Military Life

What to Do When You’re Stuck in the In-Between

I spent this morning running the well-managed trails that wind through my community. (I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this run, but I set off with the intention of eating an entire bag of Cadbury mini eggs at its conclusion.)

Ideally, my home is a beautiful place to live: mountains line the horizon, the weather is currently temperate, and the neighborhoods are definitely family-friendly and relatively stray-dog-free (which, for runners, is a huge safety benefit).

Here’s a caveat, however: It’s a windy, hilly desert city. Strong, forceful, sneeze-inducing sagebrush winds can blow across the desert plain with enough force to throw trampolines across fences. The hills are non-negotiable, as I, well, live on one. As a lightbulb runner (you know: on-again, off-again), this combination can seem mighty daunting, as it did this morning. Halfway through a seven-mile run, I found myself facing fatigue, thirst, a tiresome opposing wind and a monster hill.

There I was, 3 1/2 miles away from home, slogging up a giant of a hill, my patience wearing mighty thin, the wind making it feel like I was running in place (which I probably was). Unable to see the finish line and tired of running with miles still to go, I felt stuck – stuck in-between the start and the finish with little energy on reserve and my willpower dwindling, waiting for this run to be over.

I was stuck in the in-between.


Have you ever felt in-between?

In-between phases, stages, moves or changes. Playing the waiting game: Waiting for new seasons, new understanding. Ready to grow, ready to be, ready to become. Ready, ready, ready. So darn ready!

But what about when we can’t quite get there? The distance between here and then can seem so far! When patience and persistence and waiting, waiting, waiting drive our everyday actions and thoughts. When we must wait for the time and the seasons to be right, when we have to traverse the mud and weeds and rain and wait, wait, wait for those seeds to grow.

I have felt stuck, waiting. Stuck, far away from where I’d really like to be. Achieving. Accomplishing goals. Dreams. Ambition. Feeling purpose. Movement. Drive. Success. Excelling. Finishing the race, reaching for the stars. Stuck, patience running thin while I try and navigate the hills and the winds and the unexpected forces that often influence (or, sometimes, govern) our choices and decisions.

And, in my eloquent opinion, it can be real suck-town. Movement is necessary but limited; change is inevitable but the progression is minimal; and maintaining is mundane.


We desire to move forward, but futile leaps land us abruptly on dashes, hyphens, ellipses — the punctuation that separates words of direction and purpose. Now we’re stuck walking the length of the dashes, feeling minimally useful. Even worse, trapped in the undermined parentheses: How do we break free of those? Leaps and bounds will have to wait.

And we try, try, try to make the jump in the right direction, the leap to the next sentence, ready to move on with the next decisive action in our lives. Trying to keep up. But we often find that we are unfamiliar with the territory: the trails are steep, the briars are sharp, and we are sometimes lost in the unknown and trapped inside the confines of our own fear, of our own brains.

Stuck. Stuck. Stuck.

But.


In my experiences traversing the in-between, which is a road trip I make often as an educated, ambitious mother of young children, I’ve discovered a little secret.

The in-between is a place not without joy and happiness. It is still so rich and beautiful, full of compassion, of real love and happiness. Saturated with growth and learning, we are constantly braving winds and summiting hills if only for the brief respite of the view from the top.

And while we may feel lost for a time or uncharacteristically lonely, we are not without hope or light. We are trying (albeit feebly at times). We are finding slowly and learning to believe that feeling lost and burdened doesn’t mean failure or an inability to succeed.

Let the in-between teach us patience, discovery, the beauty of slowing down, and the temporary acceptance of life’s circumstances, just like the wise-old tortoise who wins the race.

Being in the in-between doesn’t mean we are broken.

It means we’re learning.

We are becoming.

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