Betwixt and Between

Lazarus, who had a lot of practice going betwixt and between.

Last Saturday was one of five Saturdays of Souls in the Orthodox Church–days that are set aside to pray for and remember the deceased. I love the idea of having days dedicated to thinking about and communing with loved ones who have passed on to a world beyond this one. It reminds me of a great Day of the Dead I spent in Oaxaca, building an altar to deceased friends and family, and filling it with their photos, favorite foods and commemorative flowers. But I also love the random moments when we remember something a loved one who has died used to say, or eat, or sing, or hum, the every day interactions we had with them over dinner or at festivals, or just walking through the mountains. These consecrated days, the ritual of the day of the dead, and the moments of unexpected memories so vivid it feels as if the interaction were happening right now are times when we are straddling two worlds, existing betwixt and between both, to use a phrase common in folklore studies.

Papel Picada, Mexican art paper for the day of the dead, downloaded from mysticvoodoo.com

I’m feeling very liminal lately not because I’m  caught between the worlds of the living and the dead, but because I’ve had so many changes in my life over the last year that my own past often sneaks up on me. I now live in Miami Beach; my husband, home, home office, and daily life are there. I love the weather, the art galleries, the yoga classes, the walks on the beach, and the shorts-wearing UPS guy who looks like Magnum P.I. But all the friends I made over 13 years in New York are still in Manhattan, and so are some remaining vestiges of the journalism career I built there which can’t be transported to another city or conducted over email.

Last night we walked into our New York apartment (just after midnight, the time when one day crosses into the next) and I went into the kitchen to get a glass of water. The fridge is covered with photos, images of the New York life I left behind. I have no doubt that most of the people in the photos will always be a part of my life, wherever I live, but as we keep barreling into the future, and as I stood in my old kitchen, surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds (it’s an old, loud, humming fridge) of my past, my old life seemed very far away. It was a rich and varied life, and I would have enjoyed it even more if I’d known what was in store for me, and hadn’t worried about what the future might or might not hold.

Blurred images of the past on my vintage fridge.

Now I’m in it–the future–only it’s the present, and the real future is even farther removed from my single, NYC life. I love my life right now, but, as a Libra, I prize balance. My life feels a little lopsided–with all my friends and family in the Northeast, and everything else, including my new family, in Miami Beach. Not to mention all the people and places I love in Greece, and when will I go back there again, having gone twice last year for the wedding? I know these are good problems to have, so many people and places you love that it’s hard to enjoy all of them. But knowing that doesn’t make me feel any less off-kilter.

When I’m in Miami, I don’t miss New York, but when I’m in New York, I so wish I could transplant some of what I love about the city, and the people who inhabit it, into my new city, so that each visit to Manhattan wasn’t a marathon attempt to see everyone I care about all at once. Last time I was here, I ran around so much seeing people that I ended up with bursitis in my hip. (I vow right now not to mention bursitis again in this blog–at least for the next few posts.)

Since I don’t, contrary to my attempts, actually control the universe, I think the only way to bring balance into my new life is to try, as much as possible, to live in the now. To enjoy the person I’m talking to and the life I’m living at that moment, without wondering what lies ahead and whom I’ll be meeting tomorrow or next Tuesday. That, and to observe the rituals that allow us to live betwixt and between, whether they’re as timeless as writing a thank you note, or as contemporary as keeping up with birthdays thanks to the miracle of facebook. It’s all part of navigating the modern era, when every day is a liminal stage.

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