top of page

liminal spaces: give me something of your soul that i can hold on to

In times of uncertainty and confusion, in times of mistrust and doubt, I always seem to come back to my lord and savior, Tori Amos. Every important phase of my life involved her sultry, hard-ironed, and imperfectly sculpted prose in some way.

When I was a child, in an attempt to keep my mother’s abuser at bay, she would load my twin sister and I in her rickety car, a metallic blue with grey-washed fabric seating. My sister, having bad insomnia, would sit in the front seat and I would sprawl my tiny body on the back seat, looking up from the rear window to the constellations as my mother would quietly drive along the I-25.

We would drive into the early hours of the night until the sun rose until my mother knew that the first ray of sunlight would be her lighthouse calling her home. Tori Amos would be thrumming in the car, over and over. It was like my mother was trying to cast a protection spell against her assailants, through Tori’s words. Even as a child, I understood there was magic happening, even if I didn’t understand the words at the time.

Tori Amos writes a lot of songs about faith, sexuality, re-writing her history through her piano and voice. She writes about her relationship with her father, her relationship with God, her body, and her rape. She isn’t afraid to expose the taboo, or ask the hard questions: “God sometimes you just don’t come through; Do you need a woman to look after you?” “Why do I need you to Love me, when you can’t hold what I hold dear?” “Years go by— will I still be waiting— for somebody else to understand?”

There are moments in my life where certain lyrics of Tori’s resonate with me. In the majority of my 20s, I found myself drawn to her Under the Pink album, with her songs about sexuality, spirituality, and losing friendships. Before that, Little Earthquakes had been an album that I would often steal from my Mother’s bedroom, because it would take me back to those car rides, that deceptively safe, liminal space, and I would mouth out the words to Silent All These Years, even as a 4-year-old little girl.

As I am living in my 30s, experiencing whatever I’m supposed to, as my body changes and I am healing my relationship with it, as I start to settle into a wiser part of myself, Tori’s songs feel different somehow. They age well, like a glass of wine. In my fear and attraction to liminality, as I start to think of what of my material possessions should I sell, as I wonder where I belong, I can hear Tori whispering in my ear. Some nice things, some not-so-nice things. All held close to my cracked, but somehow syrupy heart:

We’ll see how brave you are.


During my time at my residency, I’ve been thinking a lot about inner truth— where that comes from, what it means to live my truth, and how I can simply be in the context of our greater culture at large.

There is no denying that my work is personal. Perhaps, to some, too personal. I make work that is embarrassing. I make work that is uncouth. I make work that can cause unrest and even deny my opportunity to show them, or for people to understand them.

I remember a time during undergrad where I made a whole wall installation of a woman birthing pink and red rabbits in the hallway of the art building. In a flustering attempt to keep the tour of 8-year olds from seeing the work, the ceramics instructor hid my work behind a large whiteboard.

I also recall having a conversation with one of my thesis committee members, during graduate school, about the context behind my work: “Maybe some things are better left unsaid.” “Perhaps leaving room for interpretation is best,” “There’s a lot here, maybe keeping some things to yourself is the best thing for your art.”

At one time, I would have prided myself in my work receiving so many convoluted reactions. Eventually, and perhaps this was due to the grind of academia, perhaps something larger, I started to question if my work held any significant context at all, or if it was simply an opportunity for me to paint pussies and tits as a shock value, nothing more. An opportunity for men to sneer at my work and write in my guest book ‘nice tits, bitch.’

But I know, deep down, that isn’t true. Deep down, there is a softness underneath the pain and hurt that I have both experienced and inflicted on others. Deep down, I know there is a reason why I make the work I do, why I feel the need to show my vulnerabilities in the form of pink femmes owning the lush space they live in. I know that there is a reason I invite others to see certain parts of my trauma that may be uncomfortable or unwarranted. Because it is impossible to separate my art from my experiences. It is impossible to paint femme bodies without talking about my own dysmorphic relationship with my own. It is impossible to draw femmes eating flowers from a bowl without talking about that one time I sat in front of my fridge crying because I have purged a total of $150 worth of food. It is impossible to draw femmes touching each other without talking about how I have unresolved issues of intimacy with others, or how I wish I had someone to go home to at night.

When I set aside the dry, male-dominated field of academic language, I find purpose in my work: I am making work like a teenage girl writes a diary entry. Is there something inherently scary about that, I wonder? What is there to be afraid of?


Is it too much for others to see me living my truth? Is it scary for them to see me confidently live in this liminal space of my identity, and being okay with it? Is it terrifying for them to witness me defying the truth they were grown up to believe in, and now they feel the right and need to poke and prod at me, as though I am a cadaver on a table, available for them to pick apart, only to leave the room without stitching up the wounds they have made, because they don’t see me as alive?

Who gets to say what is the truth and what isn’t? Who gets to determine what is fact and fiction?

What the fuck does the colonial truth of gravity and science have to do with my identity or how I want to be referred to?

Why does my truth conflicting with your truth have to mean that I’m the one who is wrong?


