I feel like I’ve been floating in my little boat of uncertainty for months and months. The pandemic, and all its outfalls, has thrown me into the liminal space and made me feel at sea. And while things seem to be improving with more and more people getting vaccinated, I’m still having a difficult time making plans for the future.
Thing is, I love having plans. I love having goals to work toward. I love dreaming about what’s next.
But the pandemic has pretty much killed a lot of that.
Is that the lesson I’m supposed to learn?
Is this time supposed to teach me to focus on the present, appreciate it, and stop planning so much?
But why can’t I do both?
Can’t I have plans for the future and still appreciate the present moment?
Can’t I be grateful for what I have today while still dreaming about tomorrow?
Maybe what I need to learn is how to hold these two seemingly conflicting desires within myself?
It doesn’t have to be one or the other, it can be both.
My plans change ALL THE TIME. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that is totally true. And the thing is, I’ve been okay with changes in the past. But during this pandemic, I’ve had a much harder time forgiving myself for the projects, goals, and ventures that don’t work out. I’ve been experimenting a lot–which is a big part of who I am–but nothing feels like it’s becoming what I want it to become.
Maybe that’s the greater issue?
Maybe it’s my insistence that things result in something tangible in the physical world?
But what about the metaphysical world?
Haven’t I changed for the better because of my experiments?
Haven’t others also received benefits from them as well?
The answer is a resounding YES.
Just because my recent ventures haven’t resulted in the typical measurements of success in the physical world (more money, more gigs, bigger audience, etc.), does not mean they haven’t been of great value to me and to others.
Maybe this is the key?
Plan for the future, do the projects I want to do, and assess both the conventional and metaphysical outcomes. (By the way, did you know that “metaphysical” means “over and beyond the physical”?) Here’s an example.
Is this project profitable and is this project giving me energy rather than taking away energy?
Valuing the metaphysical and emotional doesn’t mean that I don’t care about selling more books and zines, making more money, or growing my audience–I care about all of these things–but I need to balance the physical outcomes with how the work makes me feel. Because if I don’t feel good while doing the work, then all the physical success is not going to matter one iota.
Again, it’s not one or the other, but both.
I have to admit, though, it’s hard to start again and believe that it’s going to be different this time. Since I’ve been floating in my little boat for a long time and none of the shores I’ve visited have resulted in what I wanted, I’ve stopped paddling. For months, I’ve been staying in one spot.
But it’s not my natural state of being. I don’t feel good staying in one spot and letting the wake and the wind rock me. I need to steer my ship.
This time, when I get to the next shore, I’m going to truly take my time exploring it. I’ll meander down every trail, pat the trunks of trees, even taste some strange fruits. I’ll take time to appreciate the present when things are good and when things are rough and I want to get back in the boat. This time, I’m going dig my toes into the sand and stay for a while.
Of course fear rears up whenever I think about paddling toward shore again. But I’d rather have fear than this ongoing angst and immobility. Time to take some deep breaths, drop my oars into the water, and start rowing. It’s okay if the next shore isn’t what I thought it would be. Who knows? It might be something better.
ps. Can you relate? If yes, are you floating or paddling?
Peg Cheng is the author of Rebel Millionaire, a guide for how to retire as a millionaire even if you make a modest income, and The Contenders, a novel that asks, can enemies become friends? She is also the proud owner of Plaid Frog Press with her husband Marcus Donner. Born in Southern California to Taiwanese parents, Peg currently lives in Seattle, Washington.
Photo by Alexander Schimmeck
Jenna Matlin says
Could there be a third option, I wonder? If there is floating in an eddy, or paddling towards shore: could there also be diving below the surface to see what’s there? On the surface of the river, it looks like a duck just disappeared. But, in the deep she is quite busy muddling the mud, disturbing the quiet aquatic life to find tasty roots while crustaceans scamper out the way.
Discomfort is baked into the “Liminal Experience”. That crush against ambiguity often is the wake that drives the boat towards a new shore. That wake is generated by deeper aspects of ourselves, not ready to reveal the next thing quite yet until it does with a loud clamour. In my experience it is precisely when we are the most uncomfortable is when the next right thing comes. Even if that thing is just the right thing for now.
What deeply helps me when I get into these spaces is to remember all the times I was there before. Each time prior I did find the path, do the thing, learn the lesson. It is a reminder to trust myself even when the answer is not yet apparent and to hold off on panic–choosing to belay the discomfort. Sometimes I have to tell myself that like a mantra. The lower-decks aspects of ourselves are “crunching the numbers” and it needs quiet to do it right.
Peg Cheng says
Your wise words are a balm and a buoy for me right now, Jenna. Thank you so much for your sage perspective and advice! I’m going to take time this summer to dive below the surface and see what’s there, and will also remind myself that I have been here before. Even if this liminal space has been longer than all the others I’ve been in, I will make it through.