Have you been there…
suspended in a kind of limbo somewhere between a major ending and your next beginning?
I certainly have. Several uncomfortable journeys there in fact.
Endings are hard enough. By the time you come out the other end, you’re tired and feeling more than a little beat-up.
You’re ready for relief. Ready for something better. And honestly, ready for some certainty.
But instead, you often find an uncomfortable pause. A between-place that can extend much longer than the practical-brain can stand.
It’s not what you were expecting. And you wonder what you might be doing wrong.
Recently I met Ellen
and her story reminded me powerfully about this normal but daunting territory…
Ellen doesn’t dabble.
She dove into law. She did the mountain of schoolwork, passed the bar, and invested all of her effort and talent. Then she entered misery.
Never a wimp, she gave the profession 10 unhappy years of her life (not counting her years of education.) And, like many doomed relationships, she desperately tried to make it work. She changed positions and explored several different legal roles: Public Defender, Prosecutor, and more…
And found misery in every one.
Ellen’s battle to make her profession work took it’s toll. The stress and misery wore at her pride, ate at her self confidence and, eventually, impacted her health.
Finally, with the gut-deep feeling of standing on a cliff edge, she leapt – quitting, and leaving law for good.
More than a Career Change
It took real courage. It took some good therapy. But when she left Ellen knew it was the only way to get her life back. Beyond leaving law, Ellen was leaving behind her way of choosing.
You see, Ellen never loved law; never even liked it. If fact law “went against her grain.” But, at the time, this wasn’t relevant. She didn’t choose the path for herself – she choose law for her father. To prove to him she could do it, and to earn his elusive respect. A longer story… but that’s the heart of it.
Looking back, Ellen sees she chose her career path for reasons she’s long outgrown.
Now, with her leap, she was choosing anew. Choosing to travel her own path.
After the Leap
In any decent fairy tale our heroine would have landed in her right life. In a new job that suited her; delighted her even. Heck, be generous and throw in an amazing new romance as a bonus.
Instead she landed firmly in the neutral zone.
William Bridges, in his landmark book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, uses this term “the Neutral Zone” to label the uncertain time that exists between an ending and a new beginning. I call it the “Time Between-Dreams.”
And between every major ending and any vital new beginning there is always a time Between-Dreams.
Recovering from her leap, Ellen moved to a state far away from family and accepted a job unrelated to law.
It was a beginning, but not THE new beginning she was ready for. The job wasn’t miserable, but it also wasn’t anything special. Certainly not a career love-affair. Just a job.
More than a year has gone by without new clarity. Now, unemployed after leaving her rebound-job and making another move, Ellen is questioning herself. Questioning her value. Even questioning the leap that saved her life.
As clear as she became about what she didn’t want, committed and brave enough for her leap – Ellen still doesn’t have clarity about what she really does want next.
Between-dreams: the past has ended but no clear new beginning has arrived…
4 Affirmations for Your Time Between-Dreams
I’m guessing that you’ve been there. If you’re still reading this it’s likely that you, or someone you love, is currently between-dreams in some important area of life.
Perhaps your leap didn’t involve actually leaving the old lifework – but was more of an “inner ending.” An internal decision that this life/work is no longer enough, along with a clear commitment to find a new path.
Either way, know this: While disorienting and at least a bit scary, the time between-dreams is a gateway to the lifework you want.
From my experience, I offer these 4 affirmations for your journey through this transition:
1. The Time Between-Dreams is Normal and Natural.
Every healthy, natural growth process includes a pause point. Even breathing. Every creative process begins with an incubation stage. Your current lack of clarity is not a lack in you.
2. This Time Between-Dreams is Important.
It is a preparation. Something in you is preparing the creative ground for a bigger vision, and gathering energy for creating a work and life that are more brilliantly YOU.
These big changes happen below the surface – and aren’t easy to measure with your normal ways of assessing progress. While internal, they are essential. And they are changes that you’re thirsty for. (More about this in post #4 in this Series)
3. This Time Between-Dreams is Renewing.
More than rest, this time will lead you to a clearer and deeper sense of purpose. You will come to know your passions and your natural gifts more intimately. And you will commit to them more fully than ever before.
You will emerge from this time more rested, more focused, more ready, alive, and on-fire than at any other time in your life.
4. This time Between-Dreams is Spiritually Rich
Beyond the clarity and vitality your time Between-Dreams will unleash, you will be essentially changed. More yourself. Your relationship with Life and with yourself will have a new ease.
The changes this period brings are highly individual and deeply personal. You may be finding a new level of trust in Life; an increased ability to be fully in the moment; and gaining a new freedom from old anxieties.
As one past client said, after emerging from his transition, “I’m a new person.”
I share these affirmations from my own experience, and from the privilege of working with many, many people who’ve successfully traveled through their own time between-dreams.
You’ll notice the list didn’t include, “It will be easy.” It won’t.
Yet, I’m guessing that your own past transitions support these affirmations – that, in hindsight, they’ve been times of growth. And that they ultimately opened you into positive lifework changes.
In the meantime
be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to see, and to really acknowledge, all your progress.
Pay attention to the internal shifts. To the fresh insight. To the strengthened resolve and clarity about what you don’t want. To how quickly you catch yourself from falling into old and limiting mind-traps.
This time is important. There is a reason you’re here. As a good friend of mine likes to say, “A gift in ugly wrapping paper.”
See this territory with eyes and heart open to what in you is being prepared to shine.
And perhaps, at least for sweet & elusive moments, you’ll catch the feeling that you’re not falling at all – but soaring.
Toward your Brilliant NEXT.