In his book Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers, Fred Rogers writes:
“I saw a friend who’s a freelance writer and asked him what he was working on. “Nothing right now,” he answered. “You know how it is with freelancers. But at times like this I tell myself I’m ‘between opportunities.’ That way I don’t have to feel I’m nowhere.”
There’s often a tendency for us to hurry through transitions. We may feel that these transitions are “nowhere at all” compared to what’s gone before or what we anticipate is next to come. But you are somewhere… you’re “between.”
This little piece of writing so resonated with me. First of course because, as a freelance writer, I’ve spent a lot of time between opportunities. Even though I’ve worked as a contract writer for many years, it can be very uncomfortable to find myself in a place with no immediate projects on my list. Sometimes being between opportunities can leave me feeling breathless and panicked; I wonder where, when or even if another project will come my way. I worry about stirring new opportunities. I reach out to those I’ve written for before and offer my services. I sometimes scramble around and try to make more work happen. I redouble my efforts. I push. I definitely hurry to get myself through the discomfort of a transition from one project to the next.
The feeling as if I’m “nowhere” can leave me frazzled. Even after all these years of freelance writing, I’m still learning how to be with that feeling. I’m still learning that in the place called “between” there might be other actions that would be even more fruitful or helpful to me. What if I lived into understanding that “between” is itself a place—a place to rest, walk the dogs more, relax, read… a place to renew myself and my energies without being afraid. What if I could use “between” not as a place of panic but a place of self-care?
What I’ve learned is that grief can be a place of “between” too.
Mourning is a transitional time between what’s gone before and what is yet to come. It is a difficult time in which many people wonder if they are doing it right. Or why it is taking soooo long. Or why they can’t seem to “get over it. During a time of loss and transition is easy to be judgmental and self-critical In the “between” of loss, it can feel as if there is some problem to “solve” and perhaps carry with it a sense of urgency about hurrying through the difficult feelings and discomfort.
It doesn’t help that our culture expects of us a quick recovery! All that pressure during the time of “between” can leave little room for creative exploration. For living into the questions, for considering the future with curiosity rather than trying to solve it all as a problem.
What would it be like if we could see mourning as a process; as “being somewhere… between?” If “between” is the place then perhaps there are very real things to do while you are there. Things like:
Living deeply into the varied feelings that come after a significant loss.
Recognizing that something has changed forever.
Resting in all that is right now—changed and new all at once.
Sitting with feelings; sorrow, regret, anger, relief, sadness… whatever they may be without judgement. Instead noticing that they are part of the place called “between.”
Releasing the effort of trying to “fix” the feelings in favor of being with them as companions to the process of becoming whatever may be next.
Being curious without judgment or self-recrimination.
Honoring that you are actually “somewhere” and that this somewhere is the place called “between.”