You are in the in-between if something is no longer, but the next thing has not yet become.
The in-between is a dark place. Sometimes we get there by our own choices. Other times it is handed to us. We are used to something being one way and then it changes. When this change is close to our heart it’s like losing something essential. Something that defined who we were. Something that marks the coming of a new season.
In a recent effort to simplify my life, I’ve started to sift through my belongings. I’ve read old journals and gazed at photos from the past. In some ways it felt like peeking into a past life. Images of people that are no longer in my world. Circles that I no longer circle. Much of the time it’s like a glowing ember of warmth. I can remember the concerts, the dinners, the resting on couches to discuss life’s most important topics. Then as I turn the page or scroll up on my phone I’m back to right now. The in-between.
I’d like to think that when we choose our changes they hurt less. They don’t. We are creatures of habit and we like the reliability of a stable routine. Until those routines don’t work for us anymore.
When we say no; no more; this must go – we mean it. But we can’t escape the severe stab of loss. It’s dizzying and lonely.
I call this time the midnight hour. For weeks and even months it feels like midnight. The darkness makes things blurry. We doubt our eyes and think ill-intention is everywhere. We rehearse. Ask questions. Beg the next step to reveal itself. The midnight hour does not pass quickly. It triples and quadruples in length. It doesn’t care that our feelings are hurt. The midnight hour invites us into the void.
We don’t always choose this path. Sometimes it is handed to us through diagnoses, deaths, and paths unseen. Life is moving on just fine and bam! We have a weird medical symptom, a loss, and new thing that takes over our every thought. It alters how we show up. It rewires what we know to be true and breaks it down piece by piece. It’s disorienting and painful.
The midnight hour is like a well of doubt. Anxiety deepens the space. Hurt makes it darker.
I am not a stranger to the midnight hour. When we are committed to growing we will have these seasons. Even when we know the midnight hour well, the vastness of it never ceases to pull us under.
If you are stuck between what was and what is yet to be, here’s a way through:
1. Go inward. Take this time to know yourself better. When the world seems like it’s swirling past you find a way to slow yourself down. If we’re not careful we’ll hook onto a story that fuels our fears. We’ll start to believe that midnight will last forever. This isn’t true. Take the time to ask good questions. Honor your feelings. Look at your problem with a softer focus. Wonder about how this issue can help you. Instead of being mad at it, ask, “What are you here to teach me?”
2. Go outward. You cannot do this alone. I repeat: you cannot do this alone. You need to go to your people. Ask them to listen to your story. At first you just need someone to hear your story over and over. When the sting begins to lessen you can ask for feedback. You can discuss, “What does this mean? What is my role? How can I hold this gently?” You get to share this story with people that you trust. This connection will be a reminder that dawn will come again.
3. Seek the Wayfinders. During the midnight hour we will do almost anything to receive the map. The get-me-out-of-here-now plan. The answers are everywhere. You will find your way through a random conversation, in a wise Instagram post, a line in a novel. You will get closer to the light through prayer and meditation. You will see things more clearly with the aid of therapists, healers, mentors, and dear friends. Your wayfinders are everywhere. Be open to them. Everything is designed to help you.
This process of simplifying my life has been good in many ways. I’m a bit of a “keeper”. I like to store items that remind me of a previous time. After a while though they stack up and become just another pile of papers that were once important to me. In my decluttering process I found old pay stubs, movie tickets, trinkets, and notes (from decades ago, people!). In this pile of memories, I saw old problems. Jobs that weren’t a good fit. People that were once central to me and eventually moved out of orbit.
In this pile of things from the past I remembered my old midnight hours. I wasn’t sure if I’d make it through some of those midnights. The dark seemed so dark. I remember praying for answers. Wishing for crystal balls. Wanting the map to present itself. When I re-read old notes and looked at photos I was reminded of the intense ache. The anxiety. The distress of not knowing when the long-awaited daylight hours would return.
