Transitions to retirement or anything new 1
We cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Anonymous
I had not heard the term liminal space until a few days ago and I was enchanted by the concept. The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold, any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is not just the physical space between one place and the next it is also the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘what will be or next.’ Liminal space for some is a place of transition, waiting, and most importantly, in my mind, not knowing.
Author and theologian Richard Rohr described this space as:
“where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy”.
Have you ever been in a physical liminal space? I have, and so have you I suspect. Every time I go to present a workshop to a new group, I stand at the door, just before crossing that threshold not knowing what to expect. The scariest physical liminal space I remember standing in was the room my wife had just entered to give birth to my daughter. I stood on the threshold and was afraid of going in, but I knew I had to enter to start our new adventure. Maybe you are more familiar with the emotional liminal space that you have encountered? Some of these could have been at the moment of transition from:
· one home to another
· married to divorced
· employed to fired or retired
· with children coming home to an empty-nester
· the end of one decade to the start of another (i.e., age 59 to 60)
· a loved one in your life is gone from your life through death
Each of these finds us where Rohr said, “where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown”. It is a scary and lonely place to be. As a result, most of us will avoid making a transition if we don’t know what is coming next. We stay in a lousy marriage, we wait a few more years before moving, or we postpone our retirement date until we have amassed more money, sense or our health forces us to retire. Many of us will try to get through this time as quickly as possible. We want to land on what next so we can feel comfortable.