The in-between. 

The uncomfortable space many of us find ourselves in as we navigate a life of uncertainty on so many levels.

This murky point in time is known by some as liminal space, a time of in-betweenness and waiting. It comes from the Latin word limen, which means “threshold.” That inevitable doorway you have to cross through to get to the next place you’re going. 

Do you feel it? Does the unknown weigh heavily on your shoulders as it does mine sometimes? Do you yearn to know what the future holds (or even next month for that matter!). 

Author Richard Rohr describes liminal space as the spot “where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown.”

Yes, it’s hard. And yes it can be frustrating and even terrifying. But this space isn’t without hope.

Rohr goes on to say this is “a good space where genuine newness can begin.” 

I think of advent when I think of liminal space. This sacred time of year where those who believe sit in hope and wonder and wait. A time of darkness, but we know the light is coming.

So what do we do in the in-between while we wait for what’s to come? There are a few things I’ve found to be helpful.

  1. Breathe deep. The way you breathe matters more than you might think. I realized about a year ago that my norm is to take super shallow breaths, rarely engaging my stomach muscles. This type of breathing, called shallow chest or thoracic breathing, actually keeps us in a state of stress. Practicing deep breathing helps you regulate your body and relax.
  2. Unplug. A bit of a digital detox can be healthy no matter the season, but especially in times of weariness and waiting. Disconnecting from technology and media some can bring relief as well as margin for more fruitful activities (keep reading).
  3. Move. My tendency is to get very sedentary when I’m in times of anxiety and stress. I have to fight to make movement part of my days, but it always pays off. Even short walks or 15 minutes of gentle stretching can help.
  4. Journal. I know it can sound like a cliche, but journaling truly works! It’s an excellent way to slow down, put pen to paper, and process your thoughts and overwhelming feelings. Write what’s on your mind, what you’re afraid of, what you’re grateful for, or whatever else you feel compelled to write. Just write. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. 
  5. Be vulnerable. If you don’t already have safe people you can share deeply and transparently with, find them. When we’re caught in places of pain or the angst of the in-between, we need each other more than ever. Commit to connecting regularly during these times with those you can trust. 

As we close out 2020, many of us are plagued by question marks about the future. And the discomfort we find ourselves in is real. But we have a choice to make. 

We can run from the unknown, numb it with alcohol, HBO, our phones, or whatever escape is at hand, or we can choose to sit quietly with it, like a grieving friend. Not rushing it or running from it, but being extra gentle with ourselves and waiting with hope and an expectation of good to come. 

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