Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Telling the Truth Tuesday: Liminal state

Liminal means of or relating to a transitional state of a process or occupying a position on both sides of a threshold. I do feel as if I am in a kind of limbo. When I quit working at a "real" job in 1999 to write full-time, I fully expected writing to be my new career. For the next 10 years, I wrote my memoir. That includes four years of going back to school to complete a bachelor's degree I'd begun in 1969. The memoir was published two years ago and I still do not feel writing is a career. Why? Because in my previous career, I felt successful, in society's terms of success. I made a difference and I made money.

My writing is making a difference in people's lives that read it. I know this because I receive feedback. But it has made very little money. To deal with this, I made a decision to begin  considering myself as one who is retired but writes. That was supposed to take the pressure off the need to make money.

So this month, I will begin to receive social security benefits. I will once again be bringing money into our household. But I still feel as if I am in a liminal state between being a vital part of society by participating in the work force, and being retired, which in my mind means I get to do whatever the heck I want. Most of my friends and my hubs still work full-time, so I am somewhat alone in this.

My son suggested I go back to work. But if I did that, I wouldn't have time or energy to write or do my Sugartime singing group or take piano lessons. 

Maybe it's an issue of questioning whether I deserve to let go of any expectations I have of myself at 62 and just be, whatever that turns out to be. For now, I remain in limbo, neither being part of the work force or comfortable being retired.
Stay tuned....


P.S. I'd already written and pre-scheduled this to post for today, but I want to take a moment to acknowledge a person who passed away last week and whom I am grieving, although we've never met. Jane Sutton Kennedy was one of the first bloggers I met after publishing my memoir and beginning this blogging journey. She was a wonderful writer and a great blogging buddy. Always had a thoughtful, kind comment, always an encouraging word. She was my age and now she's gone. She will be missed by those of us who had come to know her. 



Paul Anthony Shortt said...

I'm sorry to hear about your friend.

I suppose success depends on how we view it, doesn't it? You're in a position where you can take retirement and spend your time writing and doing the things you love. That's a pretty good thing.

Odie Langley said...

I agree with Paul & wish I was there already.

Angela Felsted said...

How sad about your friend.

Joanne said...

Maybe instead of returning to full time work, you can freelance for local publications, writing an occasional commentary or opinion piece for them? It wouldn't be a commitment that takes away from your other activities, and would be a form of work?

I was so sorry to read about Jane too. Her comments were always so thoughtful and had a way of making me feel as though I truly knew her. She'll definitely be missed.

Talli Roland said...

I'm sorry to hear about Jane.

I often feel like I'm in a limbo sort of state. I suppose it has something to do with not going out to work each day!

Pixiebaby said...

Sorry to hear about your friend, it's hard to lose someone who's made a difference in our lives.

As for you, I can understand completely how you feel. I will turn forty next year and I am no longer working outside the home either. Just when I was getting my career rolling, I was rear ended at a traffic light and it changed everything. For years I had wished that I had more time to focus on the things that felt important to me and that I actually enjoyed, but sure didn't have this in mind as a way to get that.

For a few years I found myself doing nothing, just drifting because I felt like a failure. The reason for that was what you mentioned...not bringing in money. Within the least six months I've begun to adjust my thoughts and feelings on what success really means. I am doing the things that make a difference, there is time to work on the things that I was too busy for. I'll admit that I've never been this broke in my entire life, but I'm learning to let go of dollar signs equaling achievement and fulfillment.

Hopefully you will find that for yourself because having the peace which comes with it really helps to progress towards what true success really means to you. I know this is a really long comment, but I had to write it to let you know to hold on and have hope. You and what you offer to others are way more valuable than the dollar amount on a paycheck. Best wishes! :)

Manzanita said...

I read your post over again because it zinged at something inside of me. I've hardly ever earned a penny in my life. I've lived off the hard work of two husbands. Sometimes I look at myself as a failure and at times I feel I'm just plain fortunate. My Grandmother had a saying, "When poverty comes in, love flies out the window." My love never did fly out the window :)

Karen Walker said...

Paul and Odie, yes, that's exactly what I'm working on. Thank you both.
Angela, thanks
Joanne, that's a thought - thank you.
Talli, yes, there is something about not leaving the house for work that creates an issue.
Pixiebaby, how difficult for you. I am not having a lot of angst over this - it's just a transition I'm noodling through.
Manzanita, that's wonderful that you've had such love in your life. Please don't see yourself as a failure. No one is a failure who is doing the best they can with their lives.

Glynis said...

