How to Sit in the Discomfort of ‘the Middle’ – Khaosongkum

How to Sit in the Discomfort of ‘the Middle’

A woman with a fedora and white outfit crouched low outside at the beach

I’ll be honest. It’s hard to write about the middle space when you’re in the white hot center of it. I can’t see the shore I left and the one I’m reaching for is still unknown.

A friend helped me find the name for this the other day. It’s called liminality—the tension between the no longer existent and the not yet existent. That’s it. That’s the tension causing the ache right below my breast bone. It’s a longing to know that I’ll get to the other side of this and that there will be somewhere different than where I am right now.

It’s a longing to know that I’ll get to the other side of this and that there will be somewhere different than where I am right now.

I always want to make it make sense. Like, right now. It’s a clumsy discipline to let the story of my days linger on the page without neat punctuation. I want to rip the pages out of the bind when the narrative grows messy, mundane and uncontrolled.

I stir things up in my mind, asking the same recursive questions: Why? When? How? Where? The answer back is almost always a question: What if the invitation written in the discomfort is to abide here?

Willing my way out of the discomfort of the unknown doesn’t protect me against reality. It only puts me at war with it. I’m tossed around by my unreliable feelings and run ragged with worry and languish. And the result? I’m not one inch closer to the certainty I’m hunting for.

Let me be OK with sitting in the discomfort of the between spaces and taking hold of the joy and meaningfulness threaded throughout life even in the liminality. That’s my prayer. Let me take in, be challenged, heal and enjoy the depths here.

Let me take in, be challenged, heal and enjoy the depths here.

Maybe the shallows near the shore aren’t for me. Maybe I was meant for the deep. Maybe it’s what’s meant for you too? We can be in the middle together, treading in the wonder, mystery and sacredness of it all—learning to trust the gentle sway of the sea as we’re afloat between unknown shores.

I’m believing this for us: The unknown is sacred, tender ground for our becoming. We can reject the inner critic that keeps telling us we’re stuck. This place only becomes stagnant when we do.

Author and priest Richard Rohr explains liminality as the place where all transformation takes place. He wrote, “The threshold is a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible. It’s the realm where God can best get at us because our false certitudes are finally out of the way.”

So I will be. It’s by faith that I can remain right here and hang on hoping that there is something meant for my good, not out there, but here. Here. It’s here in the tension that the simple and the sacramental brush against each other in the most unexpected ways, both refining and softening. What an actual miracle that with an inhale we are steadied and with an exhale we are softened.

The unknown is sacred, tender ground for our becoming.

If the rhythmic question thumping through my body is “What if this is it?” I think the answer is “Yes. Yes, it is.” Right here in the middle, life is happening. It’s hard, intimate work to abide, but I want to be woven into the interior fabric of my life. I want to know how to just be well because I’ll miss it if I’m not careful. I don’t want to wait, rush it away, hoard all my joy for another season and place all my bets on a better one. This is it. These precious, ordinary days.

I just want to be good at relishing the unremarkable and do my best at just being in the beautiful tension. Even though I can’t see where I came from and I don’t know where I’ll land, I don’t think I’m lost. In this threshold, I’m becoming.

Is there an area of your life where you feel like you are “in the middle”? How have you learned how to “just be well” in the middle place?

Image via Janessa Spina Higgins

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