I spend a good deal of my life on planes, in airports, running to catch things and hoping they are there when I get to them. Some days work out better than others. Some days you spend nights on airport floors or in sleazy hotels eating microwave food. The experience of being stranded – abandoned by the people you trusted – and paid – to get you home – is an off balancing and emotionally depleting experience. (especially when it feels like a way of life). And the potentially threatened destinations aren’t casual – a daughter’s championship tournament, a wedding, a pivotal and possibly transformative client meeting, a death bed. These are the places on the way to which I have found myself thwarted by any number of barriers – thunderstorms, equipment failure, incompetence. Doesn’t really matter though. When there are thousands of miles between where you are and where you want to be, and no way within your own influence to get there, the feeling of discouragement, powerlessness, rage, and exhaustion are all consuming.
Sitting in the airport awaiting the decisions of people over which I have no control about whether I will get home, and when, I have endless choices on who I will be in response to every successive piece of disappointing news. Of course, the temptation to make someone pay for my inconvenience and disruption is alluring, but I know it’s not who I want to be. Being saccharinely joyful about my predicament as though to say, “everything happens for a reason” with a sick smile on, well, let’s just say we all know that’s not me. So I make the best choices I can with the emotional and spiritual resources I have left.
So from this hotel room late at night, where I might get a few hours sleep before trying my way west again tomorrow, eating a microwave quesadilla, I am reflecting on the last 48 hours of my life – dodging weather bullets and near-misses to get to where I arrived. And the amazing experiences I’ve had since trying to leave a few hours ago. Literally, once-in-a-lifetime conversations that could have never been replaced or rescheduled. Opportunities to be in the presence of leaders and their futures – to stand in the liminal spaces between their now and next. I am perplexed by the paradox of feeling both deeply grateful and gratified, and hopelessly discouraged by what I will miss by not making it home.
And so it goes in stranded places that become liminal spaces.
Where has life abandoned you against your will? Who have you trusted to “get you home” that has let you down, leaving you someplace you didn’t plan on being? Where has an unforeseen pause been inserted between where you are and where you believed you were going?
And at the mercy of this stranded place, who will you choose to be?
Victim? Naïve optimist? Spiritual powerhouse? Raging belligerent? Defeated? All of the above?
It’s not at all cliché to say that the interruptions that strand us in between can be divine intermissions inviting us to something we’d otherwise never discover. And yes, it requires choice to see them that way. (I’ll let you know in the morning on the way back to the airport what I chose 🙂 ).
I imagine if you’ve found your way to this website, you too, may have joined me in a stranded place. If that is the case, I will simply say, “I’m so sorry.” And “Welcome to your new next.” I pray your time here (both on this website, and in your stranded place) surprises you with discoveries and rejuvenation, raised altitude and wider vistas, that lead you into a future from which you’ve felt restrained . The irony of liminal spaces is that they often are filled with paradox. What feel like new forms of painful constraint often end up being liberating pathways to freedom, if we let them. I will hope that for you.
In the meantime, rest in the miracle that you, by virtue of the fact that you are here wandering around this site, are at least curious about what choices you will make between now and next. I will personally tell you that you couldn’t ask for a richer and more reliable set of perspectives and support than you will find here at Liminal Space.
Here’s to our mutual stranded places, fellow sojourner. I will hope for your good movement forward, and I will ask that you hope for my safe return home. And along the way, may we both become something more of who we have always wanted to be.