Layering Liminality

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One part of the change fatigue that we experience is when people must grapple with multiple liminal states simultaneously. We can cope with many things changing but the burdens increase and change happens across multiple boundaries at once. A critical thing for organisations to understand in this pandemic is that the challenges are always a degree higher.

Layering Liminality

This blog is founded in personal reflection and personal experience. This morning, I realised that a large number of the domains of my work are in flux. The organisations with which I am working with are crossing boundaries in many different dimensions and tackling major transitions all at the same time. The outcome is that I have liminal states layered on top of liminal states. In the background of these changes remains the questions of what it means to live and work in an evert changing pandemic world.

In my darkest night,
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”

Stanley Kunitz, The Layers

I noted in 2020 that we often pass through these liminal spaces at speed and without thought, but the nature of present circumstances is to elongate our liminal transitions. As frustrating as it is, change is hanging around longer and shaking our foundations more deeply than ever.

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Remember being a teenager. Teenage life is another period of layered liminal changes. We navigate from childhood to adulthood. We must navigate changing bodies and our new found sexuality. We form new relationships. We move from school and out into the world. Ultimately, these years are our transition into our sense of self and who we will carry forward in the world. Being a teenager can be a time of extraordinary empowerment and a flowering of who we are. However, with so many layered transitions it is also a time with lots of stress, anxiety and pain. It also takes years to get from A to B.

I’ll say it here, right now, 
one more time, with feeling:
it was the only moment
in this wretched life
a god was on my side. 

Rachel McKibbon, one more time, with feeling

The more transitions we face at the same time the deeper and longer this unsettling phase will be. Some of our frustrations are that the transitions won’t end and keep raising new uncertainties. We need to steel ourselves for this uncertainty and also be prepared to invest time to help and support others through changes. Importantly, we cannot assume that our change is the only or even the most important change that others are experiencing.

Finding a Path Through

When everything is changing, it is more important to found our path forward in our own purpose and identity. We will rely on our agency to find ways across the transitions required. So much is changing that we cannot rely on others to pick us up and carry us over. The liminality we experience is not always external to us.

We need to husband our strength, our commitment and energy to ensure we exercise our agency to greatest effect. These layered changes will not be once and done. We cannot seek to crash through. We need to plan for and prepare for a longer march.

Our purpose will be evident in our work. Even if we need procrastiwork to help us find our path, we are better doing and engaging others.

It can be tempting when a lot is changing to turn your back on the world. However, the better path is a re-engagement. The community of people with whom we work will be critical supports and enablers in the transition. We will need to support them in their changes as much as we are supported in turn. We will all travel across together.

Even when I find myself at a point where my mind and heart are struggling to process a series of experiences into things that can be made sense of, there will always be a poet who my soul can trust to articulate me perfectly. It makes me feel so good to know that being a poet means that one can give so much of themselves — can create so much feeling in others without losing any part of what makes them special. The gift is endlessly multiplied in the sharing.

Nova, emotions/feelings

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