Yesterday I drove to Maine to check on the renovations being done at The Inn. It had been a busy week and, as I mentioned yesterday, I had gotten all tangled up in my head and begun acting like a lunatic, so a long drive alone in Gronk* seemed like a good idea.
So, early in the morning, I packed a few things into the car and wound down the driveway and off I went.
Just Gronk and me, and my music playlists (‘Chick Songs’, ‘Wicked Long Rides in Car’, and a crowd favorite, ‘Thanksgiving Pah-ty’).
Oh.. and my brain.
Which never seems to take the hint and shut off at times like these but, in a surprising fit of conformity and chill-ness, decided to take the day off from obsessive noodling about the week before, and just hang out in the moment and pay attention.
And so ‘me’ and ‘it’ became one and the day settled in around us.
It was cold, and it was raining, and sometimes it was raining hard.
And at one point, I noticed that Gronk’s mirrors were covered in ice. Frozen sheets of water, sort of looking like they were being held on by the pressure of the wind alone.
Flashing signs on the Maine Turnpike warned of bad weather, and the need to slow down.
I noted the blah, grey view of pouring rain, and other cars also draped in ice as they drove by or we drove past. But then I noticed the trees.
They were beautiful.
It wasn’t like an ice storm, where all the branches are laden with the heaviness. Drooping toward, or splintering onto the ground.
This was different.
They were magical.
As if they had been dipped in a barely perceivable, super thin layer of sparkling crystals overnight.
And the ground, which had been warmed by seventy-degree days, was greeting the chilled air of the morning with a yawn of mist.
I kept looking down at the dashboard to check the outside temperature.
Right there, on the border.
It was pouring rain, not snow.
By all rights and calendars, it is spring.
Yesterday was an in-between.
Not quite one thing, not quite another.
And I began to think, this is where I am right now too.
I actually said it to JoHn this past weekend, with a mock wHine in my voice.
“Hon…. we’re in an in-between!“
*make sure you say that in your head in a really super poor me voice to get the full effect.
What I meant was that we were feeling all the feelings you feel when you are stuck in-between some of life’s big moments. Where things are shifting and changing beneath your feet, some you might be able to control… but some not.
You end up hanging out with your friend Inertia – who makes you uncomfortable but you don’t want to let her go – pouring her another cup of coffee so she doesn’t leave you alone with yourself and that jerk, Change.
You know those times. They are probably different for all of us, but there are some that are universal.
When it’s time to leave home for the first time (or second or third… depending on launch schedules).
The decision to go from ‘couple’ to husband and wife (or husband and husband or wife and wife or life partners or hey-leave-me-alone-I’m-trying-to-make-a-profound-point-here.)
The decision to go from free-wheeling couple to having children.
The decision to allow those children to live (thus not introducing homicide to the equation), at the moment you realize they are a whole life responsibility…
They are the moments when you can feel the pull of your ‘flight’ instinct because something feels uncomfortably unsettled.
Gabe is getting ready to head off to college… Number 3.5. Last one.
That part isn’t catastrophic.
I mean, we tell him it is, so that he will feel bad for us and appreciate us (It is not working).
We’re actually really excited for him. I mean, we don’t know where he’s going to go at this point because he is seventeen and totally secretive (He might be married for all we know.)
But his heading off to college kicks off a series of events even beyond having a quote-unquote-empty-nest. A move to Maine, a shift in living and priorities and being.
But it’s all not happening right now… but it’s already started happening… but but but… in-between.
This feeling of ‘what’s coming’ is exciting, it is also at once unsettling. And it got me to thinking…
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book What the Dog Saw, tells a story of two financial gurus. The types that quantify stuff (they are actually called ‘Quants’) in rows and columns and charts and graphs with numbers and symbols and stuff, and are often in charge of where to invest millions, if not billions, of many different customers’ dollars (like our 401Ks and savings and stuff).
Gladwell writes about one of them, who depended on analyses of any conceivable situation and outcome, and then made investment decisions, hoping to get big returns for his customers.
And the other guy, who came to believe whole-heartedly that – even with the best PhDs in math and statistics and quantum physics on the planet, literally the best minds in these areas in the world, there is no way to have any certainty (think 9/11). So he had a different strategy, that focused on limiting losses and growing slowly over time. It kind of sounded to me like his investment value system.
The first guy made and lost a number of fortunes during his career, but ultimately ended up ‘blowing up’ (Wall Street speak for losing it all). And the second guy ended up doing well by his clients, and also for himself (not just financially, but in the important life stuff with friends, family, etc.)
But it was hard.
There were times when he was losing money every day for months on end, while the other guy – whom he respected – was sometimes experiencing windfalls every hour of any given day. Sticking to his ‘values’ within the industry meant the second guy had to forgo the enormous pressure of abandoning his own set of beliefs for a more near-term gratification that surely would have him feeling more ‘settled’ at any given time.
This got Gladwell to thinking. So he did some research, he interviewed experts in human behavior, he mooshed together new knowledge and he arrived at something very cool.
As humans, we are not well programmed to wait through uncertainty.
Like, at all.
We are far more geared toward making a decision and going with it even when there is great risk, often screwing ourselves… or others… in the process.
He discovered that even society as a whole often describes those who take these risks – who make certain decisions in the face of uncertainty – as ‘brave’, when in reality the ability to stick with things, to sit with the uncertainty, may be the tougher – and perhaps the braver – thing to do.
Now, Gladwell wasn’t talking about hanging out in an abusive relationship, or truly soul-sucking job (you know if it’s really doing that or not), or other seriously issue-y things.
But he was absolutely pointing out that bailing on our plans or responsibilities or our values or ethics or or or – when things feel uncertain, when the ground is shifting beneath us, when we are in the middle of big things… this is not brave.
In fact, it may be so in our natures as human beings that it is… wait for it…
And as I was driving in the freezing rain that was falling on a new and tender spring landscape, I realized that life’s in-betweens are when we are most likely to leap, willy-nilly away from ourselves, our responsibilities, even our relationships. That’s the opposite of brave, the opposite of heroic.
We all have at least a little bit of trouble sitting with uncertainty.
But, if we can…
If we can hang out with the in-betweens.
Sometimes, like yesterday’s drive to Maine…
There is beauty there.
And sometimes, if we just stay true to who we are, and have some faith…
They lead us to someplace awesome.
Thanks for readin’.
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*Gronk is my new car…. er…. truck. I’ll write about him soon, I’m sure. Because I love him (once again, ‘anthropormorphize, shamphropormorphize’).