Living In The In-Between – Lockdown Edition

by | Apr 9, 2020 | featured

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Author, Attorney, Podcaster, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, Blogger, and Creator of the World's Most Successful Breakup Program. For more information about becoming happy, healthy and whole after a breakup, visit Program Resources and join us on the PRIVATE Facebook Group, 

  • Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (Hachette Book Group 2009)
  • Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup (Hachette Book Group 2015)
  • Getting Past Your Past Workbook: The Definitive Workbook to Emotional Healing, Health and Happiness (La Bella Vita Publishing 2012)
  • GPYP Power! Affirmations (La Bella Vita Publishing 2019) 

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My story on YouTube 

Backstory: this was one of the first posts on the blog in 2006 and I made sure it was one of the first ones reposted when the blog was redone last year. I have rerun it many times upon request. 

It’s been 14 years since it first appeared, and it continues to be instructive. When I first wrote this, my husband was alive and well and I was happy and our lives were good. He became ill in 2008 and passed away 11 months later. I refer to the process of caring for him, in his terminal illness, as “The Long Goodbye.”  It was excruciating and traumatizing, but I knew, from having weathered so much before I met him, that I could do it, I could be alone. I would be okay.  It was hard, very hard, to care for him and to be there and make sure he was comfortable and all his needs were met and he felt loved. This was my first priority. 

His hospice nurse said to me, many times, I’ve never seen such love between two people.”   Yes, it was there. Love is an action.  The last words we ever said to each other were, “I love you,” and we had shown it – every single day of our relationship…it was in full bloom and on full display the entire time. (if you want to read the blog I kept during his illness and death, it is HERE.)

But as I cared for him, I knew, deep inside, I was losing the only person who had ever been there for me. The only person to have been in my corner and to have loved me and protected me with all his might. It was a hard truth to face every day while I cared for him and had to let go, bit by crushing bit.

It was excruciating.

Every single day – at least once a day – I would be hit with the truth – that he was leaving me – and I would have to flee the room and go have a cry in a corner. He would call out, even when he could barely talk, “Are you okay, hon?” I would croak out, “Yes, hon, I’ll be right there.”  Wipe my tears and go back to caring for him. Oh my that was SO FNG HARD.  But each day, I would tell myself that this was hard, very hard, but I KNEW how to do this and I WOULD do it, damn it. I would. 

This is a lesson you MUST learn before taking a big step with a partner later on. It’s important to the “picking healthy” process. 

As we enter another week in the pandemic, it’s important to understand how we are learning and growing through forced and voluntary isolation. This is another of the “make peace with the peace” posts. It’s SO important.

We become very strong when we weather storms on our own. Whatever you are doing to stay strong now will serve you very very well in the future.  I hope you find something useful here. Be well. YOU CAN DO THIS!!!

Living in the In-Between

When I was in graduate school, I was changing my life as were many fellow “adult learners” as we night program students were called. To help some of us deal with our new position in life as “students” when most of us worked full time and had kids, we had a required course called “Lifelong Learning.” It was a great course designed to get us comfortable with being students (most of us were in our 30s) and with each other. And it really helped a lot.

One of the inspirational stories likened our situation to a trapeze artist. At some point in a trapeze you are suspended in midair after letting go of the one swing and before you grab hold of the other. That moment of suspension is often what living in uncertainty is like. You’ve already ‘let go’ of something but have not yet grabbed, safely, the new thing. Will you get where you want to go or will be challenges or detours? Will you fall? If you do, will there be a net to catch you? Will you grab the new swing? And if so, will you understand the triumph?

When I first started this process  I had no faith and no patience. I didn’t know where I was going or if there would be any there when I got there. I had NO idea that any of this worked and if it did work, would it work for me?

I teach what I know and I know this stuff works. It’s worked for me and it’s worked for others. But the uncertainty is a challenge that we all face along the way. This post is for those times.  (Note: April 2020 – this is DEFINITELY one of those times!)


Patience is the Key

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Sometimes we are very impatient with ourselves and our growth. We want answers and we want them now. We want to be over something and we want it now. We want to know why and how and why not and where and how come and we want to know now.

Sometimes these answers don’t exist. Sometimes we’re not ready for the answer. Sometimes we just can’t know. Sometimes it’s not going to make sense in a million years.

Sometimes people places and things confuse us because it is so far from what we would do if the places were reversed.

We see the world as we see ourselves. If we think we are logical and kind, we cannot fathom illogical or cruel. It is hard to get there from here. We want others to act as we would, to be what we are, to treat us as we would treat them.

Many times we say “I don’t get it, I would never do that to someone.” or “How could a person do that?”

Then there is the uncertainty of who we are turning into with all this learning. Where are we going? Who am I? Who will I be? We thought we were being nice and loving and then we are being told we were being stupid or codependent. Can we have boundaries? What will they look like? Will people NOT like us? How will we deal with that? Our type didn’t work but who is our type now?

We can’t do the old and we don’t know the new. We are uncertain and we want answers NOW!! We need to be okay living in uncertainty. Living in our uncertainty about ourselves and about others.

I’ve written on here about how I used to ride a bicycle 15-25 miles every Sunday morning. I remember it fondly, but I was not fond of it at the time. I specifically remember watching planes take off at the airport and thinking that everyone was going somewhere with someone but me.

I was achingly lonely.

