Heather Von St. James knows fear. She is a mesothelioma survivor who had her left lung removed in order to save her life. That was back in 2005. The operation and treatment were successful and Heather is a “seven year cancer survivor.” I put that in quotes because that term must, at times, still frighten Heather. We all are survivors of whatever life has thrown at us, but most of us have not had the terror that a diagnosis of cancer creates.
So to ward off any residual or persistent fear, Heather has created a special holiday in tribute to the surgery that saved her life — Lungleavin Day. Here’s what she says about it:
“With Lungleavin Day coming up, the opportunity is here to write our fears on a plate and smash them into the fire, I’m going to once again take control of my emotions and overcome. I know I have the power to do it; sometimes it is just making the choice to do so.”
The date is February 2 and its a online event as well as one at Heather’s home with her friends, loved ones and supporters.
Here’s a link to Heather’s blog in case you’d like to know more about her story.
Fear might be the most corrosive of all passions, eating away our ability to be happy. Fear is one of our most troublesome pitfalls — no doubt about it. If you are dealing with a terrible illness or know someone who is Heather’s story might just be what you need to help you deal with fear and the uncertainty that creates it.
Thanks to Heather for helping us to understand that fear can be confronted and vanquished. We fear lots of things, after all we live in the liminal space allotted to us by our nature. What is linminal space? From the blog Liminal Space:
“The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word limens, meaning literally, “threshold.”
A liminal space, the place of transition, waiting, and not knowing is…
…a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.
– Richard Rohr”
A cloud of unknowing is created by every diagnosis of life threatening disease. Its also created when we get lost in a strange city or the woods. Job change, divorce, auto accident, fire, flood, etc — all these things put us in Liminal space. How we deal with this condition will determine how happy we can be from that point on.
Years ago Muhammad Ali explained what he did when he was knocked into liminal space — in other words almost knocked out. He said that in that state the boxer hallucinates, he might see a theatrical dressing room, with a magician’s top hat and cane, clown’s costume and makeup, a zebra and dancing girl. He said if you let this place freak you out you will be knocked out. But if you look around, put on the top hat, pick up the cane and say hi to the dancing girl you should be able to clear your head and leave liminal space getting back to the fight (hopefully the bell will end the round by then!).
I believe we exist in liminal space. Constantly. To survive on earth we need a very narrow set of conditions, temperature, humidity, availability of nutrients, biological balance so that our bodies are able to ward off bacteria. We are always between a rock and a hard place. I find it helpful to explore the space afforded to me but don’t feel a need to stretch beyond my comfort zone simply to test myself. Others want to explore the entire globe and ski where no one should be skiing, etc. Whatever it takes to help us deal with being in a place of transition. Learning what we can about our liminal space is a great help.
We came from a place unknown and are headed to another one. No matter how religious or spiritual a person might be no one knows where human consciousness is headed. We live in a cloud of unknowing; in liminal space. So we need to figure out how to deal with it. I’m with Ali — let’s look around and see what we find interesting, attractive — see what and where we can contribute what we do best. After all, our time in this frightening space is short no matter who we are — best to make the most of it and enjoy the journey to the other side. Smash plates, dance the tango, ski, pray, meditate, (I take photographs!) Enjoy your liminal space!