An advice column for folks who don’t like to be told what to do.
My dear ones,
I just can’t today. I can’t reach in the metaphorical hat and pull out a question. I can’t engage in conversation about anything other than our present moment. If there is any wisdom or insight available to carry me, and maybe you, through this moment, please God let it come through me, because my little, personal “I” has got nothing left this morning.
The word that has been circling around me in the last day or two is “liminal”. Do you know this word? Merriam-Webster offers two primary definitions for liminal:
- of, relating to, or situated at a sensory threshold : barely perceptible or capable of eliciting a response
- of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition
To be immersed in liminality is to be neither here nor there, to be in between. We are not where we were, but we aren’t where we’re heading yet. It is to exist in a constant state of anticipation, but also agitation, because we cannot actually see where we’ll be when we get there. We don’t know who we will be when we get there either, but we know that we need to be that person.
If you’ve ever raised children you’ve witnessed this process. When kids are approaching a big developmental leap they are often just little assholes. They’re irritable. They’re weepy. They’re angry. They want to be able to do the next thing. They can imagine what it will feel like to be able to do the next thing. But they can’t yet do the next thing.
And there’s nothing you can do to fix it for them. All you can do is keep them loving company, while not letting them do themselves or anyone else too much damage, until they get it.
Maybe it is just a story that I am telling myself to magic up some sense of hope in this moment, but I feel like our country is a toddler on the cusp of some new stage of personhood, who is throwing the most destructive, screeching tantrum. Right in the middle of the grocery aisle, with everyone watching in horror.
And I’m trying to love this toddler country, because it is mine, but I also kind of hate it. Toddlers are the fucking worst.
The only way my children survived to kindergarten was me digging deep enough not just to love them, but to empathize with them. I’m not suggesting trying to find some empathy for Trump or McConnell or any of the millions (MILLIONS!) who voted for them. But maybe we can find some empathy for our country. Maybe we can find some empathy for each other.
See, here’s the thing. Our whole lives are liminal. From the moment we are born, we are one breath closer to death. We exist in the in-between. We are the in-between. Our entire existence is a doorway between the finite and the infinite. We are nowhere and everywhere all at once.
Sitting in that, the experience of both carrying the doorway to the infinite inside my fragile, imperfect, finite body, while also inexorably walking that finite body ever closer to the exit door steals my breath right out of my lungs. To love people who are also sitting in that, flailing around, who will also inevitably die? Fuck me.
Who’s idea was this?!?! This was a horrible, horrible plan.
But maybe that’s the whole point. We’re not here to accumulate points towards some afterlife, or in the hopes that we can eventually get off this hamster wheel in some future incarnation. We’re just supposed to be here, with each other, in this incredibly poignant, painful, miraculous life we’ve been born into. Until we’re not.
No amount of grasping, or hoarding of resources, or subjugation of other people gets us out of line for the exit door, or guarantees us anything on the other side. None of that is up to us.
The only thing we have control over is how we show up now, how we connect and keep each other company on the way, and what we learn about how to be here.
When I witness the greed and violence of our political leadership in this country, what I see is a bunch of very destructive children who need to learn how to share and be with other people.
I can empathize with how uncomfortable it is to learn those things, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to exempt them from having to learn.
I worry that even if Biden/Harris win, but Republicans retain control of the Senate, we are still going to be in the midst of such a mess, and many of the outraged white folks that have been up in arms over Trump for the last four years are just gonna abandon this country in the grocery store. They’re going to plead exhaustion, and hope that someone else will figure out how to teach this toddler country how to be a better person.
I know we’re all tired. I know this toddler country is the fucking worst. But I’m staying in this goddamn grocery store to clean up this mess. Please stay with me.
Thank you for walking this journey with me. Love to you and yours.
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