I’d heard all the rumors and stereotypes that go along with a girl that makes the Drill Team—a high school competitive dance squad. I understood from the jokes and the gimmicks that we were thought of as ditzy and only entertainment. It didn’t matter to me. I was 10 or 11 and I saw them perform and some part of me woke up. Some part of me knew—without a doubt—I would someday be out there, too.
This was also the same time I was learning what I wasn’t good at: sports and school. I believe it was around age 10 that I experienced my first season of liminal space. The tips of my fingers were stained purple from attempting to complete ditto worksheets titled, “Reinforcement” and “Re-Test,” while at the same time, my legs were sore from the conditioning I’d begun from the dance and gymnastic classes my mom recently signed me up for.
I developed a callus on my left middle finger from gripping my #2 pencil while I battled long division. I got my front tooth knocked out sitting in the dugout of a baseball game. I could also do a cartwheel on a balance beam three feet off the ground, a handspring off a dismount, and when I was 12, I asked my sixth grade music teacher if I could choreograph a dance to one of the songs and teach it to my entire 6th grade class. He said yes.
The summer before my freshman year of high school, I kept my desire to be on the Drill Team to myself, as I had the previous years. The week of tryouts I practiced the routine so much I could literally do it in my sleep. (I woke myself up several nights sitting straight up, shooting my arms up in a high V).
I went alone to the gymnasium doors to read the team list for the Junior Varsity 1990-1991 Drill Team. If I’d made the team or not, I wanted this moment all to myself to feel however I was going to feel.
I read my name, and ran all the way home, completely giddy with the quiet, methodical work I had done, and thrilled to now find out what it was I capable of.
Hadley was born and the need to write came on about as strong as my body’s need to feed her. Here again, a part of me woke up, and it wasn’t a matter of if. it was a matter of how I would write.
I took seconds every day to write a sentence—sometimes just a word—to capture a moment with Hadley. I wrote a letter to her each month. I read. I started blogging.
I was pregnant with Harper when I wrote my first short story about a girl who found her way around town through story and not through conventional directions like, “turn right,” “head east,” etc. For a wedding anniversary present, Jesse bought me colorful pens, a notebook, a subscription to a writing magazine, and a writing course on writing motherhood.
Hadley was 5 years old when I decided to go to Target on a late morning because I believed it was time to do the very bold and brave thing and consider purchasing a red lipstick. My phone rang while I was carefully and trepidatiously considering the very many shades of red there are to wear on one’s lips, so I let it ring because I didn’t want to break my concentration. It was the director of the MFA program I’d applied to, telling me I’d gotten into graduate school.
That second time of liminal space ended the same way – I was alone to relish these feelings all to myself, and to celebrate the slow and steady steps I took towards writing. Again, it was time to see what I was made of.
I am here again, in a liminal season. I’ve been here for a while, probably since my second book came out. This time though, I don’t think I’m aiming to become something—a dancer, a mother, a writer. I think the time of emergence is over and it’s time to trust in what it is I’ve become.
I think of the newly turned butterflies after their time being safely swaddled in their cocoons. They fly because they’ve found their wings. There is no room for doubt. There is however, all sorts of space for curiosity over where those wings will take her.
What joy she could bring to the world, showing off her scattered rainbow for those who care to look.
1. What have your liminal seasons looked like? How long did they last? What did you learn about yourself during this time?
2. Reading these two seasons I visualize a Venn Diagram because I think they overlap quite a bit. I am wondering if we can’t have one without the other. How do you see the relationship between these two seasons?
3. In an email discussion Nicole Gulotta told me that, “Putting words on paper is an exercise in hope.” I agree, and I think it’s especially true in a season of liminal space. Do you agree with this statement? Where do you find hope in your writing and in your season of liminal space?
4. This season of pandemic is certainly a season of liminal space. How can you tap into your curiosity during this time?
Editor’s note: Join us this month as Callie Feyen leads a book club discussion of Nicole Gulotta’s Wild Words: Rituals, Routines and Rhythms for Braving the Writer’s Path. We’re reading on the following schedule:
Photo by Martyn Fletcher, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Callie Feyen.
A Writer’s Dream Book
This book gives language to the fierce concerns of an ordinary woman. It tracks small but defining moments, attesting to the joys of design and the pleasure of color we feel as we choose and joke and work and play in jeans, sandals, a coat, T-shirts. Start reading and you will be hooked.
—Jeanne Murray Walker, author of The Geography of Memory