Monday, October 19, 2009

Happiness Limbo

Gather, mixed media collage by Courtney Putnam

Sometimes a change in seasons -- particularly the transition from a season of light, like summer, to seasons of coolness and gray, like fall and winter--can bring with it a feeling stagnation for me: a sort of happiness limbo. It's like happiness is there in moments, but it can be shaded by the shadow of dark nights and falling leaves. Now I love fall (did I just write that?!). It is so beautiful here in Seattle when the leaves turn. And in those few days when we have blue sky and a crispness in the air, I feel the happiness in my body lift me up. So happiness is there, but I also feel a bit in limbo with it, like I could easily take a down turn, fall off a cliff into apathy and ambiguity. Do you ever feel this during this summer-to-fall seasonal change? Or perhaps this happens to you during a different seasonal transition. Or some other time that doesn't correspond with the seasons.

Julia Cameron has a sweet little book aptly called Transitions, and I want to share a hearty quote from it here:

"In some seasons, we are able to act decisively in directions that please us and feel happiness as a result. At other times, life is less linear and more variable. Happiness is more elusive as we experience events and timing beyond our control. Among life's vivid seasons, there are also times of a more muffled love, periods of muted mood and ambivalent, even ambiguous feelings. These are the limbo times, the gray days that fall in between. These are the transitional times when I am not what I was nor am yet what I am becoming. In limbo times, I must live with alert attention to my feelings of vulnerability. I must guard against hasty choices and rushed decisions. In limbo times I must learn to simply be. Soon enough life will move onward."

I love this excerpt from Cameron because it reminds me that happiness limbo is normal! We all feel it! Some call it the "blahs" others may call it stuckness. Whatever it is for you, it is completely normal to have periods of being in a liminal space -- that space of being "not what I was nor am yet what I am becoming."

And I think these times of happiness limbo give us a great opportunity to slow down, tune inward, and just be, as Cameron suggests. We don't need to bruise ourselves trying to activate our happiness. We need to relax into what we're experiencing. At least that's what I try to do. Because, soon enough, life will feel lighter again, more motivating, more clear and crisp. It will!

And my friend Kristen just now reminded me of that other kind of limbo: you know, the game? When we play limbo we are in that awkward position between falling and standing. And that's how I often feel during transitional times. Will I bend backwards and fall to the floor or will my chin barely miss the bar and I spring up to standing?

So how to take care of yourself during happiness limbo? Let yourself be. Be gentle with yourself, knowing that you are normal, okay, even pretty amazing. Find ways to feel better, but in a kind and compassionate way, like moving your body: physically move, but don't force ourselves into pain. So walking is good, so is dancing or singing or writing. Stretching can be nice, too. Get out the limbo bar if you want, but be sure to play some groovy music. And I like to throw in laughter. Laughter is a great mover; it shakes your whole body and releases endorphins.

Here's a little inspiration for you:


  1. Thanks Court. This is great. As soon as I get home from work, the family and I are dancing! Heck, I think I might get the co-workers in on it this afternoon. We're all a bit in happiness limbo right now. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Now, THAT'S what I call inspiration! i experience this too in a cyclical way. February used to have this effect on mye, until I discovered that color was the antidote. I've always called this feeling "resistance," but that doesn't exactly describe it. It's more like a fallow time, and I've learned that it's necessary for my creative cycle. I've stopped worrying, and I spend this time meditating, filling my eyes with art and color, reading, and learning. Eventually, I cycle into a period of great inspiration productivity. But, now, I just wanna dance!

  3. What a good description of what I have understood about myself for many years. It IS good to know it is so universal. FaceBook has been a very helpful "tool" this fall for me in that I can have communication with people in little ways; feeling less isolated while in that limbo state. And, dear friend double thanks for the Limbo Rock with Chubby Checkers. Wow how tame that looks comparing to present day dance! But that is where some of us were in high school.... good grief!