I feel the most alone

when in a room with this woman,

when she shakes her head every time I say something.

She won’t even look at me

really look at me.

I can feel the acid in my mouth

the way in absorbs in my tastebuds

as I remain further detached from the want

and need

and yearning to release it.

I extend my hands out, cupped

liquid emotions, an offering, a ritual sacrifice.

It is rancid the moment it reaches her lips.

She spits it in my face

no change in expression.

The spit hits my cheek

and I find myself thanking her

I am thanking her.

And I find that I am alone in the room again.


On July 27th, as I was getting ready to pack for my art residency, I got a note, neatly folded in a plastic bag, hung at my door. I already knew what it was about. Six months ago, my landlord was arranging men in suits to come into each of the units of my apartment building to inspect the so-called damage of the place, to take pictures, and contemplate the future of all 62 tenants. She was planning on selling the building to the highest bidder.

I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach, the kind of feeling one gets when something is about to go terribly wrong, but it was way too meta for me to lurk on for too long. That, and, I was also in an incredibly tedious and difficult eating disorder treatment program. By myself, isolated from the world, no one knew just how difficult it was for me to nurse my trauma and mental health. I had no energy to even consider the possibility of becoming homeless.

But time rarely slows down, and on a hot, dry summer afternoon, I read the paper. It’s hard to think that your city is rejecting you when there is a pristine white piece of writing telling you to

get the fuck out, you’re not wanted here.

The end of the year. I have the end of the year to figure out where I will live. I think about all of the paintings and drawings I need to store safely, all of my books and art supplies I need to pack up. My large canvases that I have wanted to use, but haven’t bothered to for the last five years. I think of my unframed bed, my plants, my pink desk, my dishes, clothes, blankets, the white wooden box that my cat’s litter box lives in. I think of my string lights, my lamps, my tapestries and my curtains.

I think about the warm light that filters through the windows of my apartment, how I can’t pack that up and leave. I think of the polished wooden floors and the french doors, the small mint-colored bathroom. I think of the old-fashioned elevator and the 1920s lobby. The things I can and need to pack, and the things and memories I have to leave behind. That I am forced to leave behind.

I don’t want to be left behind.

I don’t have a lot of things, for this reason exactly. I don’t have a couch, or a bed frame. I don’t have an official bookcase or any furniture aside from a place to draw at and a place to sleep in. Even so, I wonder if I have too much. I wonder if I hold on to too much. I wonder if this means I need to consolidate, shrink, get smaller. I wonder if I can get so small that I can just disappear. I wonder if that is what the men in suits want for me, is to just disappear.

I wonder if that is what this city wants, too.


It’s interesting to think of liminality and truth at once— most folks may not think about these two experiences. “Truth” feels foundational, permanent, fool-proof. “Liminality”, on the other hand, is fleeting, ephemeral. Time-sensitive. But that is what this month is about, the liminality of truth. The truth of liminality. Space, time, self. Insecurity in the secure. Two contradictions intertwined.

I’d like to think of myself as a casual practitioner of witchcraft, or at the very least a fan of astrology. Like most queer femmes, I find myself drawn to it, perhaps because I can speak my truth through the liminal alignments of the planets and stars. Rarely do they stay in place for too long (although some may be slower than others). There is flexibility there that I cannot have with organized religion, a kind of intuitive space to play, pray, and sit in.

But there is something magical that happens when things align perfectly at the same time— of both stability and movement. When I a, aligned with my truth, even for just a moment, I know what feels wrong, what feels right, and what feels like a need to pause.

When “truth” is taught in rigidity, in a denial of my divine queerness, when I am taught to deny my insights, my gut reactions, I find myself having to sift through a lot: confusion, murky emotions… just to get back to that small space, that temporary space. To my very own honest answer of self.

It’s very hard to trust ourselves. Wires that were crossed in the past must now be untangled, some must even have to disappear altogether, only to come back years later. It can get very messy, especially if there is trauma involved.

While listening to Chani Nicholas’ podcast on astrology, I find myself asking some pretty hard questions, and I wanted to share some of them: Who told me to be quiet when I was honest with myself?

Who or what shut me up when my truth was too inconvenient for the moment, family, for the culture at large?

Who in my life lied to themselves in order to keep the peace, or survive, or some other reason, and as a result, left me and my safety at a precarious position?

What messages did the world tell me about how someone like me should act, be, or NOT be? And how did that messaging encourage me to be dishonest with myself?

Discovering the ways in which I have disconnected with my own way of knowing is the first radical step to healing, and to live comfortably in that liminality. Unpacking the origin of that uncertainty allows me to live my truth, whatever that may look like

It also allows me to pause, to be willing to be in the discomfort in life’s many waiting rooms, waiting to move on to the next thing.

Knowing that we feel something is enough to pause and unpack our feelings. We don’t have to justify our feelings— a feeling is a message that we can take seriously and unpack and build a relationship with. They’re always a key, a gateway into some deeper knowing. We do not have to settle, and should not have to settle. There is beauty in the liminality of truth.


bottom of page