Navigating in-Between Places

liminal, my favorite word

life:examined is an exploration of curiosity and a compendium of thoughts, ideas, and questions about how to live a creative, intentional life. Thank you for your support.


Autumn always makes me feel contemplative. 

It's the time of the year where I feel most like myself, whatever that is, and it's a season where I often make dramatic changes— typically in October.

I moved to Portugal in October. I moved back to San Diego from Portland (the first time) after selling my house and graduating at the ripe age of 40—all in the same month—October. Lots of other Octobers have brought change and upheaval. 

For me, autumn is an in-between space. It's a season where the days can be warm, but the nights are cool, a time when sunlight lingers, even as the days shorten with the calendar marching toward the winter solstice. 

I like the places in-between—the liminal spaces. 

I grew up in a border town. And although I am not a fan of physical borders that keep people out or in, the idea of borders interests me. They are spaces that beg to be breached. Like other liminal spaces, borders have uncertainty about them. I'm comfortable with their ambiguity.

I like things: people, places, ideas that are not solidly one or another. Shapeshifters that encourage us to think beyond our self-imposed borders. 

Maybe this is why I like being a stranger. 

Being the other is unsettling sometimes, but it can feel like a superpower, too. When I think about how lucky I am to live in Portugal, even though luck had little to do with it, I'll be reminded by one of my neighbors that they feel fortunate to know me! What a thing!

That I'm fascinating to my neighbors partly because of my otherness when I think Portugal and its people are captivating because of who they are—that they are different, that this place is different—fills me with delight. 

Being a foreigner, which I will always be (even if I obtain Portuguese citizenship), is a rich and sometimes lonely gift. 

The ability to choose the status of immigrant rather than refugee is one of privilege. I acknowledge this privilege each day (and maybe therein lies the luck). It's rich because I have a community of locals and other immigrants who welcome me, quirks and all, to this charming little spot on the planet. 

But it's lonely, too. 

Lonely because most days, when I speak to my neighbors, it's in rudimentary English with even more remedial Portuguese sprinkled in.

It can feel like a lifetime goes by without engaging in an intellectual conversation. But, that's on me as I realize progressing with the Portuguese language will help me have better conversations. That, and attracting like-minded and like-hearted immigrants to this little city I call home. I'm working on that, by the way. 

Still, I find comfort navigating the in-between spaces as I feel simultaneously seen and anonymous.

Invisibility, now there's a superpower!

Depending on the scenario, I can go completely unnoticed, or quite the opposite—often, I'm the only person in the space who looks like I do (not many women here with closely shorn hair), so some notice me, and others overlook me. I’m fine either way.

Everything I encounter each day in Portugal, from the mundane to the astounding, has the potential to be a profound learning experience, and that's not a circumstance I'd be in as readily if I stayed in the comfort of the familiar. 

A Suggestion

Allow me to suggest moving abroad if you feel like your life has become rote and have a hard time noticing things and being present. I promise you will wake up—you can't help it because everything around you will require your attention.

In addition, being a stranger in a strange and glorious land will sharpen your navigation skills, and you will learn so much—about yourself and your chosen community.

Are you ready to navigate the in-between spaces? 


And now, your audio vignette for the week:

life: examined
audio vignette | 16 Sept 2021
Listen now (2 min) | I hope you enjoy this audio vignette featuring traffic and the defunct sardine cannery If you like this episode and want to support my work, you can buy me a coffee…
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