Sunday, September 19, 2010

Being in-between

Rachel wondered if there was a name for the in-between of seasons. In reading her words, I wondered if we might want names for other in-betweens. I thought of time being a form of alchemy, a process by which this becomes that.

We - and circumstances - can be in transition, which conjures stock shots of locomotives or stoking the engines of fabled steamships. Transition speaks of going. The in-betweens I picture stay in place while they become.

Indian summer describes a brief warming before fall settles in for the duration. Caterpillars come with stages of evolution clearly identified. Humans have the predictable range from infant to old.

But within ages we may move from clueless, sleepy, stuck, wandering or adrift to aware, energized, enlightened, purposeful and vibrant. We may come to our senses, see with new eyes, have our world turned upside down or, suddenly, get it.

We may shed our lethargy for focus, our blocked creativity for words that pour out faster than we can write them. There must be a stage, no matter how brief, before we leave one to enter the other. Canals have locks that raise or lower ships in increments when a waterway goes from one altitude to another. I can see us morphing as we let the water lift or lower us, lock by lock, to the level we seek, then sailing forth, easy and smooth, on the next leg of the voyage already under way.

Standing in line is an in-between. So is being pregnant, though it is a named condition. When we wait for an answer, either one that comes externally or a wise, quiet internal voice that urges us along, we are in-between. Jobs, marriages, homes, vehicles, projects, reading - all are opportunities to be somewhere that is neither here nor there.

Anticipating, hoping, dreading, ignoring, we are held in a place that is just before whatever is next; we have mentally and emotionally left what was before.

I seem to have answered my own question, found something to call that spot that is not this and not that. From now on, I declare myself to be in a fluctuating state of being in-between, for it will always apply to something. I may be found here until further notice.

14 comments:

Kass said...

Oh, the pressing inbetweeness. The sidestuff of life. The flux place between consonance and dissonance. Sometimes the empty spaces are the most beautiful part of music.

Wonderfully thoughtful post and expressed so well!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - Hello, nice to see you here. I've been checking your blog for new postings. Thank you. The more I thought of it, the more time it seems we spend in spaces without names.

grrl + dog said...

In betweens are gateways where magical things happen and all is possible.

That place where there sea meets the sand, the cracks in a tree where a branch leaves the trunk and you can nestle in it.

all possibilities.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I like living in a part of the globe where I can see the transitions between distinct seasons. As it is now, it is no longer summer and now yet fall. The wind rustles leaves but it is warm, the sun sets earlier and gets up later. We will have a definite fall with all the proper colors... but it is not here yet. It gives me a chance to miss the summer that I love so much and accept the cooler weather to come.

Lisa Hoffman said...

How timely. I've been thinking lately that this most recent "in between" has lasted 10 years. May that's not what it is at all. Maybe this is another Train Station and I've already arrived.
As always, you supply delicious Food for Thought.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - I like your description better than my interpretation, which is more of a place to mark time, to wait for something that hasn't arrived. In places of magic, everything is still possible and, beside, it IS magic, whatever awaits.

Robert - That is a way to look at our subtly changing seasons around Los Angeles, where trees cans still be turning at Christmas. In a place where the year's hottest days can - and often do - not show up until October, I do envy climates where there is a true and earlier fall. Two trips to the East Coast in autumn come to mind...my only visit to Boston, birthplace of my grandmother, descending through clouds to see such a different landscape still dotted with rich color; and a drive through the Shenandoah Valley one October, not like anything I'd ever seen.

Lisa - I suppose it is possible to have left the in-between stage and actually arrived without knowing it, I wonder about that myself. Is it our expectations that keep us from seeing "this" as the destination or is it more an intuitive knowing, not a state of dissatisfaction, that says, "not quite yet." But it is true, some of our assignments find us in lonely outposts for much longer than we would wish. Thank you. :-)

Claire Beynon said...

Dear Marylinn

I come here, read your words and sit awhile before returning to my day, my work, the 'stuff of life' that presses or beckons; then I return to listen again. It takes a while for me to get round to leaving a comment... not because there's nothing to say, but rather because there's so much to engage with that I sometimes don't know where to begin. You give us much food for thought - thank you.

Thank you, too, for this thoughtful post. Like you and other readers here, I have also long been fascinated by the in-between spaces. Liminal spaces are potent and charged in ways no other spaces are. They seem to me to be as much about being 'neither here nor there' and in a 'waiting' state as they are about 'present-ness', immersion, concentration, distillation? Perhaps it's in these 'in-between spaces' that we are at our most complete?

