There’s a word I’ve come to appreciate over the years. Liminal comes from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold.” Liminality is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of some kind of transition, when you are metaphorically standing at the threshold between your previous way of life, and a new way of life.
I still remember vividly the first time I experienced liminality in a big way. September 1974. My parents have helped me move into my college dorm room, hugged me good-bye, and driven away. I am standing in the parking lot, looking up at the imposing six-story brick building as their car disappears onto the main road. I have an intense feeling of being In Between. Part of me desperately wants to go back to the safe rituals of high school, yet I know that this is impossible. Another part of me is longing to fit in here, to find “my pack,” to belong. Yet I also know that this will take some time. So I am left in this space of uncertainty and waiting, but I am also aware of a beautiful sense of possibility.
At the tender age of 18, I was not familiar with the word “liminality,” but I keenly felt everything that comes with it. I wrote in my journal that night about feeling like I was in an “in between place,” where I couldn’t go back to my life before, but I wasn’t “in” the place where I was headed yet. And it occurs to me now (at the tender age of 67!) that the simple fact of my awareness that I was in a particular place called In-Between, made a difference in how I moved forward from that place. Because I was cognizant of the fact that I was kindof-sortof stuck on a metaphorical threshold, I was able to find some semblance of peace there. And that peace was filled with a sense of surrender to the possibility of what was to come. Instead of spending all my energy on wishing I could go back to my high school self, or on trying to force the future, I was able to accept the mystery of being on that threshold, and I activated my faith and trust that I would find my way across it to the next part of my life.
I have found myself in many other In Between places in my life, and I’m sure you have as well. I moved to Virginia in 1978 to teach second grade in a tiny little country town. I left that tiny town (which had become home to me) in 1984 and moved to Boston to become an educational consultant for a learning software company. I ended a long-time destructive relationship. I married and became a wife and stepmother. My father died. I took a job. I left a job. I became a woman living with cancer. The treatments ended. Each of these transitions left me standing on the threshold for a time- not able to go back to how my life was “before,” and yet not quite knowing how to move forward.
In my October 10 release, Sea Glass Memories, Elana Jeffries is at that powerful in-between, liminal place as she leaves her home in Boston behind and starts a new life in small town Seahaven on the coast of Maine. Not only is she leaving a well-loved job and home, she is also letting go of the life that she joyfully lived with her husband, Marc. As she takes on a new job teaching English at Seahaven High School, she finds community and possibility in a grief support group, in directing the Senior class play, Our Town, and in a friendship with Kit Gilmore, the older woman who owns Elana’s apartment building.
Throughout the book, Elana begins to realize that her grief over losing the two loves of her life is a lot like sea glass. As shared by Leah St. James, who facilitates the Together Not Alone grief support group in Seahaven:
When we experience grief, instead of feeling whole, it can feel as if we’ve been broken into pieces that are tumbling around inside us like shards of glass in the ocean. The sea glass helps us remember that the pain of any kind of loss—any kind of brokenness—has the potential to soften if we allow ourselves to be with it. Our tears, our rage, our denial, our anguish—over time—can smooth the rough edges of our grief. I also believe that we can hold onto the sea glass as a reminder of what we have lost as well as how we survived it.
I hope you enjoy Sea Glass Memories. It’s available for pre-order now and is full of all kinds of wonderful Seahaven sunrises, good food, theatre, romance, forgiveness, and there’s even a Halloween Scavenger Hunt!