The in-between spaces are the places where we find what we are looking for, although they aren’t often the places we go to look. Just like the white space on a page, that makes the letters stand out, or the dark night sky that holds the shine and twinkle of the stars, that is where clarity lies. The moments where nothing happens, something is still happening and unfolding with and without our consent. Meeting moments of fear and uncertainty take from and definition once you build a container for them to live in. And in turn this allows them to be contained and not bleed or soak into their surroundings. Without the container to hold them, you can feel rudderless or are captured by those fears, leaving any mastery you may have had in the past, making you feel like an inadequate apprentice. Holding them, somehow, gives you permission to put them down, out of sight, or even on the mantle to be shown off as a trophy, triumphantly conquered. Mostly my experience is, without finding them a canister with a lid, you become subject to them. This week has been full of moments where getting fears and anxieties into place elusive, as in the adage of getting the genie back into the bottle. Sure enough they have been profound, consequential moments, not trivial or insignificant, and finding ways for them to be held has required discipline and a kind of stoicism that sends anxiety packing.
It is in these times over the course of my life I have tapped into the courage of people like Nelson Mandela or Malala or women I know who have left violent homes or fled from war torn countries with little or no possessions into a great unknown. Drawing on their inspiration feels a bit like appropriation, but it does help me with perspective and an appreciation of scale.
I am often privileged to listen into and be dropped into conversations when the fears or anxieties of others has taken hold and is getting in the way of moving forward. I was reflecting on some of the key themes from these kind of conversations this year and identifying some trends. Late this week, I wrote about narcissism on LInkedIn, which with around 7000 views, that must have hit a chord and I wasn’t expecting that! I really knew nothing of this phenomena and hadn’t given it a name until about four years ago. In typical Aussie vernacular I had called “big noting” or ” ego centric” or jokingly the “you’re so vain” phenomena with a nod to the Carly Simon song. In the workplace when I saw it, I dealt with it and moved on. I failed however to notice, and I must truly have been asleep, all the things I did to deal with this kind of behaviour on the home front.
In the work place my actions included removing staff when I had that capacity; avoiding people that were vexatious to the spirit: I cut off supply, not giving them an audience and occasionally I fell for the charm. Closer to home though I did things like complicated ‘work arounds’, excluding information, excusing behaviour, making plans and complex sets of arrangements to avoid fallout and just old fashioned avoidance. I was skilled in these behaviours and had a quiver full of self-talk to accommodate what I was in. I had a checklist of reasons to justify what I saw: a fragile ego, lack of confidence and embarrassment of the other person not being able to meet the grade. In a way that was my arrogance operating too perhaps. I certainly felt constrained, on egg shells and retreated into my own world. I now see I had designed a whole operating system to support me.
It is confronting to realise this in retrospect, and in my own reckoning, I see just how much coercive behaviour I was exposed too, which through my steadfast, irrepressible love galvanised in some kind of metaphoric warrior pose, I didn’t interpret the signs that were clearly there. So many signs … there is enough to fill a few therapeutic diaries … and I missed them all or perhaps more accurately applying the love lens I was using, dismissed them all.
I am still waking up and am I suspect it is improving by ability to listen and ask better questions for those sharing their stories with me to name what is happening to them with more accuracy. Creating that container to work with, as a result of this retrospective work, is generating transferable skills which is helping in all kinds of tricky times of my own and to those who share their stories with me.
There is a place inside all of us we can build for our love to stay in tact, our values to be held tightly and our principles strengthened. This place has been built through the tough times, times when we have had to meet moments beyond ourselves, where we found ourselves in in-between spaces and the dark defined the light, and the shadows and fog faded and clarity arrived.
It is at this time of year I begin thinking about what next year’s blog theme will be and the theme of visible and invisible is emerging. It is resonating already with me about what it means to be transparent, to hide and when both of these have their place in our lives. Meeting moments of fear and remembering I have made a place to hold my fears is perhaps a prelude to the emerging 2022 theme.