On a recent morning I was rushing to a meeting and got caught by the inevitable red light. As I sat there, I realized I could focus on stressing over the delay or just sit and appreciate the moment, the fact that I was alive, that I live in a place where I could see cyclists peddling to work. This one minute of limbo was rich for me because I chose to see it that way. But it made me reflect on how often I use that space of being stuck to stress, complain or panic.
Limbo comes from a Latin word that means border and it refers to a state or a period of uncertainty and indecision. It’s a threshold between where we’ve been and where we are headed. Most people I know hate being in limbo. We feel stuck, lost and confused and those are not happy feelings. We just want to cross the threshold and be done with it!
Later in the same day a client was complaining about being in limbo. Her world seemed to be falling apart financially…although that was not a certain outcome. But remaining in limbo was so uncomfortable that it was easier for her to mentally leap ahead to the disaster and face it now. She knew she was being called to surrender, to let go of her requirements for how life was supposed to be showing up, but she didn’t know how. She asked me “How do I let go without destroying everything? I just want to cut and run.” I totally identify with her feeling. Limbo has often been so uncomfortable for me that I am willing to make any decision, just to be done with uncertainty. At times like that I remember my father’s mantra—“I am not a patient man”—and think maybe the nut didn’t fall far from the tree.
Even though challenging to do, staying put in limbo without resistance can be very rich. In this woman’s case, focusing on her discontent led her deep into her history where she was able to recall and release a very old story. She looked lighter and felt more peaceful immediately. In other situations, limbo can be a birthing space. Like pregnancy, where someone is growing inside, limbo can nurture possibilities that need time to develop. Often the first idea that comes is good, but not the best idea. Or maybe it’s the perfect idea but, like newly made stew, it needs to cook a little longer.
If you’re in limbo right now, consider relaxing into it and get curious about what you might be birthing or needing to release. I’d love to hear back from you about your experiences with limbo land!