Coping With The In-Between

In a heartbreaking scene in the film, Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie Mercury, played so beautifully by Rami Malek, speaks of needing distractions from them:

The in-between moments, I suppose. I find them intolerable. All of the darkness you thought you left behind comes creeping back in.

Ah, yes, the in-between: that grey and murky place you find yourself in when you aren’t quite sure of yourself or what to do next. This time of year (January-March) is definitely one of the most in-betweenish periods of them all, spinning you around in a fight to keep treading water in between waves of illnesses, severe weather, and holiday Mondays. Christmas has come and gone, the weather is dark and cold (depending on where you live, of course), and you feel kind of lost, like, “Now how can I make it until spring?” Frankly, life is one long series of in-betweens punctuated with intense moments. Growing up, you’re stuck waiting to be old enough, tall enough, mature enough. You finally become a grownup and find that what awaits you is more waiting . . . To meet the right person, find the right job, make enough money, and at some point, you begin to realize that John Lennon had it spot on when he sang, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Laughing our way through one of many in-betweens.

Laughing our way through one of many in-betweens.

Motherhood is full of in-betweens. There’s the huge moment when you find out you’re expecting. You plan, plan, plan, take your vitamins, go to all the appointments, plan some more, research and register for all the gear, and then wait. Finally, the baby arrives. And it’s the most intense and sleep-deprived time of your life. You promptly become overwhelmed with decisions and tasks you never imagined would be so taxing. Your new life is thrust upon you, and you try to keep up with the demands. You kind of get the hang of feeding, figure out how to swaddle, determine which diapers work best, avoid thinking about how expensive kids are, and work out a sort-of team schedule with your partner so you both can get a little sleep. You soon realize that there is no point where you completely feel like you’ve mastered this new skillset, precisely because it is ALWAYS CHANGING. New developmental milestones to look out for, appointments to book, challenges to meet, discussions to have, and childproofing purchases to make. It feels like there should be some goal somewhere, but the only thing you can come up with is SURVIVE. That’s how I looked at the first year, for sure. Waves of change kept crashing on the shore, and as I struggled to stay afloat, I decided that I had to just take one day at a time and find joy (or at least contentment and gratitude) in the present. When you are feeling anxious, discouraged, and stuck in the in-betweens, give the following tips a go:

  • Focus on what’s good about the in-between.

There are definite perks to having one big moment all wrapped up. Revel in how fun, exciting, rewarding, fulfilling, etc. this moment/project/occasion/event was. Treat yourself with a reward for getting through it. Look at photos of the experience and allow yourself to fully embrace the joy of it. Be mindful of both the recent excitement and the here and now. Use all your senses to reflect on what was special about it and how the present moment is just as special even if it isn’t as dramatic or intense. Take some time to notice what you love about your every day life and the right-this-very-second, your home or whatever your current surroundings may be, the solitude. What do you smell, hear, and see around you? Is your environment cozy and warm? Would it feel better to have a soft blanket wrapped around you and fuzzy socks on your feet? Simple pleasures are best appreciated during the in-between.

  • Enjoy the downtime.

For me, the in-between is where it’s at.

For me, the in-between is where it’s at.

Turn the FOMO into JOMO. Since becoming a mother, I have really developed a major appreciation for the experiences I would have referred to in my younger days as boring. Routines are MY JAM. I adore schedules and knowing what to expect (yes, I do realize I have no control and that part of being a parent means being ready to answer the phone at any second so the school nurse can tell you your child has a fever or is vomiting and needs to be picked up right now, dashing all your hopes and dreams of accomplishing anything). The structure of waking up early, getting my kid off to school, exercising, working, going to pick up my kid from school, homework time, making dinner, getting kid bathed and into bed, and (finally) watching TV or having quiet time with my husband brings me incredible joy. Sure, I love hanging out with my family on the weekends, but I confess, as Sunday afternoon rolls around, I work very hard to hide the giddy anticipation I feel as we approach yet another regular old Monday when everyone gets back to “normal.”

  • Use the in-between to plan your next big thing.

Last family trip to the Great Smoky Mountains

Last family trip to the Great Smoky Mountains

Chances are, during the stressful time you were just in, you thought of a million things you’d do differently next time, if you had more time, if you had more money, etc. Make a list of how you envision the next go ‘round. Or where you’d like to go on vacation next year/season/whatever. My husband and I have a little ritual that we do when we’re on a trip. As the end of our getaway together draws near, we start dreaming of the next. We talk about whether we want it to be a family trip that includes our son, a grown-ups only vacation with friends, or sometimes if the budget doesn’t allow planning another vacation for awhile, it might be a date night to see a movie that’s coming out soon. Having something to look forward to can be super effective at helping ease that weird in-between time.

  • Get sh*t done while you’re in the in-between.

Sometimes you just wait it out.

Sometimes you just wait it out.

Start a list of Things To Do While In Between. It could be recipes you’ve wanted to try, local shops you’ve been meaning to check out, topics you want to research, home projects you’ve wanted to start, TED Talk by that smart chick you heard about, or any of the stuff that just somehow you never get around to. When you find yourself feeling like you don’t know what to do with yourself, pull out this list and see if you feel like taking steps towards crossing any off. If not, that’s fine, too. Take a nap instead!

  • When all else fails, simply breathe and be grateful.

Write about what makes you happy, three things you’re grateful for, or the people who make you smile most. Give your pet some pats on the head. Kiss your partner. Hug your kid(s). Hug yourself. Use the in-between for a little no-cost high-impact loving kindness.

If you are a new mom in the Wake Forest, NC, area and would like some professional support or are wondering if you may be suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety, click here to send me a secure message. Virtual sessions are also available for NC residents.

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