I was introduced to a new word while reading Chip Conley’s book, Wisdom at Work: the Making of a Modern Elder. The word is “liminal” or “liminality”, and it comes from the Latin word “limen”, meaning “threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning.” A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing. Have you ever felt you were in-between or in transition? I think it happens frequently. Certainly those who have lost jobs, ended relationships or have become empty nesters can identify. It can be very unsettling and may lead to a sense of hopelessness. The in-between space is dark and cavernous at times. Think of the period of time between the caterpillar and the butterfly – it is liminal; it is the chrysalis.
Elders find themselves in this space. After retirement, it takes time to reinvent yourself and figure out who you are without a career or the regular routines that have guided your life. The life that ran on rails for 40+ years has no track to run on now, and it may even feel like the end of a productive life. But just as the caterpillar has a new life waiting inside, so do we have amazing potential to have our very best years ahead. The secret is in our attitude. If we are done, so to speak, we probably are. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right!” Are you open to new ideas and new adventures? Rather than feeling pressured to make something happen, we might just open our hearts and minds to the idea of ‘what’s next.’ If we believe the caterpillar doesn’t have to plan its emergence as a butterfly, perhaps we could trust the same source of life to work for us. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place if we learn to wait and let it form us. Join the conversation on Facebook at just Now Old Enough.
Connie Mason Michaelis, Lifestyle Consultant at www.justnowoldenough.com.