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Life Lesson: The Tension of the In-Between

20 J00000012UTC 2011

I feel a little empty inside. Christmas is over, presents unwrapped, cookies only crumbs, dogs despondent from the memory of our snowshoe outing. 2012 both beckons to us and looms over us like a giant, frightening promise of good things to come. Here on December 29th we are in-between.

My father, a smart, wise and funny man, is packing up his N.A.S.A. office at Johnson Space Center in Houston today. After 40+ years of working there, he will retire. His retirement and my graduation from Bauman College are simultaneous. As he completes his career as a N.A.S.A. engineer, I begin mine as a Nutrition Consultant.

There is a week or two where Dad and I are in-between, not quite done with what is behind us and excited but not quite solidified about what lies ahead. We each have confidence about past accomplishments and both seek to be meaningful in the future– me with nutrition and healing and him with, well, you’d have to ask him.

Living in the tension of the in-between is a skill I never learned well. It is a gray place of little accomplishment where I have no to-do lists to mark off, no appointments to keep, no classroom or office to sit in, no homework to complete and no grades to inform me how competent I am. Living in the tension of the in-between means that I cannot return to the past, but am not quite ready to enter the future. It is a time to be quiet, for just a moment.

This gray time is usually not acceptable in our culture. It requires saying, “I don’t know,” when someone asks you what you are going to do today. It requires re-learning how to take a walk, how to breathe, how to ask others how they are doing, how to sleep a little longer because you need the rest. The tension in-between results in little accomplishment, few completed projects and not much to say for yourself when someone asks you, “So, what do you have to say for yourself?” This is why we typically do not allow ourselves the time to live in the tension in-between, even if life asks it of us. Having nothing to say for yourself feels slightly uncomfortable at best and downright shameful at worst.

Why do it then? Why stick around in the gray tension of the in-between? What good is it? I’m not sure; only the time itself will tell. We allow it so little that we are not acquainted with its ways. My hunch is that it allows rest, familiarity with self, absorption of things previously learned, time to perceive one’s formerly neglected surroundings, getting one’s bearings so as to know what direction one is headed, taking stock of one’s proverbial pantry to figure out what is missing, re-learning how to breathe and gathering up the gumption needed for the road ahead. Hurtling head-long into the ‘next thing’ without experiencing this gray area and tension-loaded time is not necessarily wise.

This is where I am and this is where I am going to stay. Just for a little while.

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