Living in a Liminal World

Because we don’t know what’s in store for us, people are starting to freak out.

Can you feel it? Everything is different now, and none of us can figure out where we are going. For the past 6 or 7 years, we’ve been in this transitional state, somewhere between the land of “How Things Used to Be” and the land of “God Only Knows What’s Coming.”

It’s an unsettling place to be. We seem to be spinning our wheels. We can’t get any traction. We can’t seem to move forward, but it’s impossible to go back. We’re on the verge of something. We’re on the brink. We’re passing through this ominous borderland where the ground is shifting beneath our feet and we’re unable to see what’s on the horizon. Who knows what the future holds? Everything seems so unexpected and random.

We are living in a Liminal World. I feel sorry for the younger generations, because this is all they’ve ever known.

liminal
adjective 

lim·i·nal | \ ˈli-mə-nᵊl \ 

1 : of, relating to, or situated at a sensory threshold : barely perceptible or capable of eliciting a response. // liminal visual stimuli 
2 : of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition : in-between, transitional. //in the liminal state between life and death.

So many things have happened that we never anticipated.

  • A worldwide pandemic that would become senselessly politicized and therefore rage on to kill millions.
  • People so rarely sign their own names that their signatures are being questioned.
  • An insurrection in our Nation’s Capital only slightly less shocking than the war of 1812.
  • The election of a president (thankfully for only one term) who bragged of his penis size while campaigning, talked of grabbing women’s pussies, and claimed that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and still be elected, and it turns out he was right.
  • We find ourselves teetering on the edge of WWIII.
  • A pandemically-induced employment deficit is giving workers negotiating power for the first time in living memory.
  • It is becoming increasingly evident that we’re destroying the planet, and yet we aren’t doing anything about it.
  • Billionaires are going to outer space rather than dealing with the problems right here on earth.
  • Conspiracy theorists are taken more seriously than scientists.
  • Bitcoin.
  • Social media has exposed our gullibility, ignorance, hate and violent tendencies.
  • People are forgetting how to read maps and analog clocks.
  • Teens no longer rush to get their driver’s licenses.

Do I sound like a grumpy old woman who no longer feels she fits in the world? Well, yeah, I’m that. But this is much bigger. It’s more all-encompassing. People are starting to freak out.

Personally, I’ve been functioning under a level of stress that’s so intense that I’ve kind of forgotten that it’s stress. It’s time to do something about that. It’s time to find some solid ground again. My stability needs to be restored. Liminality is not a state where I thrive.

The thing about living in a liminal world is that it provides infinite opportunities for change. Change is scary. But we can insist that change be positive, rather than allowing it to be infused with selfishness, greed, and hostility. There’s untapped potential, here, to make the world a better place. We can break all those rules that haven’t served us well, and create a new way of living. The problem is that we can’t seem to figure out what that would look like.

Any ideas? Because I’m not going to lie. I’ve got nothin’.

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Vacation Anticipation

The planning part of travel is almost as good as the real thing.

I have a love/hate relationship with travel. It’s my reason for being, but just as in the rest of life, it has its annoying bits, too. To date, the good far outweighs the bad.

I really hate packing for a trip. That’s why I came up with a master pack list, which I update as needed, and then modify for the trip in question. No need for winter coats on that trip to Hawaii, after all. Oddly, this list also helps me avoid over packing, because I don’t overdo it for fear that I’m forgetting something important.

I also hate the stress-of-getting-to-your-destination part if I’m flying by plane or have to arrive at my hotel before they close, and so on. I don’t breathe easy until I’m in my room, and all my luggage has arrived with me. Then, let the fun begin! (That’s why road trips can be awesome, because you know you’ve got your stuff and nobody will lose it, and the journey is part of the fun.)

Naturally, I adore the actual being-there-and-experiencing-things part of travel. But I also love planning a trip with someone who is willing to actively participate in that part. I like deciding where we’ll go, and when, and what we’ll do. I like reading up on the region to find out what to see. I like learning its history, and if needed, it’s fun to have a rudimentary command of the language. I like watching movies about the area. I like reading guidebooks and deciding which places to stay.

I also find that the more homework you do on the front end, the smoother the trip will be. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting home from a trip and discovering that you had been really close to something amazing without realizing it. I see that as an epic fail.

I’m very lucky in that I now have a travel partner who enjoys the planning as much as I do. We both make an effort to include things that the other person is interested in. (More often than not we are into the same things, so that makes it easy.) He’s also as willing to try new food and have new adventures as I am. I don’t ever feel as if I’m dragging him along against his will, or that the burden of trip planning falls solely on my shoulders, so that makes it fun, even before the actual fun kicks in.

Don’t deprive yourself of the planning part of travel! It’s almost as good as the real thing. And then, of course, there’s coming home and blogging about it…

Frank-N-Furter knew what he was talking about.

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Something Awesome This Way Comes

Just hold on.

Struggling with depression as I do, I tend to look at my life as a series of widely spaced stepping stones in a pond. I look forward to hopping to the next refuge, the next awesome thing. That’s what gets me through the rough, wet, clammy patches.

