Stuck in the In-Between

Over the years, I’ve found myself in a yucky, transitional place many times. I call it the In-Between. Transition can be good, but it can also be hard. It can be from something ok to something even better. It can also be from great to not so great. We all go through it, nothing stays the same. At some point in our lives, we will inevitably find ourselves in the dreaded in-between.

My first In-Between

The idea of the “In-Between” was first brought to me by my mom when I was in high school. It was the week before my junior year. After a long summer of training, volleyball tryouts were in full swing and I was desperate to make the JV team. In the end, I didn’t make the cut. And I was devastated. Now what? I’d devoted the last 8 years to volleyball. It was everything to me.

I went home and laid in bed the rest of the day, sobbing. My mom sat with me, petting my hair and listening. Not trying to fix. This was not something I was over in a day. I mourned the entire week as I knew all my friends were doing two-a-day practices and preparing for the season ahead. Because I was supposed to be there too, I had nothing else going on.

Putting words to the feelings

As the days passed, my mom started talking about transition. She began to put the idea in my head that maybe my life wouldn’t be over if I wasn’t playing volleyball. Maybe there was another path for me, or maybe more than one. At the time, that was hard to wrap my head around. Now, of course, I laugh.

Looking back, I appreciate her ability to acknowledge my deep feelings even though I was still so young. During an especially difficult time, she sat with me and shared parts of her life with me. She also shared a reading she found helpful during her times of transition. Through this reading, which I’ve now read and shared many times over the years, I learned about the in-between. It described exactly how I was feeling. I felt empty. I felt as if I’d never smile or laugh or feel joy ever again. My mom shared moments from times of being in-between in her life. She put words to the feelings I had, even though our situations were so different. How could she know?!

Necessary but not easy

The only way she could know is if this transitional period, the in-between, was a real thing. A necessary part of life. I could see from her examples it wouldn’t last forever, even though, that week, it felt like it would. With transition comes a certain amount of uncertainty. Surely something will come along to change this current situation, but what? And, the most important question, when??

We can go through this time as gracefully or as sloppily as we want. I’ve done both and, I’ll tell you, doing it gracefully definitely feels better after the fact. There’s a secret though, the way to go through the in-between with grace is to be willing. To acknowledge the pain and fear and hold on to faith that what God has coming will work for us. That He has a plan.

A dear friend used to ask me during a long, painful period of in-between about 10 years ago, “Are your hands open to receive or closed, tightly holding on to nothing?” Ouch. Usually, if she was asking, it was because my actions or meltdowns were showing I had closed hands. I love the imagery she gave me of having my palms open, facing up, ready to receive. What I was receiving could be anything. It could be the next phase or chapter, or it could be as simple as a nugget of wisdom that would serve me to get through the day.

Just keep swimming

As I went back to school the next week, I was full of shame, feeling like I didn’t know who I was anymore. However, as I look back, I can see I started opening my hands. Soon, I was embracing my role in my section of the band, I dove in to my marketing club, class assignments quickly piled up and I was making new friends. A month or so later, I took on a large grant with a couple friends and we met often to do the work. I was happy and my heart was full. None of this would have been possible if I was attending practice every day and traveling for games a few times a week.

By the end of my junior year, I could see how right my mom was about the in-between. As a busy 16 year old, my in-between, all though deep and empty, didn’t last long. Since my introduction to this idea of the in-between, I’ve been in a season of transition many times.

Preparation for future in-between

I’m so grateful to have learned about how to handle transition when I did. When I still felt protection of being “a kid”. It truly prepared me for much bigger in-betweens that were inevitable. After college graduation, looking for a job (during the recession), again I felt hopeless and empty. Another huge transition happened when I made the decision to get sober and I felt I didn’t know myself anymore, more emptiness came. That period seemed to last an eternity.

The hardest period of in-betweens have been at the end of relationships. Both romantic and friendships. I lost dear friends in roommate situations and have sat on my parents’ stoop at their home, bawling, wanting life to be over because no one can live with me. Since that time, I’ve learned a lot about living with other people. It’s one of the hardest things in life and some days I do miss living alone. But each transition of roommates led to learning and growing.

Letting go so the new can come

Some romantic relationships ended without this period. Sometimes because I was fleeing and other times because I’d grieved the relationship before it ended. There are a couple relationships in my life, however, that I gave up so much of myself during, I wasn’t sure who I was when they ended. During those particular in-betweens, the reading became especially important to me as a daily reminder.

I reminded myself that the relationship may have served me well for a time, but it’s time to let go. I needed to know it’s ok to feel the feelings, but then it’s important to release them. I need to remember to keep my hands open to receive. Even though it didn’t feel like it, I was moving forward. And finally, the most important piece, this is a transition, not my destination.

When we are in the in-between, it feels never ending. It feels empty and hopeless. Yet we must remember that it is necessary and not without purpose. It feels yucky and uncomfortable, but we must have faith something good will come from it. There’s no timeframe for the in-between only the promise that He’ll be walking with us through it. That He’ll give us the strength when we have none. Also, we can take comfort in knowing we are not alone. We all go through the in-between, more than once in our lives. So embrace the in-between, be willing to let go so new the can come.

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