I’ve been feeling down on myself this last week as I’ve been thinking about everything that seems to be missing from my life. The things I want for myself that are not in place yet. The things I want to do but am not yet able. I’ve been having difficulty making decisions for the coming months because I don’t know where I will be or how I will be. I don’t want to look back one day and feel like I missed out on the things I have decided to say “no” to, but I also don’t want to pursue situations that I can’t be fully present for or jump into something just because it is something.
There is so much about my life that is unknown right now. Not having a clear path to follow in this moment is frustrating. I don’t want to be at a standstill, yet I don’t want to make a move in the wrong direction either. I didn’t expect the prospect of having a future to become so stressful. I am still here, and wonder what I am supposed to do about it? Shouldn’t I be happy just because I am still alive?
This weekend marked a year since my sisters passing. There was also news that a young woman from my hometown was killed in the London attack. Even after these reminders that life is precious and can be taken away at any moment, I’m displeased about life. I haven’t been feeling the overwhelming gratitude that I “should be” at this time. I want something more than what I have and I want to know what it looks like.
But, I can’t know what it looks like. I’m not here or there right now. Everything is unknown and I feel fragmented, I’m unsure of how to restructure life and make sense of it. Being in the unknown is being in the liminal space. As Stephen K. Levine writes in Principles and Practice of Expressive Arts Therapy, “The liminal condition [is] one in which all familiar structures have been given up and new ones have not yet appeared.”
The liminal space can be painful, yet it is necessary. “Liminality,” Levine continues, “is a time of confusion and powerlessness, as old identities and roles are abandoned and nothing has yet taken their place, but it is also a time of great creativity, in which one is free to invent new forms of meaning for oneself.”
So how do I find meaning for myself at this time? To not really try, but to allow; to let things be and stay present where I am so I can better notice what wants to emerge. I wrote in The Path Ahead that I need “to trust that what is required to move forward will be presented when the time is right.” And knowing that, Is there really anything I need to do right now? Being in the unknown is about “being” not trying to “do”.
In Poiesis: The Language of Psychology and the Speech of the Soul, Levine states that “It is essential to human being to fall apart, to fragment, disintegrate, and to experience the despair that comes with lack of wholeness.” And, “that it is at this critical moment that the possibility of creative living arises.”
Poiesis is the new knowing that arises during the creative experience. It takes a surrendering to what is in order for poiesis to take place. Levine explains: “If we can let go of our precious identities and move into the experience of the void, then the possibility arises for new forms of existence to emerge.” Letting go is essential; what wants to emerge cannot if I have pre-existing ideas of what it is supposed to look like. Once something appears it can be revised and shaped, but only after it has emerged from that place of allowing.
I have to be at peace with being in the unknown, even if it is uncomfortable. We don’t always know what we are doing or why were are doing something while we are in it, and that’s ok. My teacher often uses the Zen saying “Not knowing is most intimate”- it is very intimate to make full contact with an experience when what will happen next is not known and does not make sense. Things will make sense when the new shape comes into form. But, for now, I just need to trust “being” here.
Photo: Greg Rakozy