The Space Between

May 12, 2014 at 10:37 pm


Late Friday night, a friend was helping me through a mini crisis. Just before we said good-bye, she told me something I didn’t want to believe.

I have known for a long time that a sort of “Anxiety Girl” was in my brain, sending me frequent fear-filled text messages. But my friend suggested that I also have a “Bliss Girl” on the other end of the spectrum, and that swinging between the two wasn’t good for me. I was confused in that moment how Bliss Girl could possibly be a problem… what could be bad about bliss? But we said our good-byes, and I went to bed.

In the morning, I was in the backyard pulling weeds as a sort of distraction from the low-grade anxiety and vulnerability I was feeling. As I worked, some creative ideas began flowing into my mind. The more I thought about those ideas and their potential for awesomeness, the more excited I became. And I noticed something. The excitement of that creative flow had quieted Anxiety Girl, but as soon as she was quiet Bliss Girl came flying out of the closet, ready to flood my system with a slightly different (and certainly more pleasant) cocktail of hormones and nuero-transmitters. I was swinging up quickly, but it felt unsettling even while it felt amazing. Suddenly, I understood what my friend had been trying to tell me the night before. When I’m in that vulnerable state, Bliss Girl can wreak just as much havoc as Anxiety Girl can. As much as I wanted to cling to that pleasant high feeling trying to swing me upward, I knew in that vulnerable moment that it wouldn’t be wise. So, I stepped back from Bliss Girl in that moment. I let go of her coat tails instead of swinging up with her. My friend was right.

That’s when  a line from a Dave Matthew’s song came to mind: the space between.

I couldn’t get hooked into either. I needed to release attachment to both. I needed to find the neutral mind. I needed to find a way to inhabit the space between Anxiety Girl and Bliss Girl.

As I continued pulling weeds, in my mind, I visualized sitting down between them on a bed, taking each of their hands, and having a conversation. I told them that I appreciated what both of them were trying to do for me. I thanked Anxiety Girl for working so hard to try to keep me safe and protect me from pain. I thanked Bliss Girl for working so hard to show me the awesomeness of all of life’s amazing and exciting possibilities. And then I told them we needed to seriously tone things down. I saw, in my mind, that each of them had a dial on her chest. I told Anxiety Girl we were going to turn her down to a level 1–just enough to keep me safe from real danger, but not enough to give me a false sense of insecurity. Then I told Bliss Girl we were going to turn her down to a level 2 (’cause a little bit of extra bliss was OK with me), knowing that I could come back and adjust the dials as necessary at any time. I spent the rest of my weeding time pondering that space between and striving to inhabit it. It wasn’t easy, but it felt so peaceful.

Later, I imagined inhabiting the space between in a new and helpful way. I was walking through the parted Red Sea–walls of water on each side, being held back by forces stronger than I.  Though the pressure coming from both walls of water was clearly immense, I walked quietly and peacefully through the middle, barefoot and serene.  Since then I have drawn on that image repeatedly in moments when thoughts or emotions felt overwhelming. Like Moses parting the waters with his staff, I have imagined the sea parting before me, the pressure pulling away, leaving me the safe and calm space between where nothing can hurt me, where I just have to put one foot in front of the other and walk through it.

Don’t get me wrong. I think bliss is awesome, but I think it’s best enjoyed when there is a thick reserve of feel-good hormones to fall back onto once the bliss subsides. If there’s no cushion, I just crash afterward. I’m working on building up my reserves. (Meditation for the win!) I’m just learning that, when I’m in a vulnerable state, the space between is the safest place for me to be. In that space, I’m not clinging to anything for dear life. In that space, I have released attachment to any particular outcome. In that space, I accept myself and whatever I am experiencing and let go of my agenda. In that space, I’m free.