Tuesday, January 22, 2013


I love this word - Liminality. It means "betwixt and between;" it is often described as a threshold - not in the room, not outside of the room, but some place in-between. Some philosophers describe liminality as a place between between life and death. When I teach folklore, I teach about liminality, or liminal spaces/places. In the context I teach this term, I mean a place out of time or a place out of place, something different than the every day.

For instance - holidays - they are different than the every day - from what people make, say, and do on the every day to what they make, say, and do for the holiday. A liminal space can be 1 day or several days (or even hours) - St. Patrick's day is a liminal day - where certain things that are not culturally acceptable any other day of the year are acceptable on that day - wearing lots of green, pinching those who don't, claiming Irish blood, excessive drinking, and speaking with an Irish brogue. Another would Christmas - which lasts from one liminal marker, Thanksgiving to New Year's. Language - Happy Holidays, music, clothing, ways of decorating, food, gift-giving, and the protocol or specific way of doing all of this is part of that liminality. And if you're not of the culture, you will either stumble or need a sympathetic friend who can teach you these ways.

Other liminal times include: birthdays, deaths, marriages, pregnancy, vacations, transitions - graduating from high school and going on to college, spring break, summer vacation, and my liminal time - cancer.

Yes, illnesses or diseases, or specific medical treatments can also be times of liminality. Beginning on Aug. 30 (when I felt my lump) until I finish radiation (which should be end of March), I am in a liminal place. I am not living my "normal" life, but rather a life with different ways of making, saying, and doing life. This life has its own language, its own culture, its own code of conduct, its own way of dressing, and pre-conceived ways of interpreting cancer, for those inside the cancer world and those outside of the world, plus those who are betwixt and between within that liminality - those who have loved ones living cancer.

Just thinking about this makes me happy. I haven't thought this outside-of-the-box in months! More on Wednesday.

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