I left Calgary on Sunday, a beautiful mid-twenties degree day. I returned four days later to a chilly eight degrees! It’s that time of year. It’s not summer, but it’s not yet winter. In Ontario, where the four seasons tend to be more distinct than in Alberta (where Autumn may only last for a couple of weeks!) the residents also seemed to be in an in-between season. Not summer, but not yet fall. Too cold to swim in beautiful Lake Huron, where our retreat was located, but no sign of leaves changing on the mighty oaks at the resort.
Life can be like that too. We find ourselves in the in-between seasons of our lives.
Likely the first time any of us can remember being in this in-between stage was when we were approaching our teen years. It was an awkward time. We weren’t still children, even though sometimes we could be found playing children’s games, and we didn’t quite fit in with the teenagers; we were overlooked, excluded and perhaps even invisible-seeming to this crowd.
Moving in-between school and ‘adulting’ could be thought of in a similar way. It takes a while for us to get both feet planted in the adult world. For a while we want to straddle both. Leaving the comfort of the school cocoon is not easy and we haven’t yet received the rule book on adulting. In both cases, there is some comfort in us recognizing that we are not the only ones experiencing our discomfort; our un-knowing. Entire classes of students move from elementary school into junior high and high school and from college into the adult world. Society recognizes that these are places where people can get lost and structures are in place to maximize our ease of transition.
There are however, other times in life when we find ourselves in the in-between. Many times we feel completely alone as we try to figure out how to even take a first step into a land that we never asked to, or perhaps never expected to enter.
For instance, parents can feel completely adrift when their young children head into school for the first time. Even more challenging are the years when our older offspring leave the nest and head off for their first adventure; either to university, to a new job, to travel or to live in a new part of the world. Many people in Calgary found themselves in the in-between in the past few years when oil prices dropped and workers lost jobs by the tens of thousands.
In the Southern United States, I’m guessing that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma cave created a huge unwelcome in-between space for the residences of the affected states in the same way the forest fires have in British Columbia and Alberta. The residents in the affected areas aren’t in their old familiar space, but they don’t yet know how to navigate their new space.
In the later years of lives I imagine there is a very difficult in-between when people recognize that they can’t quite manage living completely independently but they are not quite ready to relinquish the independence they treasure for assisted living.
So often when we find ourselves in-between, we experience feelings both of loss and of being lost. The tools that felt so comfortable to us in our previous stage of life, feel awkward and out of date. At times like this, if asked, we would likely reply that we honestly do not have a clue what to do.
As I worked this past week with the team from WRRC, I gained an appreciation and an increased understanding of not only the incredibly important work that this staff does but also of the challenging state of in-between that their clients find themselves in the midst of. These women arrive at this shelter facing a new chapter of their lives, knowing that not only do they not have the physical necessaries to live but believing that they do not even have the tools to turn the first page.
In truth, each of us has much more capacity to navigate the in-between than we may recognize. Even if we give ourselves permission to know 5% of how we could move forward, and then take that first step, possibilities will appear for us that we could never have imagined. This might be a simple a step as an empty nest mother calling an old friend for coffee, or an out-o- work oil worker volunteering one afternoon each week somewhere that has meaning for her.
I saw a monarch butterfly in Ontario on this trip. I imagine that while it was in its cocoon it had no idea how to fly. If it could have thought about it, I’m sure it would have been terrified. I’m picturing that 5% at a time it emerged from the cocoon and developed into a more beautiful insect than it could have ever imagined.
So too is it with us. The in-between is simply a chance for us to rest, perhaps to cocoon for a short while before acknowledging that we do know at least 5% of what we could possible do next on our journey to becoming our next best self.
What in-between are you facing these days?
My inquiry for you this week is, “What 5% step can I take?”
Book a coaching session with Elizabeth to help learn how to take some 5% steps. Elizabeth provides coaching for individuals and for groups. She also facilitates custom workshops for teams, groups and businesses.