There comes a point in every journey of faith when we have to be willing to release the need to see land. The place you're leaving and the place that so far exists only in your heart and mind.
There is nothing so delicious as the early stages of a journey. The excitement, the inspiration, the spirit of adventure and hope. You pack your bags, tell your friends, get the bank loan, get married, stop using birth control, get accepted into the program, quit the job, get the investor, get the ticket, get into the boat. There are parties. Your hopeful energy is infectious. Friends and family couldn't be happier for you. They wave to you from the shore and your heart soars as you wave back and then turn to look ahead towards your new, replete with possibility, life. Then a mile or so in the rain clouds start to gather, you run out of food, and the memory of all of those words of encouragement and the celebration of your courage start to become twisted in your mind. Were they just being kind? What were they really thinking? What was I thinking? Oh my God I'm not brave, I'm an idiot!
So here's the rub. This is the very best part of the journey. You know that point when you're making spaghetti sauce and it turns from being a slightly tart, flavourless, overly tomatoey soup and turns into a rich, sweet, mellow taste sensation. The in-between is the moment just before that happens. Only when you're making sauce you don't think, holy crap, what was I thinking? This is never going to work. Whatever got into me to start cooking this thing? No. You think maybe more salt, a little wine, or maybe just more time. I'll let it simmer. It'll get there. Or it won't and we'll order pizza.
If we could only bring the same trust into the in-between of our more terrifying journeys. Maybe more faith, a little encouragement from someone who's been through the same thing, or maybe just more time. I'll get there. And if I don't, I'll get somewhere else. Either way. I'm not going to die at sea.
I by no means wish to diminish the very real feelings of despair that can arise during this dark night of the soul. I mean only to say that that is all it is. A dark night or a new uncharted terrain. It's not the result of having made a mistake. It is usually the result of having become willing to make a change. And now you must face the reasons square in the face why you were previously too afraid to make this change. Now here come the feelings, beliefs and doubts that wouldn't let you even consider getting in the boat, never mind leaving dry land. And they feel as real and as true as if they were being delivered by the Oracle herself. Your job is to stay in the boat and not turn around, and to find whatever it is that will enable you to do that. Often it begins with the feeling that while you may be afraid to sail into the unknown, the known has become too unbearable to return to. It's enough.
And it's a strange thing, that usually the moment you reach that point of unconditional willingness to go forward, land appears. Not as a reward, but as confirmation that we never set sail for no good reason. We can trust ourselves and our impulses. Even if we don't end up exactly where we thought we were going, where we end up is usually better. We just needed a beginning to get us into the boat. We don't set out on journeys that we don't need to go on. There's always a point. We can trust that. The in-between would have you believe that there is not, was never, will never be a point other than to prove that you cannot trust yourself or that you are a fool.
The golden nugget in the in-between is the knowledge that winding up with a trophy when you reach the other side is really not the point. The real treasures are to be found in the in-between, where you meet yourself, and you discover your character and your strength. When we learn about character in screenwriting we talk about showing it through choices. Our audience discovers who their hero is by watching them make decisions in difficult situations. In nearly every story ever written, the hero at some point will make a choice that defies their worst fear. Usually against seemingly insurmountable odds. The choice says, "I'm now ready for my worst fear to destroy me, but I will no longer run from it." The holy grail on the other side of it is lovely, but it is nothing without that moment. That's why the story ends once the hero has arrived at their new destination. Because we care about the joy of that destination for about 10 seconds. The really satisfying, elevating moment is the victory that comes in the darkness. The victory of blind faith.
When I was 18 years old and just about to take an Au Pair position in Paris, my Granny said something to me which penetrated every molecule of my body. She said, "I would have loved to have seen Paris, but I'm too old to fly now." That's it. Such a seemingly throw away comment. And yet I am filled with gratitude for her words every time I remember them, because they scared me to death. Those words have often been the only wind in my sails when every other reason for my trying for something has seemed wrong or irresponsible or unfounded.
And if I ever find myself coveting someone else's life, circumstances or success, I try to remind myself that nothing that would truly bring me authentic happiness is off limits for me. But am I willing to get in the boat? Or even to ask questions about where to hire a boat? Or am I even willing simply to admit to myself, that while I would very much like to have or do that thing, whatever it is, I am not willing to feel whatever I need to feel and go through whatever I have to go through to have it? No shame in that. Liberating in fact. Because there are times for sailing, and times for just loving what you have and what is. Sometimes just loving where you are is the bravest choice of all.