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  • Mary Beth Covert

When You’re In-Between

Updated: Jan 23, 2019



Have you ever found yourself in an in-between space? A door shut solidly behind, you squint to make out shapes with the leftover light that seeps in from beneath the closed door. Hesitantly, you begin to tiptoe around, on this other side, in the new country… careful not to make too much noise at first.


And after days of so much caution you start to find new routines.


Maybe you take on a new role—the job of watering that patch of ornamental grass that’s mostly brown, but the few green sprigs give you hope that it’s been waiting for you, here in the in-between, both of you in need—saving each other.


You begin bumping into people in this in-between space, some of them are in-between too; you recognize each other by the way that you both treat time. There is an urgency to savor, to neither waste time nor hurry it on. Another good clue is how they interact with those in service roles—do they see their faces, pause to consider their stories? If so, they are likely also in the “now and slow” of the in-between.


Others are not in-between—they are the ones with enviable certainty, on the well-lit superhighway.


In a moment of strength, or maybe weakness, when you long for the certainty you knew before the door closed—you lift yourself over the traffic barrier and push an uncertain foot out onto the road.

The whirling and racing feels good, all that wind and excitement… but rather than moving forward like the others, you’re being spun in place.


You sense that you can’t get back on the highway even if you wanted to. Your legs don’t seem to move that way anymore.


You climb back over the traffic barrier, find a patch of soft moss to sit awhile and watch the highway. Glad for both your years there and this new in-between space.


***


So… after 13 years I packed up my office at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital, logged off and locked the office door for the last time. Thirteen years is a long time to collect an office and a heart full of memories. I didn’t set out to specialize in Veteran care or Military Psychology, but after taking coursework on the psychology of crisis and trauma back in graduate school I was hooked.


I was 27 when I started my residency program at the VA and now a couple of months from 40, I still feel the same excitement when I think about working with the Veterans. It’s of course a huge system and with that there are problems, but the day to day time spent with the people was a total gift. They are a precious diverse group that I am forever grateful to have known.


I continue to get to flex my psychologist muscles in my Private Practice in Brentwood, TN and at Onsite Workshops where I am a contract therapist.


And my two girls, sleeping upstairs…. They are doing well too. We have a first grader this year. She is becoming more and more of a reader and writer, which of course, I love. Our 4-year-old continues to teach me mindfulness. She has such keen eyes, noticing the bubbles in the sink, the leaf that looks like a heart, and the rocks by the creek that must be thrown.


Jeremy has been a total love through cancer. He steadily cared for us—picking up some new skills—he became a pro at caring for my surgery drains after the double mastectomy and he can do both girls’ hair in a pinch. One foot in front of the other, he was a grounding force in all of this.


We found a tiny, diverse, Methodist church amid cancer. It’s been an oasis. God has continued to surprise me too—brought me gifts of assurance that I needed just at the right time, showed me more of the wildness and depths of love.


My health seems to be ok. I had a reconstruction surgery on August 20th. Getting used to my body after cancer is also an in-between space for me. I will take medication that shuts down my estrogen production for the next 5-10 years and go for regular check-ups with my oncologist.


Upon mentioning my health, I have started to intentionally picture myself dipping my toes back down into the pool of life—not a swift current, not the superhighway, but maybe a tidal pool, warmed by the sun and filled with small interesting things if only I go slowly enough to see them.

toes back in the water


Speaking of slowly moving back into life, I was thrilled that my piece entitled, When Joy Feels Scary: 6 Resilience-Building Practices, was published on the Psych Central blog recently.


The article explores Dr. Brene Brown’s (2012) concept of foreboding joy. (Foreboding joy is one of the ways that we try to shield ourselves from the vulnerabilities of life–if we “dress rehearse tragedy” (Brown, 2012) maybe it won’t hurt so much if the worst does happen.


In-between spaces make us more aware of how we help and are helped, love and are loved. I can feel it in my chest, warm and full, when I think about how grateful I am for the community that loved us in cancer. I know more and in new tangible ways how much we need each other.