L is for Liminal Space

We are in the fifth year of our 5 year plan. These last months have been months of what I am calling “hurry up and wait” time. We are at the threshold of leaving an old way of life behind, but have not yet made the leap. We are living in the liminal space, the space between. It can be very frustrating, this time of waiting and not making much headway. This is giving me lots of time to practice just being in the here and now, rather than always thinking of the future.

We know the comings and goings of the birds and their seasons in our yard.

Being present in the here and now is a skill that should be developed by anyone that has anxiety because anxious people are always looking at the ‘what if’, and the ‘what will happen when’ rather than allowing themselves to be fully present in the moment. They miss a lot that way. They also increase their level of worry by doing that. We all know that worrying is pretty much a useless way to spend time and energy, and yet we do it.

I am trying to stay firmly rooted in the present, living each day realizing that I have no idea how all of these plans-in-the-making will come together, trusting that they will, somehow.  I accept that we really have very little control over how things pan out. We make our plans, we do our part by putting one foot in front of the other day after day, and we see how those plans begin to take shape as we live our way into them. But the details of that? They are a mystery until they emerge in the present moment.

Take our house, for instance.  If there is one big thing that makes me anxious about moving forward in our plans, it’s what to do with the house. I know I’ve written about it before. That’s because it is literally almost always somewhere in my conscious awareness. When I think about signing our house away to someone else, and then not owning it anymore, I wish I could say I feel a sense of freedom and relief. But I really feel like this: 

To me, it feels counter-intuitive that at the stage of life we are in, after years of working to create a comfortable home, we would just sell it and never come back. After all, we do not know our future plans. We do not know if we’ll be sailing for a year or two years, or whatever. What if something happens and we have to come home, as so many cruisers do? We would have no place to come back to.

Mike is much less worried about this than I am. He feels like we can buy another house if we want it. I wonder exactly how we would do that, considering we are unlikely to get enough from the sale of our house to pay for another home. A down payment, yes, but to pay for one outright, no. He would have to find another job, houses here are expensive. I can’t help but think about where we will live in our old age. Still on a boat? Unlikely. Anyway, I get pretty spun up on this subject, but frankly, not as much as I used to. I am coming to accept that I just do not know what will happen with the house and if we have to sell, then I will try to be at peace about it. Still, this would be a really long post if I wrote all the things I think.

My morning coffee place.

The questions the anxious mind comes up with have no answers in the now. They are only questions that create more worry. The answers lie somewhere in the future and will make themselves known when the time comes.  So when I start going down the dark hole of perseverating on a future I cannot see, I have a mantra to help me stop and come down to earth. Maybe you need one, too. Mine is that I just say, “You are fine today, right here and now. All is well right now in this place.”  That helps remind me that I may as well not dwell on the future. Just do today’s work and the future will emerge soon enough.

If you, too, have a brain that likes to get into the worrying cycle, here are a few tricks that can help.

  1.  Give your mind something else to do. Give yourself something to think about that is positive. A mind left to its own devices is like a toddler left unattended in the kitchen. No good can come of it.
  2. Breathe deeply and focus on your physical surroundings. Take note of what is registering with all of your senses, focusing first on sight, then sound, smell, taste, touch, then hearing. Bring yourself firmly into your body awareness.
  3. Use your best ‘firm and directive’ parent voice inside your head. Say, “STOP! STOP NOW! THAT’S ENOUGH!”. Then re-direct yourself to a different topic. Remember the mind is like an errant toddler. Telling it once will not be enough.
  4. Ask yourself what’s the worst, realistic thing that can happen. Make a plan for dealing with that.
  5. Write. Just write or type it out with word vomit. Just get all the words out of your body.
  6. Talk out loud about it, even if you are alone (especially if you are alone). Sometimes hearing the words out loud will help put things in perspective. You might find yourself realizing how ridiculous your mind sounds, even to you.
  7. Learn to meditate. 

In case you are wondering, our rental idea for the house is not working out. It was the wrong idea, apparently. I have no regrets about trying it. We’ve lost nothing in the trying, and we are enjoying the fruits of our labors clearing out the house.

Our son would like to live in the house with his girlfriend and another young couple. We would love that so much! It would be a great place for him to launch his adult life and career from. If he finds a GIS job in the Tacoma area, that’s what will happen. Know any good entry level GIS jobs for a young man with a Bachelor’s in Archaeology/Geology and a certification in GIS? He graduates from that program in June.

What are your biggest challenges in staying in the present? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Just joined me in the A to Z Challenge? You can read from the letter A here, then hit ‘next’ to keep going.




10 thoughts on “L is for Liminal Space

  1. Your house is so beautiful! So full of light and views of nature. I can see why it would be like a good place to keep,as “home” while you have your adventures. I hope you find a way to do that.

    • Thank you! You’ll be interested to know that if Andrew can get a job down here and move into the house, then our dog has his forever home intact. That’s another driving force for us.

  2. I am enjoying your written processing so much! Your house is so beautiful and warm, and I can imagine how it feels to be in the liminal space. For my anxiety, or I should say “Aunt Ziety”, I often say “Shh, shh, shh”, or as you mention, some form of “Stop that right now!” When a particularly worrisome thought persists, containing a negative outcome, I say “Cancel, cancel, cancel!” I am also facing leaving behind my beloved home by choice, within a year or so, to try independent living. The amount of stuff gathered over a 50 year marriage would sink a barge. I am completely enthralled by your willingness and excitement for living aboard Galapagos!

  3. A house is a shell. A HOME is what you make of the shell by adding your spirit and dreams and intentions. The two are separate entities – though it’s often difficult for us to think of them that way!
    If you’ve read back through our blog at http://www.sionnablog.wordpress.com, you’ll note our situation is scarily similar to yours! One little difference is that we’ve bought a used, 35′ RV, which will be our “home base” in Maine – it’s a place we can come back to if the poop hits the sails.
    Unlike you, I do a mental happy-dance every time I recall that we’ve sold all our real estate and will be giving up our lease on this house in two months – but part of that sense of of happy is doubtless because we’re still maintaining a base off the boat.
    But I am SO done with owning a house… 😉

  4. I’m so sorry that the rental plan didn’t work out. Hopefully, your son and his friends can rent it so that it can stay in the family. You’ve put a lot of work into your home and it’s lovely. I can see why it would be so hard to part with.

    • Well, you know, it will all work out. On my ‘good days’ I just want to throw caution to the wind and sell the thing. The feelings on this one run very deep. Growing up, I moved when I was 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, then went to college at 18, and then my parents moved around when I went to college, although I always found them. I never thought about it, it’s just how life was. But when I finally put down roots in a home as an adult, I felt strongly that I wanted to offer my own children something I never had: a family home for the long term. My vision just didn’t include working my ass off to create one and then walking away. But we may have to do it because visions change. I’m sure it will be ok if we have to sell. But I’m also glad I’ve had some time to get used to the idea.

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