness. Sometimes by raising my voice and calling out hypocrisy. Sometimes I do this by prayer. These are actions that in taking actually lowers my anxiety and increases my resolve and commitment to values of peace and tolerance.
Aikido: Receiving and Taking
I was lucky to study Aikido with Robert Frager, an American psychologist and founder of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. Bob was a student of Morihei Ueshiba, (“O-Sensei”), the founder of the art. Bob is now an 8th Dan – one of only a handful to have been given that honor.
Of the many lessons I was taught in the Dojo, two stand out that are key to my valuing my current liminal space. The first is learning to not resist falling. The second is learning to accept the attack and transform it so that the attacker and I are walking together in the same direction with shared intention.
At this stage of my life, my physical self is no longer sturdy or steady. I am much more vulnerable to the leading cause of decline in aging adults: falling. Because I learned to fall in Aikido, I truly feel that when, inevitably, gravity and balance conspire to topple me, I will have a fighting chance of minimizing the damage because I am not afraid to fall.
The second lesson is more subtle. Any “attacks” that are directed at me I believe rest firmly in our cultural bias against growing old. I am challenged in accepting the ageism and learning to “turn it around” so that we can all walk together and embrace the shift that aging brings.
The word, “liminal” is an adjective with two meanings:
- occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. “I was in the liminal space between past and present”;
- relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process. “That liminal period when a child is old enough to begin following basic rules but is still too young to do so consistently.”
For me it is a moment in time that is neither one thing or another. This captures my experience of this moment in time. I recognized it as liminal because I have already experienced something similar and I know how that turned out. I am projecting that this moment will have similar outcomes, although I will experience it differently because I am different.
In this space, everything is possible.