5 Tips for Navigating Life Transitions
Self care for traversing the liminal, baby 🌀
I first learned about liminality in college. The word liminal is derived from the Latin word “limen,” which means threshold or doorway. In ancient mythology, it’s very common for epic heroes to experience a period of liminality—a transitional time of in-betweens, neither the beginning nor the end of their story, in which our protagonist loses themself before emerging stronger, wiser, and, often, victorious.
It wasn’t until years later that I started thinking about the liminal in my own life—you know, those times when you’re experiencing a life transition, usually one that’s out of your comfort zone, and there is a lot of change, and a huge unknown at the end of the tunnel. For me, it feels like like I’m inside a doorway, stretched long like a corridor, neither standing in front of nor on the other side of its frame, but within. It calls me to stretch beyond my body, to look at myself from outside of myself so that I may grow stronger. But I am usually resistant to its call.
Because I don’t do well in the in-between! I prefer to be over here, or over there, not somewhere floating, suspended in time and space, in the middle of nowhere with no sense of where I’m going. But of course, the more I resist, the harder everything seems to become—getting out of bed, signing in to work, making myself food suddenly feel like gargantuan quests that require much, much more of me.
I make these digital altars every month and set them as my phone lock screen. It’s a good reminder of the inner work I am navigating for the month and the energies that can help ground me through it. This is July’s >.<
When I found out I was pregnant, the last thing on my mind was the fact that I was physically and emotionally volunteering myself into a 40-week liminal space. Because pregnancy is an in-between like no other I have experienced.
I’m not quite a mom yet, but I sort of am. I’m puking my brains out for weeks, and then suddenly I’m not. I’ve never had eczema in my life and suddenly I do. I have resentment about feeling miserable while also being grateful to my body for knowing exactly what it needs to do to keep this baby alive. I have no idea what I’m doing or how my labor will go, and yet my intuition is stronger than ever and I know exactly what my body needs. Every single day is different from the last, sometimes with new challenges and sometimes with new happy surprises.
When it finally clicked that my pregnancy was, indeed, a liminal space, I kind of had a breakdown. Only because, like I said, I normally don’t do well in the in-between. But I think, during the 28 weeks I’ve been pregnant as of this writing, I have learned more about navigating the in-between than in my 28 years of life.
I’m documenting this for you, so that it will hopefully help you on your epic hero’s journey, but also for me, in case I forget, since my brain is mush these days (pregnancy brain is a very real thing OK!!)
1. Surrender to the present
There is an element to my personality that is like a rock, or boulder, meaning that sometimes, when I don’t want to accept something or do something, I simply will not, no matter how hard it makes my life. I’m working on that.
The boulder shows up when I sense I’m going through a transition period, a liminal doorway. I do not wish to embark on this voyage through time and space, thank you, I will stay right where I am because even if I’m unhappy, at least I have something to stand on!
And then whatever I’m standing on eventually crumbles, and I’m thrown down the corridor anyway.
The more I resist the natural flow of life—meaning, the inevitable ups and downs and in-betweens—the more depleted I become. Resisting the inevitable takes so much energy that I don’t have any left for daily functioning. When I surrender to the uncomfortable feelings I’d like to avoid, to the big unknowns ahead of me, I actually don’t feel as shit as I think I will. There are certainly hard days, but something about the bravery and power it takes to face the mystery head-on is empowering, and can even be energizing.
2. Show yourself immense kindness
And I fucking mean this one. You’re embarking on a journey through the void. Who knows where it will take you, or how it will fuck with you along the way. It is imperative that you speak to yourself with gentle, tender words. No, there is nothing wrong with you because you haven’t been feeling like yourself for awhile. You’re experiencing something new, aka the wormhole that is whatever liminal space you’re meant to be traveling through. It sucks and it’s weird, I know. But you are a fucking magical being who is very capable of navigating this. Do not underestimate your strength. Honor your tenderness and vulnerability. Stay curious about the ways you are changing and staying the same.
3. Be in your body
I know, we’re always in our bodies, but how often are we, like, intentionally feeling our bodies? Feeling into the sensations and boundaries of our bodies? Set aside time when you’re able (five minutes or an hour, doesn’t matter) to intentionally feel your body. Maybe that’s working out or stretching or walking. Maybe it’s having sex, (partnered or with yourself!) Even just laying in bed and feeling the blanket along your entire backside counts.
For me, it’s gua sha. For about 10-15 minutes every night, I put on a guided meditation while I gua sha my face and neck. The entire time, I am feeling the stone glide against my facial muscles, noticing where it feels really good and where it just feels okay. Afterwards, not only do I feel super relaxed, but I am more connected to my body and how it has carried the weight of the day. I feel grounded, which is incredibly soothing to my nervous system after a day of feeling like I’ve got no ground to stand on.
4. Receive from your community
I strongly identify as a giver, so that is where I am comfortable. I love doing things for the people I love and I love taking care of the people I love. Put me in a position where I am on the receiving end of kind gestures (that I totally deserve btw) and I am so uncomfortable! But I heard somewhere that you’re not truly giving if you cannot receive with the same intensity, and that really fucked with my brain. So if you, like me, have a hard time receiving loving attention and having the people you love truly take care of you, I’m here to tell you that you that it is time to be vulnerable and allow yourself to be taken care of. We are literally wired for interdependence. We need the receiving as much as we give. Especially when you’re going through a hard time or difficult life thingz, allowing your community to show up for you when you need it (just like you show up for them when they need it) is completely transformative.
5. Divest from binaries
Not only is this a super important pillar of social justice and abolition work, but it is also helpful when you are navigating unusual times, go figure. Notice, when you talk to yourself, the ways in which you subscribe to binaries. During my pregnancy, I’ve noticed a lot of “Well, I don’t know how I feel but I don’t feel good so that must mean I feel bad.” And that’s not helpful because feelings do not fit easily into categories of good and bad. Our emotional realities are more kaleidoscopic than categorical—and often we feel conflicting feelings. Embrace the paradox. Accept that sometimes you cannot—and you do not need to—categorize this shit, because the human experience is expansive and mysterious in ways that we may never understand. Embrace yourself as the ever-evolving, shape-shifting, magical mess that you are.
As always, I never promise to have the answers, but I sure do love having you along while I figure it out.
Do you have answers?
How do you know when you’re going through a transitional period? What does it feel like? How do you keep yourself grounded through the unknowns? I would love to hear from you! Respond to this email or leave a comment <3
I acknowledge that this newsletter is created on the traditional land of the Duwamish People, past and present. I honor with gratitude the land itself and the Duwamish Tribe.