When one thing has ended but the next thing has not begun. When you don’t know what’s next. When your life feels like it’s in a holding pattern. When you feel unmoored. When you’ve released one vine as you swing through the jungle, but now you’re hurtling through mid-air, flailing and grasping for the next vine which has yet to appear.
This is the space between “what was” and “what will be.”
This is liminal space.
It’s scary when you’re hurtling. This is often when people reach out for therapy. People tell me they could maybe deal with it if at least they could see the vine ahead. “I know I can’t grab it right now, but if I knew when I would be able to, it would be so much easier to deal with all this hurtling!” Rarely do we get such clarity about our next step. This space between is an inherently stressful part of all life transitions, but throughout many phases and different contexts of life, we find ourselves there in that space. It is unavoidable (though some people certainly spend more time there than others). That’s uncomfortable, but I believe that the dreaded “space between” is actually a golden opportunity. There are some real benefits to this liminal space. Once “what will be” is clear, all other options cease to exist. There is your vine. That one. You will grab it at a precise time and that will be your new “what is.”
To the exclusion of all other possibilities.
While we hurtle through the air, grasping and flailing, as uncomfortable as it may be, can we consider this space between to be an opportunity for nearly endless possibilities? Can we just entertain that thought for a bit, savoring the freedom of this moment? Allowing “what might be”?
As a professional counselor, I know that relaxing into this space is no small feat. The anxiety of the unknown plagues us, and things feel much easier in life when we know what to expect. Except, we never really know what to expect. Nothing is certain. Once we settle the next step we are no longer open to other outcomes, and that carefully-planned next step may never materialize after all.
I am not proposing that we just throw our hands up and passively take what life throws at us. We have some agency, for sure. But while we are hurtling through this space, instead of insisting on grabbing the next available vine to bolster your sense of security, we can consider the other options. Perhaps there are two perfect vines, one just comes along a little later than the other. Perhaps you decide to skip the vine when you notice the tempting trampoline below. Or maybe you hurtle through the air and find yourself swooped up by a mythical phoenix, which could never have happened if you were so determined to grab that first vine. (I’ve taken the metaphors too far, I know)
Instead of agonizing over “What will happen next,” consider asking yourself “What could happen next? Where might I land if I keep flying?”
The space between affords the possibility of possibilities. And it could be better than you could ever imagine.