In the Liminal Spaces


March 5, 2020

I have spent most of this year in a liminal space, stretched between where I was and where I will end up.

I am not who I was, but have no idea who I am becoming.

I oscillate between surrendering to it- the not knowing, the simply being- and being wildly suspicious at times that this grounding down to the place where movement ceases is just another way my resistance and self-sabotage manifests.

I feel unfettered and untethered all at once. This sensation of non-attachment is a both/and. It is BOTH freeing AND terrifying.

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain on the roof and no desire to get up.

But my desires are no longer my own. As a mother, I spend a large amount of my time fulfilling the needs of others, both the basic- food, water, shelter, clothing- and the spiritual- comfort, love, guidance, presence.

When I returned to my car after school drop off, I could feel a wave of uneasiness building. It wasn’t physical. My body felt calm, relaxed, loose. It was subtle- something at play in the spaces we cannot see, only feel. Like I was being chased down. Hunted.

I have learned in my life (but especially in the last six months) that the only thing I can do in moments like this is to ask for guidance on the next right thing to do. To look no further ahead than the next step. The next move.

And so I asked my Knowing what to do and the answer was this.

“Go to the beach.”

So I did. The beach was deserted, just the way I like it. By the time I arrived, the sky had cleared enough that it had stopped raining, but it was still grey and moody.

I started walking. Wandering, really. No hurry, no pressure, no point.

And then a familiar thought:

“I am so goddamn tired of fighting.”

Now…

For those of you familiar with severe depressive episodes, you probably recognise this phrase (or some iteration of it) as the precursor to a potential suicidal ideation or thought. And certainly, for me, it has been in the past.

But not today.


Usually that thought- I’m so goddamn tired of fighting- is followed by an imagining, however brief, of how blissful (and ABSOLUTE) it would be to just stop fighting. Give up. Surrender.

This thought is then followed by the decision to keep on battling and although this newfound- renewed, strengthened- commitment to life sounds positive, it’s always slightly rotten, tinged with the fear about if and when The Overwhelm will happen again. And whether or not you’ll survive.

Because that’s the thing about depression. People who have never experienced it may think it all sounds a bit dramatic. Like, you’re tired? So what? Me too. Take a nap.

But people with depression often feel the same way. When I’m IN IT, I can imagine no other solution than finding a way out. The peace that would come with death. How my kids would be better off.

And let me be perfectly clear here. I am loved. Deeply. By many. I am under no illusions that “Nobody would miss me if I was gone.” Everyone would fucking miss me.

But depression can be an extremely narcissistic experience- selfish and narrow minded in its manifestations- concerned only with ME and MY pain and MY peace. The idea of just checking out is the ultimate indulgence.

But back to the beach today.

That desire- to just stop fighting- has almost always ended with a fantasy about death. Not how, or when, or the aftermath. Not much beyond the moment where I would just cease to exist.

But today I was given another option.

As clear as day, I heard my Knowing say:

“Well, then [shrug]…just stop fighting.”

I hesitate to even try to explain how I felt in that moment. As a writer, I rarely put pen to paper if there’s not at least a possibility that I can translate a feeling into words, so I can be understood.

No, to be honest, that’s not my hesitation here. My hesitation is that I sound stupid. And I may- to someone who’s never felt the way that I have. The way so many of us have. But it’s a risk I’m willing to take if one person can take my words and twist them into some kind of currency that buys them another day, week, month, year of life.

Surrender. It’s the best word I can find to describe that moment. And it’s still not adequate. But it’s close. Surrender to what? I don’t even know.

But I do know I stood there on that beach, my mouth forming a small, surprised “Oh!” of awareness. Of understanding.

I don’t have to keep fighting.

Now, this may have played out differently if I’d been in a bad space, a place I haven’t been for almost a year and half and that I can hardly remember. I’ve always kept journals and have written in great detail about what I was feeling- the slow, burning sensation of drowning in front of the whole world- but, much like childbirth, it’s a pain I can’t occupy from the outside, no matter how hard I try.

But today I blinked, laughed out loud, and kept walking. Asking, with each step, “What next? What next? What next?”

The answer surprised and thrilled me.

Baptism.

In that moment, I needed to go into the ocean the way I need to breathe, to create. Swelling with urgency, I stripped down to my underwear and waded into the cold water. When I was knee deep, two small Banjo rays scared me half to death, circling my feet. I blanched for a second, suddenly imagining what else I could not see.

But then the Knowing said, with a laugh and a sigh I might add, “Meghann, you’re either in or you’re out. You trust or you don’t. You can’t half-ass surrender.”

So in I went, submerging myself, sinking to the bottom of the ocean, the light and sound growing muffled and dim.

Surrendering.

And then emerging. Baptised. Initiated.

I guess I thought I would feel different when I came out, and to some extent I did. Somehow lighter and heavier all at once- both more IN and OUT of my body at the same time.

Yet I also felt, for a moment, disappointed. I had hoped for a completion. I’ve been waiting on the circle to close for a long time, for the “what will be” on the far side of this liminal space to become apparent, so I could know what to DO. How to BE. What fucking ACTION to take.
But I can’t. And I won’t. Not today. Maybe not ever.
THAT is what I surrendered to, as I floated weightless in the ocean, where all of life began. The realisation that life begins again and again and again with every breath, every word, every action.
And in that moment, the liminal space was transformed from something terrifying to something sacred; a place where everything is new and unpredictable and constantly evolving.
And I was transformed too.

Once upon a time, the thought of constant evolution would have exhausted me because I would have equated it with having to keep up. But now that I know there is no destination and I have nothing to do but go with the flow, the disruption seems nothing short of delicious.


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Melbourne, Australia

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meghann.birks@y7mail.com

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