Please note that this is not a short story and is more of a meandering essay wandering about what it means to live in the moments of life between notable plot points in our own stories as I find myself quietly passing through the routine of day-to-day life.
Recently, I was reading about ma. (It came up in this wonderful piece in The Paris Review by Nina MacLaughlin.) It’s a word and concept in Japan that doesn’t exactly translate. It’s a way to share the meaning of nothingness. I’ll reiterate the point in the essay linked above when I felt I understood ma. The word is made of the characters for door and moon. Ma is the crack that allows moonlight through the door.
At the moment, my life is streaming through that crack in the doorway. I’m not standing firmly on a stepping stone and instead am somewhere in the spaces in between the stones.
Professionally, I’m in a gray area. I’m writing every day–some days better than others–and I’m getting paid to do it. My work is sometimes (often) not good enough for clients. There’s less direction, higher expectations, and the ever present fear of rejection.
“It’s good to be afraid; it’s good to rewrite; it’s good to learn,” I tell myself as I hover in this area that’s not bad, but not good. It’s somewhere in between those two words.
I hope I step on the next professional stone soon. I feel a little unmoored, not certain of what will happen day-to-day in a way that can feel unnerving, but is not entirely unpleasant.
Personally, I’m occupying a similar space that feels like it’s not quite solid just yet.
My life has suddenly lined up all these very grown up things. But it’s hard not to feel like I came late to this adult party. Here I am. Fully grown and suddenly surrounded by the trappings of adulthood: a loving partner, a sweet dog, full-time work, commuter car, starter home, and the consequent loans to go with it all.
I go to bed at the same time every night. I wake up at the same time every morning. I eat oatmeal and drink coffee. Then I go about my day. It’s weirdly, nicely, boringly adult.
But even here in this routine, I feel as though I’m hovering in the spaces in between.
We mostly remodeled our house, but are waiting to save up enough money to continue the work–moving onto bathrooms and then someday tackling a basement known as the “Mouth of Cthulhu.”
It is somehow an airport of an existence. That feeling of waiting compounded by an inability to move far, somehow stripped of freedom while simultaneously having more freedom than moments before. It is both freeing and restricting.
For a few weeks now, I’ve been telling people I’m on a “work vacation.” This may sound like I’m unemployed and not looking for work. That’s not true. I am employed, and I am always looking for freelance work. (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need a copywriter any ol’ time.) But between those two things, I am not stressed…?
It is atypical of my life experience to not be constantly in a state of near panic. I have spent most of my life living with a certain amount of anxiety. So now to suddenly be relieved of that stress it feels as though I am floating.
I do not know how long it will last, so I’m trying to enjoy this luxury of a life where I have the emotional and mental capacity to do things other than work and sleep.
This, too, feels like a space in between. Another crack for light to stream through.
I’m trying to lean into recognizing these moments. It’s weird to feel safe in these “in between” places. This time is emotionally meaningful and impactful just as the stepping stones are too I am learning. By now, most of my “in between” is a quiet calm rest. To be in between so many things and to have the time to contemplate them and what they mean is a privilege few are granted.
I am very lucky to have that time. I’m somehow living a much better life than I ever dared to imagine for myself.
Because I couldn’t ever imagine wanting this life–let alone having it–I can get too caught up in celebrating the milestones or mourning life’s sorrows to notice the joy of living in these spaces in between.
I forget that most of life passes in a similar fashion. In general, I’m moving towards the next step. I am not fully rooted to any step. And when I finally stand solidly there, that step is only a momentary respite before life moves on. Then life again enters a waiting room.
It is in those “in between” moments that most of living happens for most of us. Only now, I am in a place where I can appreciate the stillness and calm of these moments in between the highs and lows of life.
It’s less like sitting in hard chairs under fluorescent lights surrounded by strangers and much more like standing in the sun with family and friends than I thought it would be.
I am learning to embraces these moments in between.
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