But I’m here now. So midnight didn’t, in fact, last forever.
I ask you now: what was your midnight hour three midnights ago? When I asked myself this question it felt like my brain had to stretch itself to reconnect to old problems. Problems that I thought would overtake me. Would pull me under. Would undo me and make my life unrecognizable. But now? Now I have to work to remember them.
The midnight hour is a tricky place. It bends shapes and messes with our sense of time. Hours and minutes get mixed up. Darkness has a way of making us forget what lives at its edges. There will be a night that feels like the hour got stuck at 12:00 a.m., but more is yet to be revealed. At the edge of this hour is dawn. Lines will sharpen as the sunlight slips through our shades to brighten the room. Like a slow yawn, we will be released from the grip of night to begin again. A new way always shows itself. It just takes longer than we’d like.
To your midnight or future midnights & to new beginnings.
With Love and Backbone,
P.S. Check out this Chai Talk Podcast, Don’t Bypass Your Anger, to learn more about healing and moving through hard emotions.
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I can remember having a conversation with my cousin about what other people think of us and how it impacts our relationships. He was in a period of transition and had just gotten an edgy haircut. I can remember him lamenting about how people may judge him based on his hair. Quickly, I quipped, “We can’t control people’s perception of us.”
Perception is out of our scope of control. We can do and say all of the right things, but other people’s opinions about us are completely their own. They have their own ideas and stories made up already about who we are, how we behave, and what our intentions are.
Instead of trusting ourselves and living our lives, we tend to hustle for approval from outsiders. We want to seem a certain way rather than be who we are. We’ll say “yes” when we don’t want to and we’ll play the part just so that people like us. We begin settling for likes instead of actually liking the people that we were made to be. If we’re not careful this outer striving for perception will begin to drive a wedge between how we show up and who we truly are.
We all know people that really value what other people think. I’m not talking about taking in feedback from close family and friends, I’m talking about the anonymous-over-there-I-don’t-even-really-know-you-that-well opinion. The push to mold ourselves for the sake of fitting-in or being well-liked by people that haven’t even earned the right to know our story.
Maybe you’re like that. It’s okay if that description fits you. Our DNA wants us to join groups of people for our basic survival. We want to form connections and live in harmony with other people. Just like in junior high we really don’t want to be that girl that just doesn’t fit in. I get it. The idea of not belonging is terrifying. If you’ve ever been on the outside of a group, you know that’s a sad place to be.
So we learn quickly to bend over backwards, walk the line, and do what we’re supposed to do. For the most part this type of thinking works so we get fooled into playing the game. For the end result of acceptance, we’ll go along with just about anything. To do something else would mean that we could risk losing our groups, maybe even our family, and we’d certainly increase the probability that people would have a negative perception of us.
The price of fitting-in seems worth it until we get to the point that we’ve lost touch with who we truly are inside. We have trouble waking up in the morning, we’re constantly irritated, and we feel stuck. Even after combing through our lives we can’t figure out why we feel so off balance. We spin out asking ourselves, “Is it my diet? Maybe I need to work out more? Should I take on more things?” NO. You’ve been hustling for other people’s perception of you. That’s why you’re so stinking tired. There’s nothing wrong with you.
Recently, I had a wise friend tell me, “Perception is everything.” She was trying to help me. I had been spinning my wheels in hopes that I could change certain people’s perception of me. I was explaining myself. I was highlighting evidence and offering reasons for my decisions. I was desperately railing against being misunderstood. This friend gently reminded me that I needed to “let go” of what other people thought. There will never be a victory in the hustle to make people see us differently. Their perception is informing every thought that passes through their mind. As soon as the behavior is witnessed we are categorized, labelled, and filed away.
The truth is that perception is king.
Hhhhmmmm…this may be so, but I have a feeling that there is more to this system. If perception is king then intuition is queen.
