The In-Between


I’m late. As usual.



I run to the car, without the time to second guess combining the thick black rimmed glasses with the billowy skirt and the sturdy black boots.  I wonder if my boss questions what happened to that woman who showed up to interview, in the urban chic business attire, the patent leather heels, and the straightened, shiny hair,  which today, piles onto my shoulders, bigger than usual, thanks to the slight bit of damp on this cool spring morning.

It’s spring break week, my work schedule at the mercy of friends willing to take my kids, one house here, another there, phoning in favors that may or may never get repaid, and either way, it won’t matter, because one of the things I’ve learned this year is that true friends don’t keep score.

A mountain of work awaits at my office along with a boss who can be unreasonably demanding. The first few months with him, I’d plow through it, not stopping to eat or chat with co-workers, but lately, I’ve slowed down.  I’ve grown tired of feeling the need to prove myself, to everyone, always.

I don’t love this job.   I don’t like it much on some days.  But when I took it, I knew it would be an in-between job, for an in-between year.  This is a year of transition.  Waiting, reconciling, resolving.  Parenting, selling a house, signing papers.

But life still happens in the in-between, a lot of life, actually, the joy of watching my son bowl his first strike, amusement park trips, winter afternoons at the beach, and dogs we’ve fallen in love with and nursed back to health.  It’s the kind of life that I wouldn’t want to miss due to my restlessness, and besides, I know I can’t charge to over there until I wrap up loose ends here.

In storytelling, the in-between is the pause between the action and the tension of the main character trying to overcome obstacles to propel her closer to her goals.   It’s the lull between the conflicts that the main character faces.

None of us like conflict, yet Aristotle told us that it’s necessary for any good story.

The in-between is the time for the main character to decompress between challenges.

These challenges can be emotionally wrenching, for both the reader and the main character, yet McKee told us that it’s the job of a storyteller to put his characters in situations that evoke emotion.

While I want to push the plot forward, swiftly, like a warrior, I must be patient. I must be willing to look within, work on me, and be true to my character.

According to Lajos Egri, well defined characters will drive the plot themselves, and therefore the foundation of character is the essential catalyst of a well-crafted story.

I remind myself we are the lucky ones, each of us both storyteller and main character in our own hero’s journey, not always in control of the situation, yet the masters of our of our actions.  The best stories start with a world out of balance, and once we accept that, rise to the challenges and be true to ourselves, the outcome is often better than we could have imagined.

As I arrive at work, I think about life, and how I’m trying to face it, with gratitude and with hope and open mindedness, and the willingness to walk that unbalanced road, with clear knowledge that so much of the beauty lies in the mayhem

The chapter may end soon, but it’s not the end of the book.



Have you ever lived in the in-between?  


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The In-Between — 48 Comments

  1. What a perfect timing on this post! That’s exactly what I feel like right now! After the investor pulled out of the company I was working for, everyone was laid off, and so I found myself in between, trying to figure out what to do next. And now I think I am starting to piece it together but its definitely a work in progress and challenging in many different ways, frustrating in others. Good luck on your in between! Those one step forwards are the best feeling!

  2. I have had some huge transitions in the past two years in several areas of my life, including work, and I find that even though we have to sit in that doorway a while sometimes, the other door always does open – and that in between doors, there is a lot of great life to live in the meantime.
    And I wish you the best of luck too. And you are right about those one step forwards – they are the best feeling!

  3. An incredible post Ilene! You have such an amazing style of writing that always leaves me feeling inspired and kind of in awe- gushing fan alert! 🙂
    As someone who’s also living “in-between” at the moment, I can relate to what you’re saying here. It’s a tough road to know that where you are at the moment isn’t where you’re meant to be. But you’re absolutely right; life does go on and we’d be foolish to pretend it doesn’t. I applaud you for doing everything within your power to live that life so that you can begin the next chapter with a clean slate. That takes courage and tenacity, and you have that in spades, my friend. I too am running late for work right now, but I could really care less since I’m late due to reading this fantastic post. Well worth the late clock-in in my opinion. 🙂

  4. Oh the lull! Whenever I read a book I always cherish the lull. Not as easy in real life, though. SO much gets in the way. I like that you chose “gratefulness and openness.” It’s hard to do when real life issues are pressing. But this is what makes a life…..
    I’m going to try to be grateful and open today. And cherish my own lull!

