Illumination IV: Living in Limbo

Someone recently  asked me how I was doing and I had trouble coming up with an answer. And so, as I often do,  I started writing to help me uncover what was going on inside. 

And yes it finally hit me…the usual epiphany for my tough times:  Oh!  That’s it!  I am/we are in the middle of a transition.”

Not just a single change from an old way, or “our old normal,” but many changes at once. We’ve lost family members to the virus, we’ve lost confidence in our government, our personal lives are affected by lockdown, our financial lives have become uncertain, many are trying to work with children at home, and friends, neighbors and family members have lost jobs. The routines of the past have gone by the wayside, to be at least temporarily replaced.  

Brainstorm with yourself and make your  own list of what has been disrupted for you, both outside of you and inside of you.  And allow each of these disruptions to have their own compounding elements of confusion and disorientation.    Feel them, deeply, and try to move on.

I am grateful to Elizabeth Kubler Ross and William Bridges who early and often talked about the normal stages of transition.  For me, over the years, this information  has always been reassuring, both to myself and to my clients.  When I wake up to what’s going on, it’s always the same epiphany.  “Oh!  Its a thing I’m going through.  And it’s normal. The first stage is LOSS and I‘m dealing with it.”

While there is plenty of room for positivity and courage,  there also needs to be room for deep feelings of grief, confusion, tears, anger, despair.  I say again, it’s normal.  And necessary.  That acknowledgment, when I remember it,  always gives me some peace.  As do my tears.

Yes, we move on. Or, we try to.

Bridges invites us to recognize that we don’t quickly move into a new normal, or even a knowing what is next.  We  move into a second stage called LIMBO. It’s where we don’t yet have a plan for the new, nor should we push to create one.  It’s about taking time to let go of the old, making space for the new, without having to know what’s next.   And by this time, Americans are aware that we may be living in the corona virus LIMBO for quite a few months more.   Perhaps we need to master LIVING IN LIMBO and take the time to polish the silver, clean out the garage, in my case, write a version of a memoir for the grandchildren.  Perhaps we create and adopt some simple routines that get us through the day like taking walks, playing with the grandchildren, meditating, and cooking the dishes we never had time for.

According to Bridges, the third stage, the NEW, will come in its own time.  Be patient!  You can nudge it along by asking questions of yourself.  Who am I really?  What do I feel called to be or do?   How can I bring more of what I love into my life?  What are the essential values and virtues on which I want to base this life of mine? 

From Maya Angelou: “Courage is the most important virtue.  Without courage you can’t practice any other virtues consistently.”  And yes, these unsettling times require courage from all of us.


For a quick summary of the stages:

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