I live in an in-between place. It’s somewhere in the space separating the life we used to have and the life we are working towards. Josh and I are both students. We rent a small, hundred-year-old house in northern California, with odd sized rooms and a washer and dryer that ended up in the kitchen, probably after one of the several additions to the home long before it was ours. It’s not exactly functional or ideal, but when it comes to an in-between house, we do as Crosby, Stills and Nash advised- and try to love the one we’re with. We have two cars that are long paid off and get the job done. Our lives are busy, busier that I ever thought we could manage, but we do.
It’s funny how we can feel overwhelmed, like we can’t possibly handle any more, and then we do. We stretch and change and accommodate until we can do what we need to. We prioritize, we compromise. Before I went back to school, I tasked myself with things like getting the laundry done daily, making bread from scratch, and keeping the sink empty of dishes. It was good. I did my best. Now, sometimes the dishes rest in the sink so we can do homework, the laundry waits patiently until there’s time to spare, bread comes in loaves from the store. And it’s good, and I do my best. It’s hard to accept and adapt to an in-between place, it can seem overwhelming, it’s more stressful, less predictible.
Some things stay constant, even in the in-between. Because our in-between isn’t our children’s in-between. It’s their childhood. No matter how busy and crammed full our days are, they revolve around our children. Motherhood is my North Star; I may feel lost, tired, worn down, weary, but as long as I am focused on them, I don’t lose direction. That’s one of the perks, I guess, of doing things backwards.
I do my best to forgive myself for the things that don’t get done. Most often, my kitchen floors have seen better days. I haven’t had a real haircut since who-knows-when (usually, when it comes to getting a trim, I sit very still on the bathroom counter while my husband gives me what we call The Josh Hampton Special- a couple inches off the bottom and hoping for the best). My point is, sometimes we have to let a few things go, so we can save our time and energy for more important ones. Babies don’t keep, but messes are patient.
In-between places are interesting because they’re so different for everyone. They can last days or decades, and, in so many ways, we are always occupying some kind of in-between space or another. Maybe it’s between the job you had and the job you want, between being a child and having children, or somewhere in the middle of your first love and finding your soulmate. Even if your only in-between is that you’re somewhere along your journey of being born and dying, you’re here too. It can be difficult not to feel uneasy as we live our lives in various stages of between-ness, but that’s what it is to be alive.
And it’s good. And we do our best.