Couple looking at expanse, focusing on each other

Victoria here. . .

So, we’re moving. Really moving. Leaving our glorious home in the fecund marshland of northern California to start a new life in the hot, dry desert of the Coachella Valley.

The reason we’re moving is simple. . .we can’t sustain the work needed to keep this ranch going. Living here is for younger folk. And, we are isolated from other humans in this wondrous wildlife sanctuary. We’re hungry for the benefits of city life and craving daily interaction with others.

Nonetheless, leaving the marsh is a bittersweet experience for us. This spring has been more heavenly than others. With the abundant rain, the grass grew to great heights, an ecstatic green wave rolling across the horizon. Each day brings new migrations of hawks, swallows, swans, red-winged blackbirds, pelicans, eagles, and hummingbirds. Days of heaven. We are painfully aware we will never experience nature like this again.

The ranch sold quickly. We thought it would take one to two years because it is an unusual property. Instead, it sold in two days to the second buyer, and we had a full backup offer. All of which is to say, we weren’t prepared for our good fortune, and it threw us for a loop.

Moving is stressful. Anyone with any amount of stuff will tell you that. Only when you’re young, with all your belongings packed on your back, is it any fun. Moving has always been challenging for me anyway, but this move is different from the rest. And for Kevin as well.

Liminal space

Never before have I experienced the moving process as liminal space, which is defined as the transitional space between what was and what is coming to be. It’s a mystical experience, a time of unknowing, when who you were is gone but who you will be has not yet come into being. Examples of liminal space are: the last month of pregnancy before giving birth, waiting for the results of critical lab results, and choosing to leave one job with nothing lined up.

Being in a liminal space often creates anxiety because most of us are uncomfortable having an unknown future. Since Kevin and I are not going to buy a house until we’ve walked through it, we don’t know where we’ll end up, even which city is still a mystery. It’s not surprising that our anxiety surfaces at odd times, like the pop-up moles you try to smash with a mallet in penny arcades.

There is a surreal quality to our last weeks here on the ranch, where we seem to be experiencing life with heightened awareness—the sunrise such a brilliant gold, the swallow’s manic flight so amazing, my flower beds never more beauteous. We seem to be sailing on an ever-changing sea, listing between sudden anxiety and a psychedelic experience.

Alan Seale, author and transformational leadership coach, encourages us to “embrace the mystery and power of this transition from what has been to what will be.” He believes that profound personal transformation happens when we let go of control and allow “the incredible” that is waiting to evolve naturally. He recommends meditation, sustained focus, and fortitude. For me, it is about having the faith that our lives are emerging as we hope they will. Kevin and I are trying to keep our fear and insecurities at bay while we flow with the increased awareness this state brings.

Other creative moving strategies

When we’re not flowing in liminal space, Kevin and I are dealing with the stress of moving in other creative ways. My husband, who considers himself (and is) a true man of action, became a crazed packing machine. He filled the house with packing boxes, tape, and bubble wrap, all the while rushing around giving me orders about proper packing procedures.

Now I, who have moved myself many times without help, have to admit I was irritated by all his efficiency, and tempers flared. But I’m not complaining because, at 8 days before liftoff, we are 90% packed, a feat I have never been able to accomplish.

My moving strategy has been somewhat different than Kevin’s. About a week into the delirium, I developed severe sciatica nerve pain and took to our bed for five days. At first, I felt ill, but then, I relaxed and enjoyed myself. With the packing nearly complete, Kevin has returned to himself, and I am up and about again.

While I laid in bed reading, I realized Kevin really didn’t want or need my input. It was easier on our relationship to stand down and honor his expertise. . .and let him do most of the packing. Now that I’m feeling better, I’m finishing packing up my stuff, and we’re enjoying each other again. Oh, the subtle, unconscious ways of keeping long-term relationships intact.

Knowing we are in liminal space helps us stay centered during the move. Once it had a name, we began to enjoy the process. Instead of believing the catastrophic outcomes I imagine are real, I remind myself that negative thinking is not necessarily true—it’s part of the process. When Kevin revs up again and shifts into manic mode, he can remind himself he is merely worried that things won’t work out, and he can relax. So, that’s how it’s going with the move.

Kevin here. . .

My beloved liminal cosmonaut, you are so right. . .being conscious of what is happening is how we can best navigate this stressful transition period called Moving. And, I admit it took me a while to return to consciousness after the reactivity I was thrown into by all the head-snapping changes in our lives.

First, Vicki and I independently and simultaneously began to feel that it was time to move on. Vick was missing people to interact with, and I was tired of keeping our ranch going. And with my health a bit precarious, I worried about what she would do if I got really sick or died while we still lived on the ranch. I didn’t want to leave her to sell the place while it fell apart in my absence. As we began to talk to one another about moving, we were surprised to find we agreed, so we began to prepare the place for sale. Naturally, selling a ranch involves a huge to-do list, which I approached with persistence and perseverance.

I was making good progress when we started contacting realtors, and they suggested we list the ranch while I worked on getting it ready. And then. . .BAM. . .a full-price cash offer came the first week! With a thirty day close! OH MY GOD!

At first, we both figured we had set the price too low. That wasn’t much help, so we switched to believing we had priced it just right, and that felt much better. Amazing how helpful reframing a situation can be. We never could have done that as a younger couple.

What made our move stressful

Overnight, the “to fix around the ranch” list became the “to complete before escrow closes” list. Then, the “to do to move to Palm Springs” list appeared, and it was overwhelming. I did what I have always done when faced with herculean tasks—I shut down emotionally and charged right in. I became a maniac focused on whittling away the massive pile of work, and everything else took a back seat to getting the job done. 

This approach worked really well when I was faced with multiple surgical emergencies and when I was younger and stronger. But now, I have other issues to consider. I can only work for a few hours at a time, so I have to pace myself. And, my relationship with Vick is a priority. I don’t want to become so focused on work that I disconnect from her. . .she is what keeps me going these days!

Moving strategies that helped us

We talked about how the stress from the move was disrupting our intimacy and how we didn’t want to do that. At the same time, a mountain of work needed to be done. So, we worked together and talked, and we held each other and dreamed about the future, and somehow, despite my mania, despite Vick’s back problems, and the sheer size of the endeavor, it is all almost done.

And, our anxiety is not tearing us apart. In fact, we are seeing each other in a better light. Vick doesn’t see me as a “crazy maniac” anymore, but as her Man “doing his best for us.” And, I don’t see her back problems as an abandonment of me during tough times. Instead, I understand that her pain shows us we are working too hard and need to slow down. . .that we should take care of ourselves and each other.

As we move into this new phase of our life, and as the ranch, our home, shimmers in this glorious spring, as we stand suspended between our old life and a new one, we stand together. And, we are richer, wiser, and stronger because of that connection.

Photo credit: Louise Burton

How have you coped with living in a liminal space? If so, let us know in the comments below!