A health crisis that stops you in your tracks? Your partner falling in love with someone else? Being fired from your job when you were expecting a promotion? Your landlord giving you notice to leave just before Christmas?
Just when you thought you knew how to 'do life,' everything changes, and you're plunged into the unknown. Sometimes this happens after a conscious decision, like leaving an unrewarding job before lining up a new one. Or finding the courage to leave an abusive relationship with nothing but the clothes on your back. Or buying a plane ticket to India without a plan of what you're going to do when you get there. But more often than not, we're plunged into the unknown kicking and screaming.
In her new book 'The Anatomy of a Calling' Lissa Rankin calls this the 'Space Between Stories'.
In this space, we step out (or are pushed out) of an old 'story', our old way of being, but we haven't yet stepped into our new 'story.' Life as we know it crashes down behind us and we step into the unknown. This step into the unknown is often a defining moment in what Joseph Campbell calls 'The Hero's Journey', but I'll save that for another post (promise!).
As human beings we tend to find the unknown very scary, so the space between stories can be a very uncomfortable place to be indeed.
Lissa Rankin quotes Charles Eisenstein as saying:
"The old world falls apart but the new has not yet emerged. Everything that once seemed permanent and real is revealed as a kind of hallucination. You don't know what to think, what to do, you don't know what anything means anymore. The life trajectory you had plotted out seems absurd, and you can't imagine another one."
The space between stories can be a scary place to be indeed. But it can also be tremendously exciting.
As Eisenstein says in his book 'The More Beautiful World That We Know is Possible':
"There is a kind of grace that protects us in the space between stories. It is not that you won't lose your marriage, your money, your job, or your health. In fact, it's likely that you will lose one of these things. It is that you will discover that even having lost that, you are still okay. You will find yourself in closer contact to something much more precious, something that fires cannot burn and thieves cannot steal, something that no one can take and cannot be lost. We might lose sight of it sometimes, but it is always there waiting for us. This is the resting place we return to when the old story falls apart. Clear of its fog, we can now receive a true vision of the next world, the next story, the next phase of life. From the the marriage of this vision and this emptiness, a great power is born."
I was recently and unexpectedly plunged into my own space between stories. It was scary and exhilarating. Here's what helped me to not only survive this space, but to be wholeheartedly transformed by it.
There's something very powerful about naming what you're going through. Naming the 'Space Between Stories' can help us to make sense of our experience, and to place it in a broader and more compassionate context. Implicit in the phrase 'The Space Between Stories' is not only the reminder that there will be a new story (which can be hard to see when life is feeling out of control) but also an invitation to be present and to gracefully welcome our current experience.
Ride the Rollercoaster
The space between stories can include a roller coaster of emotions. If we resist these emotions, or judge ourselves for having them, we're only going to get stuck in them. Instead we can welcome our emotions, feel them in our body and witness them coming and going. The space between stories is a beautiful opportunity to learn how to surf our emotions, rather than getting dumped by them.
Listen to the wisdom of your body, and give it what it needs. This is more important now than ever. What do you need? A sleep in? A day in bed with a good book? A massage? A walk on the beach? Lunch with friends? A regular yoga practice? Make it a priority.
Sleep is definitely part of nurturing yourself, but it's so important that it deserves a whole section on it's own. I can't highlight this enough.
G e t e n o u g h s l e e p !
Do what ever your need to do to get as much sleep as you need to wake up refreshed in the morning. Trust me on this one. It will make the world of difference. The paradox of course is that the uncertainty of the space between stories can make sleep a challenge for some of us. If that's you, read more about how to get a good night's sleep here.
Ask For Help
Now's the time to call on your family and friends and ask for support. Whether it's emotional, financial or more something more practical like doing the dishes, if someone offers their assistance, them up on their offer! Believe it or not, people actual like to help, they like to feel needed, so don't deprive your friends and family of this opportunity!
In any way that works for you, ask for grace. Residing in the space between stories takes infinite courage. And to stay (relatively) sane during this time, we need to find within us the grace to surrender to life, and to trust not only that we have the inner resources to handle it, but that we will eventually step into the next story. Ask for grace.
Spend time in quiet and stillness. This may be in meditation, walking on the beach, gardening, surfing, swimming laps or lying under a tree in your backyard. There's a tendency during the space between stories to go either into overdrive, making a million plans to step into the next phase of your life. But don't step into the new 'story' reactively and prematurely. Allow yourself the time and space for stillness and quiet contemplation. Reflect gently on your heartfelt desires and watch for and create new opportunities that bring your life in alignment with these.
As challenging as it might be, the space between stories is an beautiful opportunity to re-align your life with your most deepest heartfelt desires. And there lies it's power.
Have you ever found yourself in the space between stories? Are you there now? What has helped you through this time of change and transformation? Leave me a comment below, I'd love to hear about it.
With love and gratitude,