It's Friday. I'm drinking a gin and tonic with lots of lime. I just oiled my picnic table and did some weeding and the second load of laundry is in the washer and now it's 8:20 p.m. and I don't want to do any more chores and I don't want to go to bed and my book choices are a novel that I'm not loving and Moby Dick for book club.
I was an anthropology major in college, anthropology and French. I was not a particularly good anthropology student, but I enjoyed my studies and there are a few great moments and concepts in my education that have stuck with me over the years. You know, the TWENTY YEARS since I started college, holy cow. Ahem. Anyway. The top three are 1) falling out of desk when I dozed off during the one and only night class of my career; 2) spitting into my hand upon being directed by a professor to do so, holding the saliva there for some crazy long time, like 20 minutes or more, then LICKING IT BACK UP; the lecture was on cultural concepts of disgust; and 3) the idea of liminality. I'm sure there's a fine Wikipedia page that I could link to about liminality, but as I understand it and all that matters for what's on my mind tonight is that liminality is the quality of existing between two states. You are neither A nor B, you are in the process of moving from one to the other and in doing so you are not wholly one or the other.
The bulk of my life has felt liminal to me. I've never been very comfortable with the idea of arriving at a state and just being there. I'm almost always on the way to another state of being, although I've been more grounded at some times than at others. When I committed to the Peace Corps, for example, the transition to being a volunteer was liminal for sure, but the time I served was pretty focused. I was present because I had made the commitment to be present for the time that I was volunteering. As the end of my service drew near, the liminal state began again during my search for what to do next, but the bulk of my active service was one of the most non-liminal times of my life.
I prefer to be in control in all areas of my life, although I've learned a lot over the years about what I can control (very little, as it would happen) and what I can't (a whole hell of a lot). I'm not change adverse, at least when I'm the one deciding to make a change. Liminality can be unsettling, uprooting, destabilizing, but when I'm making a conscious decision to enter a period of transition, I tend to find that time exciting, invigorating, and full of promise. When, however, the liminal state comes upon me not of my own choosing, I'm much less sanguine about the whole thing.
I'm in love with so much of my life right now. I love Portland. I love four year olds. I love my job, at least to the extent that I'm going to love any job. I love living near my family. I love my bike! I love being in a grief place where I'm not angry all the fucking time. I love being financially stable. I love my friends. I love summer. I have a whole lotta love.
At the same time, I feel like I'm just getting to know myself. The lenses through which I define myself are there for me to choose. Or do they choose me? I've never defined myself through my job, although I do enjoy the work that I do. Parenthood is certainly a key piece of my identity, but is still but one facet of a larger whole. As Maddie and Riley become more independent and as the circumstances of my life allow me to regain more autonomy, I find myself stymied and existential: who am I, really? How do I want to present myself to the outside world? How does the outside world see me, and how does that compare to how I see myself? What kind of role model do I want to be for my kids? What do I need to be happy/complete/fulfilled?
It's not like I sit around on my couch eating bon-bons and thinking about how I define myself. I'm not looking to go on an Eat, Pray, Love-style journey of self-discovery. (OMeffingG don't even get me started on how much I hated that book). I do, though, feel unsettled and unsure of how to figure it all out. I'm trying to just be with the lack of being, but it's not an easy place for me to live. And it's not something I feel like I can talk through. I feel like it's one of those things that's going to take experimenting and false steps and learning through mistakes. Sounds a bit dreadful, to be honest. I'd hoped at this stage in my life to have gone through enough to obviate that for a while. But I guess that's not my lot in life. So for now I'm running and biking and dating (not much, I'm afraid) and talking and loving the things I love and avoiding the things that I don't. I'm trying to be patient. The hardest part is that there is no end date to this particular unchosen liminal state. I don't know what it is that will make it feel like it's over, make me feel like I'm settled, even if only for a while.