  5. Fantastic. Just fantastic. I often forget that a lot of life does take place in the in-between times. I tend to get too focused on the “next thing” and miss what is happening right before me. I don’t even realize that’s what I’m doing. What a wonderful message (and beautifully written). I just love coming to your site every day! 🙂 –Lisa

  6. What a great way to view life and especially the trials we go through! Where were you eleven years ago?? I could have really used this frame of mind. 🙂 I wonder if you know how powerful this post is in helping people view the conflicts in their lives? It’s that good. I need to share this because had I read this eleven years ago when the **** hit the fan, it might have saved me a lot of being miserable in the “in-between”.

  7. I love the thought that we are the storytellers and heroes of our own stories. Sometimes it takes a lull in the action to make me pause and see what is right in front of me, or I see little sign posts that point me to the next thing that waits around the corner. Love this, Ilene!

  8. In-between is hard for me. I hate waiting. I feel like my children’s whole childhood is a giant in-between. Part of me likes them like this. Part of me is terrified for what my son will become. And part of me is just confused and frustrated.

  9. Oh Ilene… your strength and incredible wisdom exude through your story and your story-telling. I love love love this. The “in between” of “here” and “there”… took my breath away. I believe everyone needs to read this powerful message. And I just love your outlook on your own story. I am sure there are days when you want to just throw the towel in, or at least take the world off your shoulders if only for a minute. And yet, you choose to delight in the moments that matter. And find ways to survive this transition of your journey…with both grace and integrity. You continue to amaze me and inspire me with your strength.

  10. I agree on the perfect timing of this post. I am feeling in between myself…it’s always unsettling. I love how you weave your life in with writing. It’s so soothing to me this morning as I too rush to work, late-ish and not as put together as I want to be. I am scared of the work and the expectations in this transition job….I really want to sit and blog all day. But um, bills, they beckon. Great post.

  11. Yes! I have definitely lived in the in between a few times in my life and it just makes the times when things are a little more smooth and routine that much more enjoyable. It sure does make it rough when you are in the thick of it though.
    Just follow your heart and you’ll come out just fine. This book that you’re writing, the main character is one strong female! 🙂

  12. You’re such a compelling writer.
    And yes, I am in the in-betweens sometimes, maybe always. I can’t tell! And I love what Lisa said about forgetting that a lot of life is happening always, even in the in-betweens and that she tends to miss what is happening in the present. I have that problem a lot. I feel like often I’m waiting for something – the baby learning to crawl, spring to come, etc. and I’m not at all enjoying my immobile but jolly baby and the beauty of the snow. And so many of my jobs I’ve taken with one foot already out the door. I’m really bad at this. I could write my own post in response to this, but you spelled it out so much better.

  13. What a beautiful post. Transitions are so tough, but it’s lovely how you are able to look at this time in your life and recognize it for what it is. Hopefully in a few years, you’ll cherish the moments that meant a lot and helped you grow, and be amazed with the place you entered as a result of that transition time.

  14. Your words are so kind – and you know what? I think you and I are exactly we ARE meant to be – in this in-between time. Whenever we do get “there,” we will be wiser and tougher and with more heart for being “here.” I have so much faith in you, Maribel. You will get to “there.” And in the meantime, enjoy now all you possibly can. I promise to do the same. xo

  15. This is what makes a life, right? The highs, the lows, the challenges, the lulls. I am a bull in every way (and by no coincidence, am a Taurus) get so focused on forging ahead, I just want to sprint. But sometimes, not possible, right? This post was a reminder to myself about all of the good going on right here and right now, despite the bigger picture I’m working toward.
    Enjoy your lull! xo

  16. We are always going to have conflict, right? It can be tough when you’re in the thick of it, but that’s what makes the story good. Sometimes, I look back at other tough moments that I faced and smile, and think to myself, I really kicked butt with that one. It’s a great feeling to do that. If you get a chance, try it yourself today, because I bet you’ve kicked butt more than you give yourself credit for.

  17. I don’t know if I view my in between as much as waiting, more like a year in transition where changes will happen – but some of them more slowly than I’d like.
    But when it comes to kids, different story. But I don’t think we’d be moms without that terror and confusion and frustration, under any circumstances.

