Thursday, December 6, 2012
Suffering is the extra tension created in the mind when it struggles. –Sylvia Boorstein
I was chatting the other day with a friend who is writing a book. She has worked with much more diligence and self discipline than I ever practiced in writing mine. So when I asked her about her progress, I was surprised to hear her say that things had stalled a bit, not on the writing side, but on the publishing side, the part she can’t control.
She is such a dynamic and highly motivated person that I expected her to express some frustration and impatience. But as she described how she is coping with this time of uncertainty, she said, “I’m learning to embrace limbo.”
Wow. Limbo is not a comfortable place. In her book Open the Door, Joyce Rupp calls this the liminal space, in the doorway, where you are no longer here, but not yet there. Many of us do not like this space. We have left the comfort of what was familiar, and we can’t see clearly what is in the next room. We sometimes handle our anxiety by trying to control things, by pushing through to resolution, any resolution, rather than pausing, waiting, breathing.
Limbo, or the liminal space, is not something I have historically embraced, or even tolerated very well. I’ve noticed over the years that my life seems to run in four year cycles. Every four years, there is often some major transition in my life – a move, a new child, the beginning or end of a significant relationship. I went through many of these cycles before I noticed the pattern.
Even now that I see the pattern, I often forget about it until after the transition into a new cycle, when I look back and realize that I have passed through a cycle year. Last year, for example, I retired and became a grandmother twice over. It was only as I started writing this post that I did some quick math and what do you know? Last year was a cycle year. I guess by now I should not be surprised.
Leading up to the cycle year is often a time of restlessness, agitation, a time of limbo. This used to be an extremely difficult period. I often was wedded to the way things were and didn’t want to give up what I thought was going to last forever. Once I accepted the inevitability of coming change, then I wanted it to come fast and be over with so that I could settle into my new “permanent” state. (How many cycles did it take me to understand the nature of impermanence?!)
Finding footing in the shifting sands of limbo was challenging on so many levels. Even more upsetting than knowing change was coming was not always knowing what the change would look like. And worst of all was trying to alleviate my distress by trying to control things I could not control.
So when my friend said she was learning to embrace limbo, I recognized those words as meant for me. I have made my peace with limbo, but she has inspired me to see the liminal space as a welcome gift, full of promise. Embracing limbo is accepting the natural rhythm of the universe, trusting in its basic goodness, releasing our fear, finding perfection in the mystery.
For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe. –Unknown
related posts: Man Plans, God Laughs; The Doors of Change; The Curiosity of Not Knowing