This Is How: Adventures in Liminal Space

 

 

By Kristina Campbell.

Calibrating True North is at The Haven September 20–23. The image to the right is a detail from Kristina's painting 'Fenrir' (2019, oil and gilding on wood panel).

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For the past year or so I have been hanging out in the liminal (stay with me, I’ll explain).

I am at a transition point, shifting from being the participant to being the facilitator. In November of 2018, I completed my Haven Diploma in Group Facilitation. In September of 2019, I will complete my Sexual Health Educator Certification. During this time, I applied for and have been accepted as Assistant Faculty at the Haven. I have also developed and led/co-led two new workshops at The Haven, and started an ongoing Staying Alive group here in Comox.

While I have been busy doing all of that, I have been in one of the greater funks of my life. As I was lamenting my state of mind with my daughter the other day she laughed, “Well at least your funks are productive!” This is true. As I just wrote the list of what I have been up to for the past year the contradiction between that and my belief that I’m not getting anywhere or getting anything done is pretty obvious and more than a little ridiculous. 

And yet my sense of flailing around in the dark, hands searching for something familiar and solid to cling to … How do I do this? I find all of this difficult, challenging, unfamiliar…

“I don’t know how!” I howl at the moon, my pillow, anyone who will listen… 

Here's a definition I found online:

"Liminal space is the time between ‘what was’ and the ‘next’. It is a place of transition, waiting and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us." 

If we learn to wait and let it form us … patience and faith. That’s how I interpret that sentence, neither a strong suit of mine. 

I recently had some pretty solid challenges to my distorted, internalized self-critical thinking. As part of our training through Options for Sexual Health, we were videotaped giving our presentations. The first time we were recorded I said something during the talk that I later lambasted myself with. Running the memory of what I had said over and over, I added my harsh self-assessment to the mix, “Wow Kristina, you really blew that one, what a stupid answer!” A few weeks later I got to see the video and was quite surprised to see an alternate view. It was a different picture than the subjectively filtered version I had been flagellating myself with. The feedback from my instructor was that I had handled a difficult question well.

Once again, I am noticing the disparate experiences of what is happening inside my head (helpless panic and despair) and outside my head (getting shit done).

I recently quit smoking. Pretty big deal. I have smoked for 40 years. I read ‘The Book’: Allen Carr’s quit smoking method. He talks about the distorted thinking and beliefs about smoking and smokers. One of the ones that I found personally amusing was his discussion about will power, and how people think that smokers have no will power (smokers included). Ha! He says that smokers are some of the most willful people in the world. Think of it! To continue smoking despite the health risks, the financial costs, the social pariah status; that requires enormous willpower! I might not have a lot of patience or faith, but I have a solid handle on willfulness. Use what you’ve got…

So ... to Calibrating True North … my reason for writing this ramble. One of my understandings of the creative process is that it can be viewed through two different lenses: conceptual or experimental. D. W. Galenson explores this idea in his book Young Geniuses and Old Masters.

The conceptual creator has developed a fully formed work of art inside their head before they begin to bring it into reality. The conceptual artist often has an idea or a proposition that they digest, sort, ruminate, dream about, puzzle in the shower over, and then suddenly (suddenly is in air quotes … this process can take years!) in a flash of inspiration the fully realized creation is visible in their mind. At that point the conceptual artist moves from creation being a mental process to physical expression.

The experimental artist on the other hand, who might have a specific desire or question, begins without an answer. The experimental artist asks the question, and then begins to work, to play, to explore. The process provides the answer … perhaps. Perhaps the process is the answer and the questions become irrelevant. 

For the past year, I have bumbled through my funk, using my will to keep going where my enthusiasm is sorely lacking. I have regularly pulled out my own Calibrating True North workbook and tried to imagine, form, conceptualize what exactly it is that I am trying to create. The piece that has become more clearly imperative is a dedicated space. A space for my art, for my workshops, for my facilitation, for my education. A space where all that I love can live together – creativity, sexuality, community.

As I imagined this place, I thought about the kinds of spaces and rooms that it would have. A smaller room for cozy and private conversations. A larger space that could accommodate a dozen people sitting in a circle. A studio space for the creation of art, big enough that I could offer art classes and have space for folks to work. Storage for art, for supplies, for equipment. Walls for projecting video and gallery space to display all that is created. I could see it in my mind. The very idea of beginning to search for this space only added to my funk, and was over-powered by my feeling of overwhelm. 

Yesterday, mid-afternoon, I was suddenly struck by a craving for eggs benny. I packed up my textbooks, determined to continue studying while I ate. Arriving at my favourite eatery I noticed a For Lease sign on the little building next door. Curious, I walked in and saw exactly everything I had imagined that I might desire for myself. 

I began chatting with the woman whose business it was, and she told me her story. For the next 15 minutes she poured her heart out to me, the disappointments, the frustrations, the difficulties and her solution, which now required moving her business. I listened, she talked. She apologized, “I don’t know why I am telling you all of this! I am so sorry, I’m sure that you didn’t come in here expecting this. I was just sitting here all alone and feeling overwhelmed. Thank you for listening, hopefully you’ll come see me at my new location.” I assured her that I would, and as I was leaving I asked her name. 

“Wonder,” she said, “My name is Wonder.”

Of course her name is Wonder.

This is how…

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now. – W.H. Murray (sometimes misattributed to Goethe)

P.S. Some details of the story have been changed to protect someone’s privacy, maybe mine.

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Join Kristina for Calibrating True North September 20–23.

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