LETTER: Women and the Liminal Space of the Pandemic

Women have always been the caregivers in our society. And women have seen us through all of the liminal spaces of our lives.

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[This letter was first published on Facebook, 8 March 2022.]

It’s International Women’s Day. And every time I try to write something meaningful about women, the concept of liminal spaces invades my brain.

I was reintroduced to it yesterday via the CBC Radio program Ideas and it has preoccupied my thoughts ever since. And it has occurred to me that my two predominant thoughts are not antithetical. I am a woman. I occupy a liminal space.

And you’re likely saying to yourself: what’s she on about now?

“Derived from the Latin word ‘limen,’ meaning threshold, “liminal” indicates a place or point of entrance or beginning. By definition, a liminal space is a time between ‘what is’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, not knowing, and a season of waiting. It’s a common or shared space that might make one feel uneasy or a feeling of something being “off,” but one can’t quite pinpoint what or why that is. It can also be the uncertainty in your future created by a significant change.”

Since March 2020, it is obvious we’ve all occupied a liminal space. The pandemic put us there. We’ve locked down, we’ve socially distanced, we’ve covered our faces. We’ve mourned pre-pandemic life. We’ve tried to grasp onto any component of our pre-2020 existence in order to escape the uncertainty that characterizes our new world order. And now that our government has advised us that we are now in an endemic rather than pandemic phase, many of us are gladly leaving our liminal spaces to occupy the new order—an order that will look uncannily exactly the same as the old.

But maybe with fewer women.

Women. It is women who got me through the discomfort of living in a liminal space. At first, I was terrified I’d lose them. Through illness. Or through sheer distance. Will you be my friend when this is over? Tell me you love me—quick! How can we safely connect? How can we avoid passively killing one another? How can we make this new, isolating existence better? As lockdowns became fewer, contact was renewed. But as waves of variants hit, distance became the repeated norm. But. The women. They were there. A meal. A flower. A meme. A text. A backyard fire. A dance. A gift. Wine. Eggnog. A song. A video. A photo. 

Women have always been the caregivers in our society. And women have seen us through all of the liminal spaces of our lives. From childbirth to motherhood. From adolescence to adulthood. From home life to school life. From wellness into sickness. All liminal spaces. All navigated via women. Women who care while in their own liminal spaces of career transitions, marriages to divorces, victims to survivors, dual to single incomes, etc. Unending layers of liminality. Fuck.

To return to THE Liminal Space of my lifetime—the pandemic—I foresee that it is women who will likely occupy it much longer than March 14—the date at which our province signals the end of the pandemic through zero restrictions. I laugh. Zero for whom? Women? The women who have left their careers to care for children during the pandemic? The women who have lost their careers and their homes? The women administering rapid test kits to those children going to school? The women caring for those sick with Covid in their homes? The women who are over 55? The women who are chronically ill? The women who are immunocompromised? The women who cannot leave their homes because of their age or pre-existing conditions? The women who are now cared for by other women? The women who also adopt a life of isolation because they are caring for others who are at risk?

All of these women, in liminal spaces until science saves us. Oh, the uncertainty. But that’s what defines liminal. And that’s often what defines womanhood. Caring for, navigating, maintaining, nurturing, loving us through one liminal space after another.

Thank you. Thank you to my women. My grandmothers, mother, sister, aunts, cousins. My educators. My friends—you know who you are. Thank you for being my constant when all else is uncertain.

Happy International Women’s Day from one liminal space to another.

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