Enjoy your life, Karen. Write, sing or whatever, just embrace it. x

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Karen, I, too, am on social security, and believe me, it's a GOOD thing! You still seem to be a little hung up on thinking that you are what you do for a living, but that isn't so. You ARE the wonderful woman you ARE. Being the best you can be doesn't have anything to do with making money. Embracing your opportunities to learn how to play the piano, to write, to sing, to dance in the streets in the rain if you want to ... all of those things will bring joy to you and to the people you love.

Karen Walker said...

Oooh, I love you guys so much.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

So sorry to hear about your friend,

I enjoyed your post, it was an excellent write and pure joy to read.


Suze said...

The liminal state is a breeding ground for excellence otherwise unattainable. Thanks for this post.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Karen,

I am so sorry to hear about your friend. Way to young to leave this earth. It's funny before I read your last paragraph about I was going to tell you don't worry about working and enjoy your writing, singing, and piano. ENJOY your retirement! My mom retired at 62 and passed at 66. She lived life to the fullest in those years. You just never know when it's time to go. Friends and family members are moving on at such unexpected times. My Mom's death was a shock. She went in for a routine operation and never came out of the hospital.

SO my dear, YOUR wonderful energy and zest for life is something you need to continue with and not sweat working. YOU are. In your own way.


Brianna said...

Karen, I'm sorry about the loss of your friend.

I sort of understand about the liminal state. I was there after I quit my job and had my daughter. I know staying home with my daughter is work, but it doesn't bring in any money. I was glad to be home with my daughter, but felt guilty for not making money. Actually, I still feel this way sometimes.

KK Brees said...

I had difficulty adjusting to retirement. I have always worked, so I approached leaving teaching as just another change of occupation to writer. It's taken me about three years to cast off the burden of stress of trying to fill other people's expectations in this writing career.

What I've learned:

1. I don't have to blog unless I want to and have something to say.
2. It doesn't matter what I do or don't do, in the greater scheme of things.
3. I've realized that I'm not going to be the next GREAT WRITING DISCOVERY nor do I want to be. It's just more obligation and too much like a job.

I want to write when I feel like it. I want to garden, knit, quilt, travel, and enjoy life while I still can. I am blessed and content.

Casting off other people's demands and expectations of me has been liberating. Basically, I'm going to enjoy my senior years or dotage or whatever you call them. I don't care.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I'm sorry to hear about your friend. I didn't know her and I'm sure I missed out.

I'm just visiting some of my new friends from the A-Z challenge. Though I'm not an author like you, and am in awe of you, I can relate to your sentiment. Shame it's so difficult to follow one's passions and find financial security. Sounds like you have a plan, with a healthy


Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

I've come visiting from Odie Langley's blog.

I can relate to the transitional state even though it's been almost two years since I took my retirement earlier than I'd hoped. I still don't feel I've found my direction, though I'm getting there.

I also relate to losing a fellow blogger. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend and know you will cherish her memory.

Jules said...

Sorry I'm late and for your friend. I did not have the privilege of knowing Jane.

As to limbo or liminal, don't you think it a necessary state? Other wise when making a transtion we would just dart from one thing to another. Limbo gives us a reason to ponder, to reflect, to react in a positive manner rather than a reactive one.

Stick with the piano, I'm still waiting for your Little Richard impersonation. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Liz Fichera said...

So sorry to hear about your friend.

Too often we equate job success with money instead of what makes us happy. If you can afford to continue writing, I say go for it! :-)

Sharon Lippincott said...

I so understand your confused concern. When I begin thinking in that direction some concepts that pull me back are "enough" and "inner mean girl". I feel so very blessed that I don't NEED to bring in money. We have "enough" money. If I made more, I could give more away. Instead, I give my time away in the form of words.

Inner mean girl: measuring me by the standards of others and fearing I can't live up to them. F.E.A.R.: False Evidence Appearing Real.

Karen, IMO, you are a HUGE success! You bring joy and happiness to others with your words and music. Few of us have two modes of success. You rock!

Karen Walker said...

Yvonne, thank you so much for your kind words.
Suze, what a wonderful way to put it - thank you!
Michael, your words are exactly what I needed to hear. Life is so very fleeting - thank you thank you thank you
Brianna, thanks. I'd forgotten I went thru something similar when I had my son and was a stay at home mom for 5 years. Wow.
Karen, thanks for sharing - this was very helpful to read.
Robyn, I'm blessed in that I don't have to earn money - I just never got comfortable with that - I think now I will.
Sheila, thanks for the visit and comment. And good luck with your transition.
Jules, right on the money. And that's hilarious - me doing LIttle Richard - that is so NOT me.
Liz, that's it - we do equate success with money - that's what I have to let go of.
Sharon, thank you thank you thank you -

Helen Ginger said...

