There’s a space between chapters in life that can be difficult to accept. It’s a transition time. What some refer to as “liminal space”. It’s when you know what “has been” is ending. But you’re not yet sure what’s to come.
Sometimes we’re happy to have a chapter in our life close. Especially if it’s been a challenging or frustrating time. Other times it’s not so easy to let go of what was. Particularly, if we can’t see what’s up ahead.
The reality is that transitions are an inevitable part of life. Circumstances are always changing. Nothing stays the same.
Nothing stays the same
So what do we do with this? How do we navigate these times in our lives in a way that is healthy and hopeful and open to growth?
I believe the answer is we have to immerse ourselves fully in the place of uncertainty. We have to feel it completely. The fear, the sorrow, the anticipation, the hope. We have to make space for grace.
My oldest son left for college this past fall. I knew it was coming. He made it through four years of high school, took all the college tests, filled out the applications, selected his roommates and housing, yadda, yadda, yadda.
And he was so ready. He couldn’t wait to get out of high school, move out of the house, leave our tiny community, and venture into the great unknown.
I was ready, too. The high school years had been challenging and I had had enough of it. I was ready for him to be in a new environment. To test his wings. To grow up and into the amazing man I knew he had the potential to be.
But despite all the joy at what the future holds for him, there is an incredible aching for what we’re all leaving behind.
Sometimes we ache for what we’re leaving behind
For the past 19 years, he’s rarely slept a night away from us. Other than a few overnight camp trips, we’ve always been together. We ate meals together, we talked every day. I saw his face and could touch him and know he was o.k.
But now that’s all changed. And not just for a while, but forever. Despite the all too common experience of “boomerang” kids, the reality is that he will likely never live under my roof again for any length of time. Our lives will never again be so intertwined.
And I know that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I know. I get that. It’s healthy, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I know he can’t live with me forever.
But even though I know all these things, it doesn’t really make it any easier. It hurts like hell to let him go.
When he came home for the first time at Thanksgiving it had been eight weeks since he’d been here. And when I looked in his bedroom I saw his suitcase. In the bathroom was his toiletry kit. And it hit me that he’s just visiting. He’s a visitor now. His life is elsewhere.
Of course, this is his home. And wherever I live he can always come home. But it won’t always be his home. He will eventually create his own home. And ours will be a place he visits.
Around the time he was leaving for college there were a lot of Facebook posts about kids heading off to school and the sorrow felt by their mothers. There was a comment from a woman saying something to the effect of, “Send your son off to war and then tell me how hard it is to watch him leave.” Ouch! I can’t even imagine how overwhelmingly difficult that would be and I feel for women who send their children off to war. It would be utterly heartbreaking.
So my initial response was to stop feeling sorry for myself and get over it. It could be so much worse. But the truth is that’s not the healthy response. I used to do that a lot. Pretend everything was o.k. and not really feel my feelings.
It’s not healthy to stuff your feelings
But not feeling your feelings doesn’t make them go away. They just get stuck. In your body. And eventually they have to come out. Often through fits of tears or anger. Or else through physical pain and illness.
The answer isn’t to suck it up. The answer isn’t to count your blessings and move on. As my bestie Donna says, “Sometimes you gotta stick with the ick.”
We have to feel our feelings. Even and especially the hard ones. We have to feel them all the way through so that we can incorporate them into our being. We need to learn what they have to teach us about ourselves and about life. We have to let them make us human so that we can experience the Divine.
Feel your feelings all the way through
In The Other Side of Chaos, Margaret Silf says that transitions are uncomfortable but that, “…it is often precisely those times when we are dislodged and forced to leave our accustomed comfort zones to embrace (or resist!) a new phase of our lives that we really do receive an invitation to begin to set ourselves free.”
The space between chapters is sacred space. It’s the space where earth and heaven meet. Where we come to know ourselves and discover the deeper meaning and purpose in our lives.
Stay there long enough to glimpse the beauty and wonder of what was and what is to come.