Liminal Life

  1. relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
  2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

My sister is coming down this weekend to camp in a park near us, and every time she does, I’m reminded how much I miss it, and how close that lifestyle is to at least half of my dreams. I’m a contradiction, I guess, in several of the things I love, but this one in particular stands out and is repeatedly pushed to the front of my mind: I exist in the middle space, between two opposing ways of life. And I know that one of these days, I’m going to have to choose.

On the one hand, I am a relentless nester — a characteristic that I imagine comes from my mother and also from our time as poor folks. Mama is forever tweaking her environment in order to make her house feel more like her home. Although there was a time when she collected tchotchkes, there are few hangers-on from that era now. She kept the ones that were gifted to her, and little else besides. Instead of the knick-knacks, Mama now decorates with things that remind her of her childhood, with things that make her smile, and with words that mean something to her or impart a message that she believes she needs to reread every day. I don’t think she has a definitive style, but if I had to give it a name, maybe it would be something like “ancestral farmhouse chic.” My own tastes are similar, though right now Hubby and I don’t typically have the luxury of buying what we like. We purchase whatever will work and try to keep the kids from destroying it for as long as possible.

The view from my end of the couch.

I say we’re similar, but what I mean is that we decorate with the same goal. I want reminders of good times, items that bring me joy and speak of the things that are important. In terms of the big pieces, I like farmhouse industrial with a hint of Ikea, but it isn’t necessarily the big pieces that I care about. I spend time staring at my bookcases not because of the shelves themselves but because of the books they contain. I look often at my fireplace, but when I do it’s because of the pictures on the mantle. I am a spare decorator, but everywhere I look says “home” to me and reminds me of how grateful I am (and always should be) to have found such a love so late in the game.

On the other hand, I am a wanderer. And perhaps this utter opposite of nesting can also be attributed indirectly to Mama. We spent a lot of time in the car when I was a kid, and sometime in my 20s I realized that our various cars and trucks had felt as much like home to me as our house did. There was joy and freedom and music on the road. There was a happy existence there — hurtling down country roads and highways — that was entirely independent of stuff, absolutely oblivious to possessions.

My point is, I could live in a portable tiny house or a camper with no problems whatsoever. I could do without my generic Ikea furniture, ring the room with high and out of the way bookshelves, paper the walls with pictures I love, and live the vegetarian high life with my sweet husband. We could pull into a new place every year, set up a little patio outside the front door, slow dance when the mood takes us and watch the world go by over the top of our e-readers when it doesn’t.

My problem is that I can’t decide in which direction I should be working. Am I collecting or downsizing? Do I want to plant roots or run like the wind? Naturally, it’s all moot until the kids are off to school and making their way in the world, but still…I like to take it all out and look at it every once in a while and see where I come down. Today, I like the idea of no neighbors and unobstructed mountain views, but probably tomorrow I’ll be shopping for sectional sofas and trying to figure out where in this small ass town I might find some people my husband and I can tolerate enough to make our friends.

Oh well, I’ve got some years left to decide. Odds are we’ll be well into our 60s before my handsome fella decides he’s ready for retirement. In the mean time, I expect we’ll be going with the flow, changing locales when we need to, and alternately bingeing and purging on stuff.

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