November 1, 2023

A Journal Prompt for Coping with “In-Betweenness.”

“But you know everything will work out just the way it’s meant to.”

Umph. Received like a splash of cold water to the face. I don’t know about you, but when I am in the thick of it, I just don’t find this kind of commentary helpful, comforting, or inspiring.

High on the list with “Everything happens for a reason!” and “There’s plenty more fish in the sea!” there is just something rather irksome about the platitudes that people say when they don’t know what else to say.

And yes, I know the statement is true. I mean, of course, things will work out; they always do. Cognitively, I know this.

But when I’m in that moment? The messy, uncomfortable, I-just-don’t-know-what-the-fork-is-going-on moment, hearing that everything will “work out fine,” I don’t know, it just doesn’t vibe with me.

There is the knowing, and then there is the knowing and embodying that knowing. It’s the latter, I struggle with.

I believe the roots of this stem from themes of a lack of trust, difficulty letting go of control, and a deep needing to know and understand.

I often find myself tormented with ruminating thoughts about the “why.” Why exactly did that happen? And why did it happen like that? Why now? And why am I now reacting like this? Further lines of enquiry continue down philosophical lines. How is this serving me? And what is the lesson here? Why, why, why, why, why?

Business teaches us that if we ask the question “why” five times, you can often trace a problem to its core issue.

But yet when we are still in the midst of the storm, we just can’t see clearly. The “why” just isn’t always apparent. Without an ending to this current story, I find myself unable to find meaning and purpose. It’s the ending of the story that is missing.

As Brené Brown describes:

“The idea that we’re ‘wired for story’ is more than a catchy phrase. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has found that hearing a story—a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end—causes our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin. These chemicals trigger the uniquely human abilities to connect, empathize, and make meaning. Story is literally in our DNA.”

So what do we do when we find ourselves with just a beginning and a middle, without an end?

I recently wrote about how to navigate the grey when we are in the “in-betweenness,” the neither here nor there, the messy middle.

And I want to share as part two, a journal prompt I have found helpful and it’s really very simple.

It goes:

If it wasn’t for….

I wouldn’t have…

While I don’t have an ending to the story now, I previously had a story that I was in the midst of, that although perhaps didn’t make sense at the time, makes a lot of sense now, some years on.

Hindsight brings clarity, and I go back 14 or so years for the stories that weave the clearest web.

If it wasn’t for my gap year in New Zealand, I wouldn’t have met my dear friend Lucia in 2003.

If it wasn’t for meeting Lucia and her ultimately moving countries, Chile wouldn’t have been so high on my travel radar.

If it wasn’t for my catastrophic break up in 2009, I wouldn’t have been so desperate to leave the country that I quit everything to go travel with Lucia in Chile.

If I had never travelled to South America on that road trip with Lucia, I wouldn’t have met two of the most formative relationships of my life—my at-the-time-husband and my now best friend.

If it wasn’t for South America, I would have never ended up spending four years living abroad in the States.

If it weren’t for my time living in the States, I wouldn’t have come across Elephant Journal, which inspired my writing journey.

If I hadn’t eventually returned to the UK after a time living in the States, I wouldn’t have gotten my dog Mia.

I could go on.

Eventually when I trace the timeline forward enough to the present, I get to the moment where it is impossible to complete the sentence.

If I hadn’t….I wouldn’t have…

The last time things made any sense was several years ago. But it’s okay. I remember that with time comes clarity and hindsight. There will be a day where I can complete the sentence. If I hadn’t….I wouldn’t have….

This sentiment brings me comfort. I can’t now, but I will one day. I don’t have a “why” now, but one day I will understand. I don’t have an ending to the story yet, but at some point in the future I will.

So if you, like me, are in the thick of it right now, try the journal prompt. I hope it brings you peace.

We must trust. We must let go of control.

This story, one day, will have its end.


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