When I think of the process a caterpillar must go through before it emerges as a butterfly, I see a liminal space that's as terrible as it is wonderful... In that formless space of extended dark, the caterpillar literally collapses into a smooshed-up pulp so that it can reconfigure the various ingredients of its make-up into its butterfly self. While it's in its smooshed-up state, it contains all the ingredients of both caterpillar and butterfly and yet bears resemblance to neither. Wow. I find that quite mind-blowing! It speaks to me of how essential each stage of our process is and that even when things appear to be a complete mess, something greater and more mysterious is at work?

You have reminded me of a conversation I had with my children years ago when they were all under the age of nine. My youngest asked, 'Mum, how will we know we're a grown up?' A challenging question, I thought! My tendency is to lean towards to process and journey rather than see things in terms of 'end point' or 'ultimate destination.' I think we go through many arrivals, many births and deaths... metaphorically and otherwise? Life as always in motion, shaped perhaps by punctuation marks but not necessarily by full stops... Anyway, I had to come up with something! I explained to my children that I really didn't think there is such a thing as a 'grown-up' but that I preferred to think of us all as 'growing-ups', no matter our age. After all, when is there a time when there isn't more to come, more to learn, more to let go of, more to negotiate, navigate, etc... ?

I'm not sure how relevant this memory is 'here now' other than that it seems to me you've illuminated something really important here. It seems to me you might be saying that by standing fully present in and to life's process - so much of which is 'in-between' - we are in fact 'being'?

(I've gone a bit... hope some of what I'm trying to say makes sense!).

Thank you for the ongoing conversation, Marylinn.
Love, Claire

Marylinn Kelly said...

Claire - Thank you and what you say makes complete sense. From your writing I've been able to see more clearly that the in-betweens are the journey, differing from the arrival and departure destinations. It is really the larger portion of life, isn't it? And I very much believe, since it seems to be my assignment, that life is intended to be far more about being than doing, in the sense of striving or always reaching toward something rather than sitting with our hands in our laps and allowing ourselves moments of contentment.

So many times when I have not seen a way through a particular phase of my own, or a situation, guidance or solutions have arrived and the "mess" becomes something altogether different. Are we, perhaps, caterpillars who do not cocoon to undergo our metamorphosis, performing that feat out in the open...or is ours so much more an internal transformation that it is, in fact, shrouded, cloaked, out of sight?

I have come to view whatever I post as the starting point, for our conversations provide such a vast expansion of the original premise, and the more voices, the better.

We are, I sense, all venturing deeper into the great mystery and any way in which we can provide illumination for each other is a great gift.

RachelVB said...

It seems as life is one big in-between. We are always in front of something and behind something. Events, emotions, bad weather, good weather. Tuesdays looking to Fridays. It's got me wondering if we ever live in the "present"? If it's possible for people to live this way? Seconds keeps trailing off and we're always moving forward even if literally we are sitting in an office waiting for the sun to come up.
But there is nothing we can do but get stuck in the waves and hopefully learn how to ride a few of them.
xo
Rachel

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - I think you have touched on the truth - it is all one big in-between. This may not strike you as apropos of anything, but I have been rereading the essays in Thomas Moore's ORIGINAL SELF. He speaks of an odd aspect of the soul's progress, that being it is created more by loss than by gain. "One doesn't understand, and life increases." To me, it tells us that the unfilled spaces, moments, have the richest content. We need to be taken from...some neglect in our defenses..." He reassures me that confusion is a sort of Divine state.

RachelVB said...

wow. I'll have to read that. It sounds really interesting. thanks! I'll have to wrap my brain around the idea that confusion is divinity. It feels at odds with itself. I've always thought of divinity as a sort of calm.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - I've read ORIGINAL SELF a few times, only this go-round it seems to say different things than it did before. In my least dithering moments, I believe that ALL is Divinity, so why not confusion. It is such a human state, we are all confronted with it, sometimes seemingly without end. In the sense I speak of, I would say Divinity is what connects us all, not only in calm and bliss but in all our other various conditions. Its presence in unwelcome times may make them more bearable...things going awry would then not be a mistake. This is what I think in my best moments.

RachelVB said...

I love the idea of divinity connecting us all. It's not a state we must work toward like enlightenment, but a state that already is just by us being. We are all in different states of divinity - confusion, anger, happiness, calm. It seems it is our gift then to seek out those in opposite states and hold or be held.
The importance of love and friendship and support for we are all in different states and similar states together.
Thank you, Marylinn.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - You are welcome. I, too, see our transcendence, our connections, as gifts and not something for which we must strive. Even for those who choose not to acknowledge it, we are all in this together. xo