I'd kinda go with what Joanne said. Find something you like to do and, if you want, find ways to get paid for it.

I was so shocked to hear about Jane. You meet and interactive with people online and you come to think of them as friends.

Plain Jane said...

My husband and I have been trying to have a baby and for the last year I have felt like I was in a liminal state. Waiting to be parents. Not a lot we can do at this time but continue to go about our lives, preparing for the next leg of the journey.

Sarah Allen said...

Don't let societal pressure or money determine whether you a contributing, worthwhile person or not. Writing, teaching and nurturing are some of the most noble things a person can do, whether it makes them money or not, and those are all things you've done. You should be proud of your writing career!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Karen Walker said...

Helen, I think it's more a matter of my coming to tems with all of this and letting go into acceptance of where I'm at at this point in my life. And yes, it was shocking news about Jane. Blogging buddies do become friends.
Plain Jane, that is so hard - but all I can suggest is that you let go and let God, which is so hard when we want something very badly.
Sarah, thank you - that is exactly what I'm grappling with - society's and my own expectations of what I am to accomplish.

Jan Morrison said...

I hear you loud and clear. that's one of the reasons I went into a meltdown last week (thanks for your kind remarks by the way). I work as a therapist but I don't persue the bigger money I could be making - I always give people deals and I don't work every day because I want to write. These days I'm wondering why.
Jan Morrison

K.C. Woolf said...

I'm sorry to hear about your friend.

At the same time, a loss reminds us of how short our time here is, and how absurd many of our expectations are in the light of our finite lives.

I also think there are many ways of contributing to society, and having a job is just one of them.

As our environment, situation, body, mind, needs and abilities change, so does the nature of our contribution. It transforms, but doesn't necessarily diminish.

Much strength and courage with the transition!

Dafeenah said...

I am sorry to hear about your friend. I had seen a few other blogs mention her passing. I didn't know her, but from what everyone has said, I can tell she was an amazing person.

As for your post, I think contributions come in many forms. What I like about being overseas is that the household contribution is divided evenly amongst the family members. Some work and contribute financially. Others cook and clean and contribute to the upkeep of the home. Each person has their own place and each is vital to the success of the home. Just because your contribution is different doesn't mean it is less.

Julie Musil said...

Karen, the news about Jane is so sad. Another reminder to enjoy each day.

Karen Walker said...

Jan, I just read your post today and I think you've answered this question for yourself and for me. Thank you.
K.C. Absurd expectations - thank you for that phrase!
Dafeenah, yes, different, not less - another phrase I will remember.
Julie, yes, it is a very powerful reminder. Our time here is so very fleeting.

Anonymous said...

Jane was a good friend and will surely be missed. Thanks for including a mention of her in your blog.

Julie said...

I'm so sorry to read about your friend, Karen. Very sorry for your loss.

As far as your post, I have to say, in my eyes you are a big success. Your writing has made a difference to me just in the short time since I found your blog. I really admire your accomplishments, and all you do with your writing and singing!

Tracy Jo said...

Sending you a hug for the loss of your friend.

Transitions are a funny place to be...you are a wise woman Karen for knowing that is where you are & just moving through it. You have made the biggest contribution to society by all the lives you have touched - you definitely have made a difference in mine. :-)

Shannon Lawrence said...

I'm sorry for your loss.

Though my situation is different, I can empathize with your feelings. I've struggled with the same confusion since I decided to stay home with my two small children. I didn't realize how much of my self worth I took from my job. I've always worked. I will say that writing helps me feel like I'm accomplishing something, but we'll see if that continues. I sure hope so!

Found you through the A to Z. It's done, but I'm still visiting the blogs I missed.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Karen .. I'm in much the same state - except I have no husband and a mother to spend time with albeit she's looked after.

I was wondering linked in with your singing .. and/or added in or an extra .. if you couldn't write short stories or a magazine and sell those? You could do local .. perhaps tie in with where the residents came from too .. no need to put identifiers in ..

Jane - I had 'met' briefly .. and can quite see why a great many bloggers are extremely sad - our age .. it is too young ..

Look after yourself .. you're doing lots, entertaining, educating yourself .. and looking to the future - at least you're not slovenly - R U?!!!! Cheers and happy thoughts - Hilary