How does intuition play into this? Perception is run by the eyes and the brain. We have an experience and our brain tries to make sense of it as quickly as possible. Intuition, however, has more to do with the belly and the heart. Intuition often alerts the body and informs us of some truth even before the mind has time to catch up.
Have you ever been around someone that seemed a certain way, but something felt off? Like the woman who seems to have it all together, but when you’re with her you feel like something isn’t right? Perhaps it seems like something is missing or there’s a mismatch between her appearance and her energy? Yes, of course we can all think of someone who feels off balance even though the perception is the opposite.
Whereas perception judges on external appearance, intuition grounds its knowing on feeling. As humans we are so good at judging. We do it a thousand times a day and we’re often unaware that we’re even doing it. Intuition, though also automatic, gets much less weight than it should because we don’t trust our feelings as much as we trust our thoughts. Intuition is often thought of as a willy-nilly-all-feely process and we’re more likely to doubt it because it originates from a feeling. Perception seems like the sure bet because it’s sort of based on facts like how someone looks or what our previous experiences tell us.
To value our intuition, we need to learn to trust ourselves. In a world that likes to give us an opinion about what we should wear, how much money we should make, and who we should be with we often can’t even hear the inner voice that’s whispering to us. This quiet voice typically can’t compete with the world’s expectations of how our lives should look. We’re so busy hustling that our intuition gets pushed to the back corner of our minds.
But…what if we did things differently? What if we learned to trust ourselves instead of living our lives to please others? What would happen?
Trusting our own feelings when they’re unpopular is hard. Honoring our intuition when the rest of the world is telling us otherwise is excruciating. But when we consider the cost of shrinking ourselves to make other people happy, we realize that it’s not a good buy.
Sometimes our intuition will tell us to let go. Sometimes it will invite us to pay attention. Other times it will lead us to a whole new beginning. Intuition is like an outstretched hand inviting us into the unknown. The equation is: if I trust myself, I will find freedom.
When you invite both the king and queen into your decisions, the more likely you will be to make clear choices. Both systems run automatically, but now you can filter through them and weigh their truths. By trusting ourselves we are better able to determine how to make sense of the experiences we have. Instead of asking ourselves, “What will other people think?” We will begin to ask, “What feels true to me in this moment?” Having trust in ourselves will allow for us to feel grounded instead of flailing about in our hopes to fit-in. This foundation of trust will empower us to belong to the most important person in our lives: ourselves.
Trust yourself. Be free.
With Love & Backbone,
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Let’s jump into a normal day in our lives. We’re doing one thing while thinking about another thing and scrolling through our social media accounts at the same time. Our attention is constantly being pulled in different directions. We’re sort of being dragged through our days in a way that makes everything seem like it needs urgent attention. Look at me right now, Mom! Answer that text immediately! Keep mulling over that weird conversation that you had yesterday. Do all the things NOW!
Yikes! I’m stressed out just by typing all of that out. If you’re feeling overwhelmed regularly stay with me here. We need to look at why we’re so stressed out.
Our culture has become quite immediate. Is your boss looking for you? She can get to you through a simple text and you can respond within minutes. Is your partner wanting to know where you’re at? They just locate you on Find My Friends and boom you’re close enough to the grocery store to grab a dinner ingredient. Is your friend upset? Well you better contact her like yesterday to sort it out. People need you to get with the program, Girl! So get on it or maybe don’t.
Busy has literally reprogrammed our brains. How many of you get a little jolt when your phone buzzes? I do. It’s like I have to see who messaged me…it could be important. What if it’s the kids’ school? Maybe it’s an important reminder. Maybe it’s just noise. I don’t know. What I do know is that my anxiety peaks until I set my eyes on my phone.
An article in the Washington Post by Brigid Schulte reads, “Somewhere around the end of the 20th century, busyness became not just a way of life but a badge of honor. And life, sociologists say, became an exhausting everydayathon. People now tell pollsters that they’re too busy to register to vote, too busy to date, to make friends outside the office, to take a vacation, to sleep, to have sex.” Oh geez, we’ve lost our joy.
