Find the place in you that is between the sun and the moon. Between the darkness and the dawn. Between the lightning flash and the thunder. The Question and the Answer come together there. From the Carmina Gadelica, an ancient Celtic prayer.
I felt so very strange, after my diagnosis – like I was in a dreamworld, wrapped in cotton. Sound seemed muffled, time ran differently, sometimes it seemed like there was a glass between me and the world. Distanced from the world. This place has a name: it’s called liminal space. It’s ok, it’s natural, it’s even pleasant if you’re prepared for it. After a great shock, most of us end up here; we are jolted into this. Any threshold, any space between this and that, any transition puts you there; this is where boundaries dissolve. I was told as a little girl that the space between the book and the table was where the fairies lived. This is that space of otherworldliness – how the faerie realm is described – where normal time, relationship, desire, need, want don’t seem to matter. It is a space of seeming unreality but it’s also the space of unlimited possibilities, of beginnings, of making decisions that will determine the road you walk. It feels like it’s outside of time. This is a place to honor; it has many gifts to give if you will allow it. I must say, I relaxed into this place and let it wrap its gentleness around me, giving me ease and release. I always thought of it as a grey blanket of fog and I was inside drinking hot chocolate. I know that this space lasted probably six months for me and I was sorry to see it go. When I was there I felt lighter and quicker. I’d watch people walking by, immersed in their daily living and think, “they don’t know what I know.” And what did I know? Well, I knew death was real and it was here, not off in the distance but here, living side by side with me. And I realized at that point that death was there for us all, but most of us don’t look in that particular mirror. I hadn’t.
…we have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality. All transformation takes place here. We have to allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the “threshold”…where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown… That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible. It’s the realm where God can best get at us because our false certitudes are finally out of the way. This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed… The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor. Fr. Richard Rohr adapted from Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer.
So this place is betwixt and between. You’re not in control, you’re not in your comfort zone. You’ve lost your bearings and you don’t know yet how to find new ones. Reminds me of starting 7th grade. And it’s a lot like that, going someplace where you don’t know the layout or the rules, the danger zones or that first love you’ve been waiting for. It takes an ability to wait for what is to come, to sit without knowing the answer and learn how to be comfortable with that. It should have made me anxious but it didn’t. Usually I would have dived back into things, keeping reality at bay. But for some reason, I just let it be and rested in this strange place. You don’t have to DO anything here; it’s as if you’re in a tourist bus, driving along a highway you’ve never seen, going to places you’ve never been to. Frankly, I just enjoyed the scenery. It will pass. Some people learn some very interesting things here and some may just pass out the other side. Either way it can be a very sacred time. It must be some form of grace, this distancing from what can seem very ugly and frightening.
But sometimes I did get the jitters, sometimes I couldn’t stop my thoughts, even in this space. I found doing jigsaw puzzles really helped. Bought some that were in my spiritual tradition, were beautiful and intricate and immersed myself in them. It is amazing how you can forget just about everything when you’re trying to piece little puzzle parts together. They were very effective in turning off my mind and keeping me in the present moment.
I also coped with creative activity. I love to collage, so I did a lot of collages. My favorite – though still unfinished – was my death collage. Sounds gruesome I suppose, but really it wasn’t. I have loved the Wizard of Oz since I was 4, and I had Dorothy (me), the tin woodsman, the cowardly lion and the scarecrow all dancing over a very nice moon bridge, into the great beyond, full of stars and galaxies. Someday when I finish it, I’ll put it up on the site. I think anything you can do creatively lifts your mind up, gives you some breathing room, allows you to take time back and make it your own. There’s this lovely little video on YouTube from a woman named Anise Bullimore on how she used drawing during her journey with breast cancer:
(Thanks to www.allthingshealing.com for the above video)
All the arts work to take you out of time. I’m including writing too. I journaled, even though I really don’t like to write all that much. But I found it to be effective and helpful through this time (I’ve had some people tell me they won’t journal because they don’t want to die and have their kids see what they wrote. I suppose writing it all down and then burning it would work). With my love of collage, I chose pictures to paste into the journal and got a multimedia event. Friends have made fairy houses, planted flowers, taken long walks and photographed trees, got a box of crayons and a coloring book and drew like a little kid again (thanks to my daughter for that one). Anything can work as long as you love it and can get lost in it.