A while back I wrote an article in which I referred to Limbo. I live at the moment in an inexpensive motel in a dull area of a small Midwestern ‘village’ where little happens, there is little to do, and thank God for satellite television! The motel is not intended for long-term occupancy, so it boasts no restaurant or cooking facilities. There are a number of restaurants, ranging from a lunch counter arrangement to a couple of really top-drawer establishments to which you might take a date for a celebration. Naturally, the top-drawer establishments have top-drawer prices. I’ve also mentioned that in this Limbo-like place, like everywhere else, the freshness fades and tedium develops. I actually count this to be a good thing because like so many other things in life, Limbo is a process, and if there is a process, there is a Result.
I’m a little hesitant about writing this because lately I’ve had an intuition that big and positive changes are coming for me, but I don’t actually KNOW that. I suppose I’m concerned about jinxing my prospects. Even if I’m not seeing a light at the end of my tunnel, there’s no harm in talking a little about what I’ve learnt.
Classically, Limbo was the first Circle of Hell, a place where guiltless pagans who had not accepted Salvation lived. It was a deficient form of Heaven. Contemporarily I can say that Limbo is a place of waiting. What it shares with its classic counterpart is an abiding feeling of hopelessness. ‘When will this end?’ is a common cry.
Day after day of the same thing. For some, it’s waiting to hear about a job, a cure, a decision, or simply the continuous and anxiety-producing state of not knowing what happens next. Sometimes it isn’t about what will happen next, but when will what’s happening now stop? For example, months or years may be spent waiting for the Federal Government to get itself in gear and approve your application for Social Security or Social Security Disability Insurance, which will take forever and a day. When you are finally awarded, the amount will be insufficient to anyone’s needs, but you will be oh so grateful! You feel you have succeeded at something, no matter how effectively insignificant it is. Of course, the State, which has provided insufficient support in the interval, will take your success as an invitation to abandon you altogether. This is part of Limbo—nothing really changes. My own experiences with the government and with state social services has demonstrated there is no crack small enough I cannot fall through it. It leads me to one thought: In the words of the old hymn, ‘When shall my sorrows have an end?’
The good part of Limbo is realization. You discover you have a talent for innovation. You learn to reassess your requirements, and discover what you can actually do without. You also learn to prioritize your happiness. Happiness becomes a function of simplicity, because happiness is about the flexibility and durability of the Human Spirit.
As you re-evaluate what’s important in your life you recognize all those things you took for granted. For example, after several months of microwaved meals, I can honestly say I miss my own cooking so much that the next time I throw a spiced sausage in the pot with my Sapporo Ichiban ramen noodles, I will do so with great enthusiasm and profound gratitude. The prospect of having more than three books to read (the library is far from here) is Elysian. To be able to actually choose what film to watch, instead of what the networks decide, will be a pleasure.
The most sensitive aspect of Limbo has to do with friendship. My life has been filled with people who ‘understand’ (but don’t really), and of course those who know better than I do (but don’t), who are very concerned (and stand around, complacently watching me circle the drain). Then there are those who decide it’s open hunting season on every aspect of a person’s life, simply because one aspect is needy. Your boundaries, they seem to think, are their challenges, hurdles to be taken as if they were show-jumpers.
These people aren’t worth discussing.
In Limbo I’ve discovered the beauty of people who don’t pretend to know and allow me to explain. There are rare people who see a need and step up to address it, especially at their own inconvenience. There are even people who see a boundary and don’t even approach it, they respect it that much. Those are great folks, and I hope your lives will be filled with such quality.
I’ve learnt a lot about faith too. It’s hardest to have when you need it the most. If you have a good circle of friends, they will have unwavering faith for you, and in the end it will be as if you’d had unwavering faith for yourself. Faith can be a group effort. I’ve also learnt that no act of kindness is ever so simple that a glass of water for the thirsty is only a glass of water. There is always a lot more that goes along with it.
I hope I’m right, that my time here is at an end, and soon I’ll be in much happier circumstances, enjoying life on Earth with a new perspective. But if I’m wrong, there’s no harm.
There’s always more to learn.
Paul TN Chapman
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