That’s why I love to travel so much. Who wouldn’t get excited, looking forward to a trip to Italy, for example? But it doesn’t have to be that elaborate. It could be a day trip to the seashore, or even a drive to a nearby city to check out a restaurant. I just know that it’s important to me to have something to anticipate.

Travel isn’t the only thing in life to look forward to, of course. It could be starting a new job, or graduating, or finishing a project or achieving a goal. You might be excited about going on a date or talking to a friend on the phone, or choosing what color to paint your bathroom. Heck, I even get butterflies in my stomach when I go to the library, because from there you can go anywhere in your mind.

And the older I get, the more I realize that no matter how dark the cloud is that’s currently over my head, some good experience is surely in my future. I know that for a fact, even if I don’t yet know what the wonderful thing will be. So if I can’t focus on something specific, I put my head down, keep trudging, and hold on to the knowledge that the clouds will break eventually, and that even if it’s obscured at the moment, the sun is up there somewhere.

Just hold on.

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Hallucinations

Reality and the perception thereof.

I’ve written a lot about reality and the perception thereof. I used to think of reality as a solid entity. I thought there was one reality, and all of us had varying abilities to see it. Now I’m not so sure. Reality seems much more fluid these days.

I know that the things I see out of the corners of my eyes when I’m severely sleep deprived aren’t real, but they sure seem like they are at the time. More than once, I’d swear I’ve heard someone call my name, only to look up and see no one who knows me, or, worse yet, no one at all.

When my mother died, I missed her so much that I swore I saw her several times in a mall, or in a train station, or rounding the corner on a crowded city street. Apparently that’s a very common part of grief. But it sure gives you a jolt when it happens.

I’ve had entire conversations with someone only to realize that due to a misunderstanding, we were talking about two separate things. That can be hilarious. But surely there have been times when we’ve both walked away without realizing we were not only not on the same page, but in completely different books. And there’s no way to know how often that happens.

According to this article from the Atlantic, entitled Hallucinations Are Everywhere, a lot of hallucinations come about because your brain anticipates what is about to happen, and that can make you believe it is so. It’s a fascinating read. But it leaves me wondering how much of my reality is crafted by my brain out of whole cloth. That’s a little scary.

Another thing the article says is that a lot of hallucinations are harmless. Whew. That’s a load off.

So much about the world these days seems to be built upon a fragile, shifting foundation. I can’t really blame my brain for trying to fill in the blanks to make sense of it all. But I long for something solid. Something logical. Something I can count on.

Hallucinations

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Anticipatory Stress

Fight or flight should be reserved for the moment when you spot the mountain lion, not for when you’ve heard that there might be one within a 10 mile radius.

The 4th of July is the worst day to be an American bridgetender. Drunken boaters and pedestrians are out in force. There’s plenty of stress and aggravation, and a lot of people to avoid injuring due to their own foolishness. While you are out enjoying your fireworks, we bridgetenders are trying to avoid nervous breakdowns.

And yes, I got to work the 4th of July this year. Lucky me. I spent a lot of time politely bellowing at people through the bullhorn. It may not sound like it, but I do it because I care. I’d really rather not kill anyone if I can avoid it.

At a certain point, I realized that a great deal of my tension was purely anticipatory. I knew the night was going to suck. And sure enough, it did. But stressing out over things that have yet to happen is counterproductive at best. Fight or flight should be reserved for the moment when you spot the mountain lion, not for when you’ve heard that there might be one within a 10 mile radius. Caution is great, but becoming adrenalized before the fact does nothing but make you feel exhausted and sick to your stomach.

So I spent a great deal of the night checking in with myself. What is happening now? What are my rational concerns at this moment in time? Breathe…

This takes practice. I never really thought about how much time I waste anticipating disaster. All the more reason to try to stay centered in time.

Hope you had a better 4th than I did!

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Making Plans

When you make plans for the future, you’re demonstrating a delightful amount of optimism. Because life is fragile. It can pop like a soap bubble at any time. I’ve seen that happen more than once.

John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

Sorry, John. You know I love you. But I disagree. I think life is making plans. The alternative, making no plans at all, or sitting back and letting the world kind of wash over you, is a form of death.

We are not meant to live like moss on a tree. The fact that we feel the need for religion shows that we struggle with accepting fate. I don’t think we are meant to be so accepting. We are meant to be the architects of our own lives.

Plans give you purpose. Purpose is what makes life worth living. I find the best antidote for depression is having something to look forward to.

Even more evidence of optimism is making plans with someone. It says, “We’re in this for the long haul.” “I have great expectations for us.” “You are the person I want to spend time with.” “I have faith in our relationship.”

The only thing I can think of that’s better than anticipating your future is anticipating your future while holding someone’s hand.

planning-for-future

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What Keeps Me Up at Night

Yeah, I’ve done that mind-grind thing where I keep worrying about something and try in vain to come up with a solution. I have done my fair share of stressing out over finances, jobs, relationships, and conversations that I’m dreading. I’ve even stayed up to care for sick people and pets.

