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Living in between
What happens when you feel between chapters?
Do in-between seasons of life exist?
It's more than a year ago now that I moved from tiny Yachats on the Oregon Coast back to the Portland metro area.
My seven-year chapter there ended last spring in a way that felt abrupt and heartbreaking.
My author friendwrote on her Substack last month about the different ways that chapters in our lives can come to an end.
She lays out distinctions that felt incredibly significant to me.
The first way she calls out is when the chapter ending is not your choice.
There’s real grief in a chapter ending without our permission. It feels like someone’s stolen the pen to your story and started writing a chapter that was never in your outline.
She then notes another type: when you see it coming.
Even when we’re aware a chapter change is coming, its arrival stirs up complicated emotions. Someone we love is stepping into a new season of their life and it means the end of something for us. We end a job, a relationship is over, we need to move, a tough decision must be made, we say yes to an exciting opportunity. Whatever the circumstances, the grief and the joy are real.
We honor the complexity of emotions stirring within. May we give space for each of them to feel heard and believed. Transition work is sacred and holy.
For me, the flipping from one chapter to another came with elements of both kinds, but not in ways that I expected.
I started to feel the wind blowing, and I chose to honor and go with it.
But looming over it all were questions like, "What do I get to keep? And what do I have to leave behind?"
I came to discover that nestled deeper in there were more personal thoughts.
"What parts of myself are coming with me? Is there something valuable to me that I have to let go of? What will I find where I'm going? Who will I become in this next chapter?"
And grief can unfold in unexpected ways, both in terms of the reality of the situation and in our experiencing of it.
I thought that I could keep the job that I had.
And it turned out I couldn’t. And on top of that, due to a pattern of unethical behavior that I didn't know about at the time, that was never going to happen.
I had to process both the ending and a betrayal that took hindsight and distance to reveal itself.
That challenged my experience of home in the first place I had ever lived where I felt a sense of community and belonging.
It led me to a dark night of the soul, a fundamental shakeup of how I understood that part of my life experience.
When you're in that place, it can feel like an in-between season.
Your life lacks form, clarity, and definition.
You feel untethered from people and places.
What I've been learning is that, like a novel that flows from one chapter to another, there may be no in-between.
Our life's story has chapters that we don't have the perspective to understand at the time, that can make sense only when we look backward and view them with the context of the chapters that come after.
I'd like to think this is a lesson that I will take with me and remember the next time I find myself in a space that feels in-between.
I might ask myself questions like:
What could this chapter be preparing me for?
What possible paths is this time cutting off for me, in order to redirect my focus to what is meant for me?
What am I learning about what I want, what I don't want, and who I am during this time?
How is this chapter growing me? Who am I becoming?
Can these questions yield immediate answers, when you're living them?
But I know that even awareness of them can be immensely powerful in shaping our perception and experience of the twists, turns, and surprises.
And if our lives are about character development more than they're about plot, perhaps that experience is the point.
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