Have you ever been in one place but longed for another? Have you ever spent time thinking, “if I was only back in ______, things would be better”?
Or maybe this sounds more familiar: have you ever thought, “I’m not going to be here forever, why bother getting involved and making friends if I’m just going to leave?”
Maybe you haven’t fully unpacked your moving boxes or hung your artwork on the walls. Finding a place for your photo albums and hammering picture hooks into the walls would symbolize the finality of your move, and you aren’t ready for that. So they sit, gathering dust, a nagging reminder that you haven’t fully embraced here. That you long for someplace else.
Perhaps you keep a closetful of business clothes for a career you know you won’t return to. Or drawers full of items that don’t fit, but you hope they will one day. Maybe you have boxes of baby clothes tucked away in storage, but you know deep down that they won’t be used for another child.
Being “in limbo” has been defined as being “in an uncertain or undecided state or condition.” We all have lived “in limbo” at some point in life. Sometimes we don’t unpack because the stay on our friend’s couch is temporary. Sometimes we don’t embrace a new place because our home will be fixed and we will return in a few weeks. But we suffer when living in limbo becomes our everyday story. It is not good for our souls. Being in a constant state of indecision causes us to not fully invest in new relationships that could bring refreshment to our spirits. It causes us to question career and family decisions, or never make them at all. It causes us to focus on the past and things we cannot change or go back to. When we are living in limbo, when we don’t dive in to our life (as imperfect as it is) right now, we miss out on fully enjoying the present. We can miss out on fully living.
Jerusalem Jackson Greer wrote about this in Chapter 11 of her book “At Home in this Life: Finding Peace at the Crossroads of Unraveled Dreams and Beautiful Surprises”:
“When I was still holding out hope for a move to the country, I had daydreamed of our family doing farm chores together. I imagined us driving tractors, harvesting crops, planting wildflower gardens, and pruning fruit trees, basking in both the glory and enjoyment of God’s creation and our place in it…But moving to the country was not happening, and our boys were continuing to grow. If we were going to teach our boys these lessons, we had to do so right where we were: on a small neighborhood lot, in the middle of the city.”
Greer concludes the chapter with her husband mentioning that they weren’t ready for a farm. “It was the truth,” she writes, “and the seed of it nestled deep down inside me for months as I wrestled with the knowledge that before we could move forward we would have to do a better job of thriving right where we were.”
Diving in is scary. It could lead to heartbreak or loss. It’s uncomfortable. It means embracing and investing in where you are now. In who you are now. A wise person once said, “you are the consistency.” Meaning, you are the one who can bring about new relationships and connections; only you are the one who can seek out and bring new things into your life that enrich it. To some extent, we can create the life that we want. That can bring comfort when we think about starting over somewhere, letting go of the past, and diving in to the present.
When I think back to being in college, it was a time that I fully “dove in.” I wrote for the college paper, joined the choir, went on trips, and made friends with the other young women in my dorm. Diving in got easier each year as I branched out and tried new things. Having so many connections and memories made graduating bittersweet. It was hard to leave, but I knew that I had soaked up as much of life as I could in this place, and so I didn’t leave with regrets.
Thinking about college also reminds me of the summers in between semesters. How different they were from the school year! I spent most of my time working and when I wasn’t working, I was a hermit in a town that I hadn’t grown up in and never fully lived in. I didn’t “dive in.” I didn’t go out of my way to meet new people or have new experiences. I figured it wasn’t really worth it since I’d only be there for three months at a time. I looked at all the negatives of being “stuck” in a small town and didn’t see much of the positives. Summers (and winter breaks) were a pretty lonely and boring time of being in limbo and wishing for the next semester to start. Looking back, it wasn’t a good way to live. (Also not good: painting your bedroom all navy when you live in a place that gets little sunlight during the winter. #designfail.)
I should have gone to the lakefront and watched the sun set. I should have joined a church and gotten involved. I should have sat at the library with a notebook and pen and wrote about the difficult things I experienced during those summers. I should have taken advantage of the pleasant summer weather and gone jogging in the mornings. I should have gone skating in the winter. I should have called friends regularly. There are many things I should have done to live more fully despite the circumstances I found myself in: things like watching 4th of July fireworks over the beach, picking blueberries with a friend, going to the farmers’ market, sledding down a hill in freezing weather. These I should have done more often.
We can’t change the past. But each new day is another chance to choose to “dive in” to our present lives and live them more fully. Here are eight ways to let go of living in limbo and dive in:
- Ask yourself: What closure do I need? How can I get it? Do I need to have a long talk with a close friend or counselor? Do I need to visit a place or talk to a person one last time?
- Remember that some things are worth it and good for your soul, even if they are temporary.
- Decide to just make a decision one way or the other for that big question in your life. Give yourself a deadline. Remember that most decisions, even large ones like moving or changing jobs, don’t have to be permanent.
- If you have a new job in a new place, ask a co-worker to lunch. Ask them what their favorite local activities are or where to find the best restaurants in town.
- If you find yourself as a new stay-at-home-parent, consider a parent group or starting one yourself. Look into classes to attend with your child.
- Acknowledge who you once were, don’t forget it or hide it. Write a letter to your old self and let out everything you need to say– the good, the bad, and everything in between.
- Find ways to embrace and invest in who you are now. If your shape has changed, buy new clothes. If your interests have changed, find local groups on MeetUp that share your new passions. If you have experienced significant losses in life, consider reaching out to a support group or counselor.
- Challenge yourself to be more involved in your community through volunteering, mentoring, running a 5K, cleaning up a park, being on a community board, or giving to a local cause that you care about.
- Ask yourself: Will I regret it if I don’t?
Do you struggle with being decisive and “diving in” to your life? Or, have you found strategies that help you do this easily? Please share in the comments!
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