But you know what really keeps me up at night? Excitement. I spend a lot of time tossing and turning and smiling at the possibilities. I can rarely sleep just before a trip to someplace I’ve never been, for example. I can just imagine what it will be like. I also thrill to new experiences, new connections, and the opportunity to learn.

Many is the night I’ve spent staring at the ceiling, knowing that I’m about to receive the gift of newness. That’s my favorite gift of all. It doesn’t take up space in your tool shed. You don’t have to dust it. It’s usually not tangible. But you’ll be able to revel in its memory for the rest of your life.

There is nothing quite like the first time you do something, see something or realize something. Beginnings are awesome. Change is wonderful just as often as it is dreadful. The anticipation of something can be every bit as amazing as the thing itself.

Anticipation is what robs me of my sleep!

Excitement (July 2011)

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My Very Last Vacation

I live for travel. I used to go to a different foreign country every two years. I miss that. I hope to get back to that financial place again at some point. I also hope to have someone to travel with again one of these days. Traveling alone isn’t nearly as fun. Who knows what the future will bring.

One thing I do know, and that’s that I will take my very last vacation someday. I fervently hope that I don’t know it’s my last one at the time that I’m taking it. That’s a little too bittersweet for my liking.

No, I’d much rather take a lovely tour of Italy and then come home and be hit by a crosstown bus as I’m crossing the street to the bookstore to buy the guidebook for my next trip. If I have to shuffle off this mortal coil, I’d like to do it while planning for an exciting future. I don’t want to slowly circle the drain while gazing fixedly down that dark and moldy hole.

Half the fun of travel, for me, is the anticipation. The planning. I like to read everything I can about my destination, because nothing pisses me off more than coming back home to discover that there was something really spectacular within walking distance that I didn’t see. That leaves me feeling like I didn’t do my homework, that I’ve shirked my responsibilities, that I’ve failed myself.

I don’t have the luxury of returning to places I’ve visited again and again. The world is too big. There’s way too much to see. So the end of each vacation is kind of like a little death. I mourn the amazing place I’ve just been, because I know that the odds are high that I’ll never see it again. If I had to couple that mourning with the concept that I’d also never get to see anyplace else again, ever, it would be entirely too much to bear.

travel

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Predictions

The day I wrote this, it was a sunny Saturday here in Seattle. It was probably one of the last ones we’ll have until May. And yet, all shift long I hadn’t had a single request to open my drawbridge. Not one sailboat. I could have phoned it in. If I had a boat and the day off, I’d have been out there! Where was everybody?

I’ve long since given up trying to predict how busy my work day will be. Sometimes it’s cold, rainy, and raw, and the sailboats are out in force, demanding bridge openings every 10 minutes. And that could be on a Wednesday. Go figure.

Anyone who followed the last presidential election can tell you what a monumental waste of time predictions can be. Polls? No one ever asks my opinion. And yet, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to guess the future.

It’s only natural to want to know where you’re going to land when you jump into an abyss. Looking before you leap only makes sense. And if we were all forced to face up to the fact that, for the most part, we are fumbling in the dark, the world would be a scary place indeed. I totally get why people are comforted by the concept of a higher power.

But I often wonder how much time is wasted anticipating things that never come to pass. Worrying. Agonizing. Wondering. Altering one’s behavior based on… what, exactly?

Not that I’m different than anyone else in these situations. I’m not some enlightened being who lives in the now. I wish I were. The fact is, I grew up in such an unpredictable atmosphere that I learned to plan ahead to an almost obsessive degree just so I could survive.

I have no solutions. But I feel the need to point out that perhaps we are all so focused on what we see through our figurative binoculars that we are missing those wonderful people, places, and things that are right under our noses. Don’t forget to pause and look about you every now and then. Beauty is in the present tense.

binoculars

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Flirting

I used to like to say that I couldn’t get through the day without at least one good flirtation. I’ve had to scale that back considerably in the past year, because now that I’ve moved to Seattle without knowing a soul, the vast majority of my human contact is with coworkers. Flirting with coworkers is a bear trap I absolutely refuse to step into.

But slowly, agonizingly slowly, I’m starting to meet people outside of the workplace. So the other day, I blew the dust off my flirty self and let her come out to play. What a rush. I was actually much more bold than I’ve ever been before. Making up for lost time? Dealing from a deck of frustration and boredom and loneliness? Nothing ventured, nothing gained? Probably some combination of all of the above.

Actually, ever since my recent epiphany about loneliness (which was yesterday’s blog entry), I haven’t really been feeling lonely at all. Maybe that has liberated me to flirt with impunity. If you don’t feel lonely when you flirt, you won’t be inhibited by fears of rejection. The flirt becomes the thing, rather than the other person’s reaction to that flirt. You can’t really go down in flames if you’re not that heavily invested.

So I just had fun being slightly wicked and playful. And I suspect the recipient of my attention was more than a little experienced with flirtation as well, because his response left me rather uncertain as to his thoughts on the subject. Positive, I think, but I’m  not at all sure. That kind of makes it fun, too, because it means I might, or might not, have something to look forward to.

That makes me smile.

[Image credit: mentalfloss.com]
[Image credit: mentalfloss.com]