Becoming Nothing

My house is in chaos today.

Granted, I am barely holding back the forces of chaos at the best of times, but today it’s particularly bad. The washing machine and dryer are going full bore. The dishes soak in the sink while more dry in the rack and even more wait their turn. A cooler is drying in the middle of kitchen. A sleeping bag is airing in the living room. Dusty luggage is waiting to be cleaned and filled in the dining room. I need to deal with all this and clean house before leaving on vacation tomorrow morning.

Yet with all this to be done, I can’t seem to kick into high gear, no matter how much coffee I consume. I suspect some of my reluctance to action is knowing what is waiting for me when I return. It hit me this week that when I get back, I will have only three weeks left at my current job. And then . . . nothing.

I have been doing all the right things. I have networked and sent resumes. I have pulled on grown-up lady clothes for interviews and have worked to not take “thanks but no thanks” personally. I have leads, possibilities and people who seem to want to hire me, but nothing definite. I am coming to grips with the fact that I will wake up July 1st and find nothing.

I have been here before. Six years ago I lost a job I had had for over a decade. It knocked the wind out of me. It wasn’t so much the loss of employment and income (although that was a big deal) as the loss of identity. That same year my mother had moved from the other side of my home to assisted living three hours away. My daughter had moved across the country for school. For the first time in nearly 20 years I was not a caregiver. And now I was not an employee. It felt like free-fall.

When we go through a life change, we want to go right from being the Old Thing to being the New Thing. But that is rarely reality. Richard Rohr calls this place “liminal space:”

It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer.

Liminal space is the cosmic waiting room, a mystic hallway. C. S. Lewis’ Wood Between the Worlds.

I have been here before. I didn’t like being here the first time. I don’t relish the thought of being here again. But I know what to do. I will become best friends with the neighborhood baristas. I will create a daily schedule of checking email, reading blogs and scanning job boards. I will volunteer and network and keep in touch. I will clean. But most of all I will struggle to make peace with waiting and listening and watching.

And so this vacation is also a bit of a training session. We will be spending a lot of time on the shores of Lake Superior away from civilization and its distractions. I will practice being still by sitting on a stony beach and tossing rocks into the cold water. I will practice watching by looking for ships on the shifting horizon. I will practice listening by hearing the myriad sounds the waves make on the rocks.

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