I called my husband on my way home one evening to let him know where I was.
“When will you be home,” he asked.
“In about 15 minutes, unless I get lost.”
“You don’t know where you are?”
“Of course I know where I am. I also know where I have to go. It’s the in-between that I’m not sure of.”
The in-between. It means, “situated somewhere between two extremes or recognized categories.”
Recognized categories are easily definable: sick, well, happy, sad, etc. Of course, they don’t have to be emotions. They can be places: home, school or work. They can be events: birth, marriage or death. But whatever they are, they are clearly recognizable. Everyone knows them; there is no misunderstanding or insecurity.
But life isn’t only about the extremes or categories. Life is the in-between and the in-between is messy, a morass of feelings, emotions, insecurities and conflicting personalities that somehow have to be sorted, identified, managed and acknowledged. It’s difficult to figure out and can be interpreted many ways.
We recently celebrated our 20th anniversary. Our wedding day and our anniversary were easy to celebrate. But celebrating 20 years of the in-between—the “who’s going to wash the dishes” and the “how could you say that” and the “what should we do about this”—that’s the hard part and that’s what makes the marriage real.
I remember the days my children were born and the incredible emotions I felt at the time. Happiness at finally seeing them, amazement that I was going to be a mom, wonder that they were actually mine. But what truly makes me a mom is all the in-betweens—worrying about a fever or if I’m making the right decision; talking to them about their problems or their friends or their schoolwork; enforcing the rules and rewarding their special achievements and punishing their bad deeds; waiting up for them to arrive home safely and aching over their perceived slights.
Most of my time is spent in the in-between. It often colors my perspective and makes me wonder why I’m doing something, but it also is necessary for the extremes to exist. Just like you need sadness to appreciate happiness, you need the in-between in order to appreciate the highs and lows of the extremes and to add texture and dimension to life.