We are social creatures so we’re often watching what everyone else is doing. When everyone else is running from thing to thing and scanning their phones during their downtime it seems normal. We’re now confusing relaxing and self-care with numbing out. When we reach for something outside of us to quiet our inner life then we’re numbing. We do this by overworking, drinking, online shopping, and checking-out through social media.
You might be thinking, “What’s the difference between numbing and self-care? I look forward to sipping my glass of wine while I check up on my Instagram friends.” Okay, maybe you do look forward to it. I wonder what your intention is around your routine? Are you looking to connect? Are you able to stay present with your own feelings and the events of your day? If that’s the case then maybe it could be a version of self-care. But I wonder if your thought is, “Today has been so hard! I can’t wait to pour that glass of wine and zone out. It’s my me-time.” If that’s the case then it’s probably numbing.
Self-care is the process of going inward to nurture yourself. It’s consciously slowing down to soothe our systems and acknowledge what’s happening in our lives. When I enter the world of “too busy” my self-care seems incredibly hard. Meditate for 10 minutes? Sure! (Then I open my eyes every minute to see if I’m done yet). Sit outside in silence? Great. (Followed by needing to look at my phone to check that thing or searching for a book or starting the laundry). Can you relate? Doing is the default. Being is both the sweet spot and the challenge.
Though my body sometimes resists slowing down, I always receive the greatest benefits when I fold into the practice. I can’t tell you how many times an amazing idea has come to me after a yoga class. I tend to write blog posts and record podcasts on days that I have no structured schedule to follow. Freedom in my day often leads to increased creativity and openness.
Not to mention that I’m softer and kinder when I slow down. Let’s face it, being busy is not our best look. Frazzled entries and departures, distracted conversations, and half-in relationships are not creating our best lives. Not even close.
So maybe you’re wondering how to get un-busy? Maybe you’ve slowed down and you don’t like the feelings that live there. Yes, it’s hard. But you don’t have to do it perfectly, Love. You can set your own pace in this process of slowing down.
Here are some ideas for you to try:
Put your phone to bed. Yes, seriously. Give it a bedtime. 9 p.m. lights out. We need time to let our brains prepare for beauty sleep.
Plan for 10 minutes of nothing. Hmmmhmmm. Nothing. Just you sitting and breathing. Notice what your eyes see. Listen with your ears. Do nothing but breathe. How do you feel?
When you’re driving see what it’s like to turn off the music/podcast and simply drive. Pay attention to where your mind goes and what starts to bubble up for you. Stay with it.
After dinner go outside and look around. What color is the sky? What is around you? Enjoy it.
Now I want to come to my final point: our relationships. How does busy affect our people? The other night I was trying to create a post for Nice Girl Uprising on Instagram. I wanted to get the words just right. It was sucking all of my attention. My daughter came along and she was all smiles. She wanted to sing songs to me that she had learned in school. I was totally listening while just doing ONE MORE THING on my phone. Ugh! I feel sad just writing that out, but it’s true. One of my very favorite people was trying to connect with me and I was distracted. I was too busy.
We can say it was just that one time, but the truth is that it happens more than we’d like to admit. We’re busy and we’re distracted. Connecting with other people is nearly impossible when we can’t be fully present. I sometimes wonder why we’re living our lives for the people way out there that we can’t see on social media and texts and phone calls. How did those people and activities win out over the very people in our own homes?
Life is already too short, Girls. A life well-lived is defined by memories with our favorite people. We remember the moments that require our attention and energy. If we’re only halfway-in all of the time then that is the legacy that we will leave. If I know you well enough at this point, I know that you want to be fully IN. We are women that want to be engaged with our people and to be mindful of our experiences. The good. The hard. The sweet moments. We want it all. Fully present, paying attention, and wholehearted. Set your phone down and move inward. Connect with your people. Pay attention. We’ve got this.