Learning to live in the tension

Let’s face it, we all encounter times in life that we would rather be doing anything but waiting.  It’s frustrating.  It can be a bit overwhelming and perhaps even scary – that space in between what we’ve known and what we are about to know… the place in between one season of life and the next. The experts classify it as dis-equillibrium.  The state of being in flux, where we are given the opportunity to either stay put where we are or to move forward into unknown territory.  Everyone experiences these times and they say that it’s actually very healthy and a very important part of personal growth.  And I agree.

But what about how to deal with the feelings we have, the emotional roller coaster that persists while we are in this apparently utopian state of chaos?  Because I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t find it an enjoyable place to be. There are days where I cope quite well and then days where I just want to shut the whole world out and have a pity party.
But something deep within me compels me to persist with the journey, to push, to maintain the pace until this tension breaks.
My point of view is fairly simple on this:  growth is vital for survival.  Dis-equillibrium is a natural and significant part of that growth occurring.  Without it, we simply don’t have the opportunity to move forward and mature.  It’s the catalyst that causes the maturity to develop.  And so of course, it makes perfect sense to suggest that we should simply embrace this tension and allow it to run it’s course until we feel that sense of completion, until we feel that we have moved forward and grown in the area that has been in chaos.
That would be the pragmatic approach.
But how do we police our feelings in these difficult times?  They don’t always seem to comply to the rational logic that this is just a part of the journey.  Oh no.  No, they can become all consuming, overwhelming and uncontrollable.  It can even feel like one is loosing one’s mind at times…
Photo by Miriam Miles

Lake Taupo. New Zealand. Photo by Miriam Miles.

A great friend of mine once said to me that I need to learn to live in the space in between the tension.  I need to learn how to ride that wave I suppose.  And my gut feeling is that how we ride that wave is going to look different for each person.  Some pick it up really quick and like they were born to surf the difficult and unruly seas of unknown territory.  Others, perhaps like myself, find themselves obsessed with trying to find a suitable way in which to deal with this time.
You see the state of dis-equillibrium also has it’s downside.  You can end up staying in that state.  And it’s nasty.  I know. I’ve lived there.  Despite our rational thinking trying to convince us that it’s actually all going to be okay, we can become bogged down for weeks, months, even years in the tension which unfortunately, with more time only seems to develop more tension and therefore more doubt, anxiety and stress rather than propelling us toward the result we desire.  Sometimes, this causes us to shrink back into the known territory and cease to mature in that area.  Sometimes we find ourselves unwilling to return to the known yet frozen in the tension due to fear of the future.
So then, what do we do when we find ourselves beginning to do the wander around the merry go round?  Let’s be real:  we all know that ‘I feel like I’ve been here before’ sensation.  Treading the same ground will only compact it and then nothing is going to grow there, that’s for certain.
Perhaps what dis-equillibrium is, is an opportunity for us to embrace what is coming our way and to find a new facet of our character that we didn’t realise was about to be born…
You see, when we are in these times, a particular set of characteristics seem to be developed in the processing time: patience, foresight, wisdom, tolerance, compassion, empathy…the list goes on.  I honestly don’t know if we would really develop these kinds of characteristics without this time of change and so ultimately, despite the challenges of going through it all, I am grateful for the tension because now that I’ve learned how to recognise it and embrace it, I know that what I gain on the other side is well worth the journey.
Lake Taupo, NZ, end of the day, 2010

Sunset, Lake Taupo, NZ. Photo by Miriam Miles

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that there just isn’t one simple method to employ.  Each person is going to handle tension in different ways and each part of life that brings this unique maturing process into our consciousness is going to bring with it it’s own set of challenges that cause us to have to employ unique ways in which to live in the tension in between what once was and what will be.  So really, it’s going to come down to a few simple things:
1. What do I want to gain out of this challenge?
2. What can I learn from this period of time that I will never be able to learn at any other time in my life?
3. How am I going to respond to this tension?
I think that if we can employ some mental activity to questions like these (and by no means is this an exhaustive list, or even the right list for you), perhaps we can bring the timeframes in – make the process quicker by choosing to engage in some cognitive rather than emotional responses that help to sort through the ‘stuff’ that’s going on inside… hopefully reducing the waiting time in between what was and what is coming.
So if you find yourself to be living in a tension let me encourage you – this is not unique to you.  You are one of billions facing this challenge:  you’re not alone.  Know that you don’t need to stay in this place of unknowns. Know that you will come through it and that what you will gain for yourself is priceless.
It’s worth the risk of leaving your comfort zone and stepping into the tension for a while.  It’s worth the discomfort and temporary chaos.  It’s worth the ride.
In love and honour,