We’re in a situation with this pandemic that is dripping in mystery and we’re all in suspense. What will the world be like on the other side of this? Who will we be? It’s wildly different from anything we’ve experienced in our lifetime because most of the world is in this liminal space at the same time.
But the feeling of being in between what was and what will be is familiar. When have you felt this way before?
For me, being pregnant was a time of being on both sides of a threshold yet not entirely in either one. Mentally, physically, emotionally, I was not who I was before becoming pregnant, and I was also not yet the mother I would become.
I felt similarly when I was recovering from surgery after losing my first pregnancy. There was a space between the surgery and recovery when I knew that my life had changed dramatically, that I would never be the same, and still, I had no idea who this new person would be or how the experience, the grief, and the resilience would shape me.
I also think back to being a coach-in-training and starting to imagine and build my business. I wanted more than anything to be farther down the path — clear, confident, and sure of myself — but I had to be where I was: at the beginning. Professionally, I wasn’t who I had been, and I wasn’t yet who I would become.
For you, it might be something different, the time after a layoff or a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or the hormonal changes of perimenopause.
Of course, you could say this is always true, that we’re always in the process of becoming, and I agree, but there are times when the truth of this feels uncomfortably acute.
Midlife gives us many opportunities to be with this discomfort because it’s full of transitions. Shifts like these, by their nature, are disorienting and disruptive. They change the light, temperature, and texture of the space we’re in until it’s not the same as it was, and there is no clear sense of what it will become.
The unfamiliarity shakes us awake, pulls us out of our daily routines, asks us to take stock with heaps of acceptance, self-compassion, rest, and patience.
Those of us in the second half of life can draw on our experiences of having lived through these periods of uncertainty and discomfort and remind ourselves that they are always a corridor to something new.
Until then we stay with the mystery.