Pandemic rules repeatedly remind me that space is a relative concept. Even when lines have been painted on the floor, to some people six feet apparently looks more like six inches, while to others it appears closer to 60 feet. The measurement is not to blame. Humans seem to have always had a need to define their spaces, and as long as that need has existed, each human being has approached space with his or her unique understanding of what it is, how it should be, and how long they want to stay there.
When I first started this blog, my mental space was very different than it is today. I was stuck in the middle of a transfer from career professional to freelancer, and from one continent to another. I was working from home, with a baby and taking those first daring to steps toward becoming a writer. I was desperate to connect with other people who found themselves in similar situations.
I was incredibly lucky to meet Julie Patton, who could not only empathize, but was willing to take a little risk with me by writing about our experiences trying to find sanity in the spaces between, and stick it online. It felt bold and daring, sharing our thoughts with anyone on the web who would read them. We celebrated each new subscriber (yes, You!) and each new idea that allowed us to vent about something that had been driving us just a little bit crazier than we were to begin with.
However, the space Julie and I created here has begun to feel very small in light of all that has been happening in the world lately. Between pandemics and racially-motivated killings, blatant political corruption, and environmental peril, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm to write about tips to mitigate PTO drama, or how to use that drama to create realistic antagonists.
Recently, nothing that I felt comfortable writing about seemed worth writing. I’ve been considering whether to thank you all for your support and put this time toward some other endeavor. My farewell post is half-written, and as this afternoon I was fairly certain that today was the day it was going online.
As I stood in the shower trying to resign myself to closing out this fun experiment, I realized that my problem isn’t that I’m lacking for things to say. The problem is finding the courage to say the things that I feel need to be said.
I was listening to Unlocking Us with Brene´ Brown earlier, in which she interviews Glennon Doyle on her latest book Untamed. In the interview, Glennon tells the story she uses to open the book, that of a cheetah she and her family saw in a show at a zoo. The cheetah performs for the crowd, gets rewarded and is returned to her enclosure, where her entire demeanor changes. Although the cheetah was born in captivity, there is something wild about the feline form pacing the fence line. It’s as if there is some deep instinct within her that recognizes that there is more to the world than she has ever seen, and she yearns for that space.
Hearing Glennon tell her cheetah metaphor brought two things to mind. The first was the perspective-shifting poem from Leslie Dwight that stopped me in my mental tracks the first time I read it.
Dwight’s poem reflected back to me dozens of conversations I’ve had with friends, family, and even passing acquaintances when the country-wide shut down started in March. It seemed like everyone was talking about how the isolation was a chance for perspective on everything from personal renewal to national dialogue about how we work, how we treat people (both medically and as humans), class disparities, and more.
Yet, as the United States pulls out of its quarantines and alleged “quiet time,” everyone I talk to feels burned out. Closets may or may not have been organized, or other goals achieved, but what everyone seems to agree on is that they are tired of dealing with the emotional stressors that accompanied the lockdown. Many people are also scared and/or confused by the lack of coherent federal leadership for how to proceed from this point.
In other words, the country has entered into a space between and has found it to be deeply unsettling. We are moving from what we have known, imperfect as it was, and no one really knows what to expect. Will it be a return to the lives we lived before? If not, how much will change? And how quickly will the changes come? How quickly will they go?
We are all struggling to find some bearing, afraid of what we may lose in the metamorphosis. As we emerge from our pandemic cocoons, people with a growth mindset see this period as a continued opportunity to learn and improve, not only ourselves but the the world around us. People with a fixed mindset find all of this change extremely upsetting.
Emotions are high. What is right and what is wrong is hotly debated and redefined by every citizen every time they decide whether to put on a mask when they enter the public realm. Change begets change. Maybe it’s the butterfly effect. Maybe its that the atmosphere is already charged, our pumps already primed.
What is certain is that the continued racial injustice that plagues America needs fixing. Peaceful protest is a powerful tool. To assemble peaceably, to speak your mind freely, are rights every citizen should exercise. Like voting. They are rights I hope you all are embracing.
I’ve talked to several people lately who have expressed courageous, thoughtful beliefs for these fraught times. They are whispering their ideas to family and friends. They quietly confirm the system needs repair, and offer solutions for consideration. They acknowledge that the game needs to be changed, and they’ve taken a stab at rewriting the rules. They are cheetahs, scanning the horizon beyond their confines, but their thoughts are inscrutable to all but to the other cheetahs in their pen.
Which brings me to the second thought I had when I heard Glennon relate her cheetah story. I have been one of the cheetahs in the zoo, grateful for the life I have here, one that is “good enough.” I’ve told myself it’s crazy to long for something else, and far too risky to put thoughts out into the social media maelstrom for others to judge. But I’m a cheetah, and I’ll never know how fulfilling being a cheetah can be unless I stretch myself beyond the confines I have built.
I heard several young people speak out to our community at a peaceful protest a few days ago. With great courage, they stood up before friends, family, and total strangers to tell their stories. To share their experiences. To demand change. In so doing, they owned that they are cheetahs, and that they are done with the environment in which society has penned them.
They were daring and bold and inspiring. Tonight I realized that I had the opportunity to try to live up to their examples. So I’m refocusing The Space Between. I want this to be a space to promote the risky, tricky, beautiful process of transformation. I want it to speak to all the spaces we find ourselves between these days.
That might be the space between PTO participation and virtual school parenting. Or it could be the new space we’ve carved out to refresh ourselves in between Zoom meetings. I’m hoping it will also be the space between our current health care system and one that actually serves all who find themselves in the United States. The space between the demand for equal rights and the need for anti-racism. Or the way in which we currently treat new parents and a system that enables new parents to both take care of their families and to work. The space between a President who mocks the people and the system he represents and a new Administration.
Where do you see the greatest need for change? I want to know what issues you’re passionate about. Leave a comment here or on the Facebook site. Let me know if you want to write a guest post. Let’s learn from each other.
I’ve got lots more in mind, but you’ve given me so much of your time already, so I’ll save the rest for another day. But check back soon, and keep an eye on the Facebook page for more ways for us to emerge from this space between, better and smarter and stronger than before.