I am living in the in-between.
It feels like I am always in limbo, never quite arriving. Like this isn’t my ‘real life’ – it hasn’t started yet. I’m just going through the motions until it does.
I bet a lot of mothers with small children feel this way.
I’m so sleep-deprived that I find it hard to make each day count. I always have the best intentions, but when I wake I simply whisper to myself, not today.
I find myself always looking forward: when B sleeps through the night, then I’ll do this. When he’s a little older, when he can play more by himself, when he actually enjoys doing things like going to the museum or the zoo, then that will be great.
But for now, we are here.
I find myself thinking if only: if only B slept well, I could achieve so much more. I could bake more, clean more, write more, garden more (or at all), journal more, paint more, make love more, read more, smile more, laugh more.
But he doesn’t sleep well – if only.
And when I’m not thinking those things, I find myself looking backward: what did I do with all that spare time? How did I not manage to write whole novels and build empires with all that sleep? Where was I putting my attention?
But right now, I’m here.
I’m in a weird time warp. It’s a place where time stands still – when B is teething, or won’t sleep, or won’t stop crying; and a place where time speeds up – when B is laughing and playing, when I go to put his jumper on and realise he’s grown so much, when I notice he looks like a little boy, no longer a baby… when did that happen?
This is the in-between. The early years, the not grown-up yet but not a baby.
And every time I find myself looking forward, thinking what-if, or trying to recall my past, I have to remind myself I am missing it.
Thinking of this space as the in-between (which is exactly what it feels like) is a dangerous illusion. Because that suggests that there’s a destination we will one day arrive at. And that’s just not true – it’s never, ever true. Life doesn’t work that way at all, but our mind always tricks us into thinking that it does. It tells us when: when we get the husband, when we lose the weight, when we move house, when we get published, when this or that – as if right now doesn’t count. What counts is when.
But there is no when – or rather, when that when arrives, a new when beckons. Suddenly, the thing that was supposed to be the destination is just another step on the way to a new destination. And on and on. But the destination never comes.
At the risk of sounding morbid, I guess the real destination is death. And let’s face it, we don’t want to be heading there anytime fast. Everything else is just journey – everything else is the in-between. It’s all the in-between.
And we’re all missing it – most of us are, anyway. We’re waiting for the next thing: waiting for the weekend, waiting for the vacation, waiting to get married, to get promoted, to feel happy – or in my case, to get some sleep and some of my independence back.
I have to keep reminding myself to stop waiting. Stop thinking about how things will be better when B sleeps through the night, when he’s older, when I have more time to write.
One day I will look back and wish I’d been here, now.
Because this is it, now. I need to pay attention and stop wishing it away. This is life, right now. Life is the in-between.