I had no idea that a little more than 7 years later I would be on a plane going to the Amalfi Coast with the love of my life. No one gave me a crystal ball.  Life is unhelpful that way. 

The Future is Blank and That’s a Good Thing

I did not know that then. I had NO idea what the future held. I only knew I was horrifically lonely and empty. It felt sad and horrible.

I lived in Warwick, Rhode Island and lived in a lovely suburban neighborhood near the airport.

On Sunday, I rode out of my neighborhood and went through the neighborhoods near the airport where the state had bought up all the properties, via eminent domain (sorry, I’m a lawyer!), and let them just sit and rot.  The neighborhoods were eerily quiet and spooky. Even on a lovely spring Sunday morning, there was a creepiness evident despite the singing birds and blooming flowers. It truly was a ghost town. 

The boarded up houses, mostly raised ranches built in the 60s, had overgrown front and backyards. Many times there was evidence of swingsets or pools. It was as if some terrible event happend and everyone just up and left. It was so strange. It was desolate.

And I felt like the outsides of the houses matched my insides. Maybe that is why I was so drawn to it and felt as if I had to bike there every single Sunday morning. Yes, I was in good shape – I belonged to two gyms and had this awesome bike (custom fit to me by Schwinn…it was perfect and the bike riding on its own was really enjoyable).

It was this place…this nutty neighborhood – with a sense of foreboding and dread – that I kept riding through. It just had a strange draw to me. I didn’t know why then – I was filling in the blanks. I was – somehow – using this Sunday morning ride – to figure things out…but I had no idea what. Sometimes I was figuring out what I was figuring out. Many times it made absolutely no sense. But the past made less sense. And I had to forget about it and figure out what I was figuring out. Or something. 

I was percolating and I was terribly unclear as to who I was and where I was going. I was getting in good shape but my insides were askew.

My heart. My mind. My personality. Who was I?

Those rides were SO important to who I am today. I had to realize I just had to be me and to learn to like the me that was me and to find help and guidance in the new lessons.

The old ways didn’t work and the new me wasn’t formed yet. At the time I felt so sad. I WAS sad. I was grieving. I wasn’t competent to be in relationships. I was lonely. I didn’t know if anyone would ever love me. But I had to keep the questions to the side. I had no answers and no ability to have answers. Asking questions that have no answers is a bad bad idea. It can drive you nuts.

The answers will come. Things WILL become clear. Sometimes not today and not now. Sometimes we just have to be okay with “I don’t know.” and the fact that maybe we will never know.  Maybe, just maybe, we don’t need to know. 

Learn to Sit and Just “BE”

This is one reason I suggest that people learn to just sit and be. Resist the temptation to look at your phone, the tv, the computer, a book…anything. Learn to detach from the things you have been using to distract you.

That is one reason I did those bike rides. I worked for a large computer company in tech support. I had a computer and the internet in the early 90s, long before anyone else did. I had television and my kids’ Game Boys. And a gazillion books (if you’ve seen my videos, you know I have books).  Before I was in recovery, my nose in a book was my escape from Dysfunction Junction. Now I was actually escaping in real life – not just in my head. 

There were plenty of distractions if I wanted to engage with that. I had to go and ride and be – by myself – with no distractions. It disciplined me in SO MANY ways that is beneficial to me today. I look around – no matter where I am –  and every single person is looking DOWN at some little screen. I’m not one of them. Thank goodness. My head is where my feet are and I learn to sit and be. Just BE.

Make peace with the peace.

Learn to sit and be with you and sit in the discomfort, the not knowing.

Did you sit? Did the world end? No. And it won’t. Be okay with not knowing. Know you are on the way to someplace great. Even if it feels bad or weird or strange. Let it be that way. You are learning and growing. You’re not cooked yet. You’re cooking.  Cook away!

I am so glad there were no cell phones during those bike rides. I was not connected to the world in anyway.  I was alone in that crazy neighborhood trying to see where I fit in. Being distracted would have taken so much from me.

Those rides became the symbol of me trying to make my way in the world, trying to see where I fit. If you do something like workout or go for walks or engage in a hobby that demands concentration, put your phone away.  Sit in the in-between.  See what comes up for you – what thoughts and feelings.  If it’s hard for you, that is all the more reason you need to do it. If it’s hard, it’s long overdue. 

I am so glad I was not distracted during those rides…I honestly think that the “all alone in the world” feeling was one I had to face and be okay with.  Look at the workbook (link below if you don’t have it or go HERE) and read the Observation section. It becomes SO important to your recovery and your ability to ascertain who is good and who is not. It’s SO important. Learn to be okay living in the in-between.

The other swing will be there when you reach for it. Living in the in-between is difficult sometimes, but it is where growth and learning happens.

Embracing uncertainty is hard but sometimes it’s best to just know it doesn’t make sense, isn’t GOING TO make sense, and be okay with that.

Eventually more will be revealed.

You have no idea what the future holds. NONE. You probably cannot even imagine anything as good as it can get.

I know I had no earthly idea that the kind of love that I found in a man existed or that I could be happy both alone and with someone else (one is vital for the other…you must be happy alone to be happy in a relationship). Trust the process and trust your ability to ride out the uncertainty. You can do it.

Copyright Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

All Rights Reserved No Duplication is Allowed Without Explicit Permission of the Author and a Link Back To The Original Content

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