  18. I don’t know if there are days I want to throw in the towel, but I would love for someone to wash the towels and other laundry for me on occasion!
    There are so many moments that matter right now, and good things going on – especially with my kids. I never want to miss out on them because I’m too self absorbed in my own stuff to enjoy this time. I read an article recently that discussed how our minds choose to focus in on certain things – out of the 100 things we could focus on, we choose one or two, and in a lot of instances, we will choose the negative. There’s too much good out there for us to do that.

  19. Thank you Christie. I have a friend who, whenever I discuss a situation going on in my life, always reminds me, “It’s your movie.” And she’s absolutely right. It is my movie and yours and the next guys, but we are also lucky enough to be the storytellers as well as the main characters. Despite the not-a-dream-job I have right now, like yours, it does pay my bills – and the good news is that I don’t have to wear those heels and suit that I wore to the interview. The billowy skirt and boots are just fine!
    By the way, I want to sit and blog all day too!

  20. It does make the smooth sailing more enjoyable. But so much of life *is* in that in between, that I have to remind myself to embrace the little moments – as I have said often, those little moments really *are* the big moments, right?
    Your main character is something else too by the way. Have I told in the past 12 hours how much I’ve missed you? xo

  21. Thank you Tamara. I can be the same way – missing what is happening right in front of me because my mind is somewhere else. My favorite yoga teacher says that the greatest gift we can give ourselves is awareness in the now, because it allows us to see the “good stuff” when it’s in front of us. Just what Lisa was talking about.

  22. I really admire how you can be so patient and so aware of your journey. I always want to get to the next step. That in-between is always a killer for me. Thank you, Ilene, for reminding me to appreciate and understand the road I’m on. You always make me think!

  23. Thanks, Jennifer. I think when I can stand back from my own life just a little and look at it like a outsider, I gain clearer perspective. One thing that I have learned is that I can have “tough moments” or even tough years but still be happy. That is probably the most valuable life lesson I’ve ever gained.

  24. Were you in my thoughts this morning? I just felt today like something was different, and I wondered if I’d begun an new phase. Then I realized that I begin a new phase every day. We’re always in transition, and always on the brink of something new.
    I feel different today. My car is clean and my soccer gear organized, but I forgot my badge for work. My desk is messy, but my inbox cleaned out. Am I in between, or have I arrived?
    Love that your blog makes me think so much. It feels like my brain and soul are all pumped up after reading you. You’re kind of a like a teacher to us, you know.

  25. You had me at “…what happened to that woman who showed up to interview…” I too am in a year of transition. I’m always in-between something as I always feel I should be doing better, or bigger, or smaller, or something. Story of my life summed up in this post. Andrea @ visiting from SITS.

  26. I love how you look at every day as the beginning of a new phase. And you’re right. There is always opportunity for “new” all the time, and the more we’re aware of this, the more we live on the brink of new and great things, because awareness allows us to see those great things when they are right in front of us – instead of letting them pass by.
    Your comment about my being a teacher – thank you – honestly, I am just passing on what a lot of great teachers taught me.

  27. I feel like I’ve lived most of my life in the in-between. (This may be a slight exaggeration, but it’s true of at least the last few years.) It’s definitely time to move on to the next chapter.

  28. Luh-ord! I needed to read this today. I have a hard time accepting the in-between. I want to start and see the results, arrive at the destination.

  29. I’m with Jennifer – I totally admire how you are so patient and self-aware of this journey (and then have a way of weaving the words that express it so perfectly). The in-between – such an interesting place to be. Being in-between often makes me feel really uncomfortable – you know, those funky uncomfortable feelings that you just want to fidget out of? But I’ve come to realize that we sometimes have to get comfortable with those funky feelings in order to move on to the next part, right? The hardest part for me is being patient enough to work through that stuff. I just want to rush ahead.

  30. I think the time in-between is also an opportunity to regroup, to see what works, what doesn’t.
    It looks to me like you’re handling it just fine. 🙂

  31. I think sometimes, I have things to work out in the present before I can move in the d=right direction going forward. And when I can stay patient and listen, I instinctually know what the next move will be without trying to force the decision.
    It all comes back to “being like water,” right????

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