“Day two, or whatever that middle space is for your own process, is when you’re ‘in the dark’—the door has closed behind you. You’re too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light.”
—Brené Brown in Rising Strong
Brené Brown, author of Rising Strong, leads three-day workshops that encourage people to dare greatly and accept vulnerability. On Day One, people arrive bright with curiosity and anticipation. Day One is easy.
But not Day Two. Day Two is hard. It’s the time of not knowing.
The middle space is one of doubt and discomfort. Sometimes people want to give up and flee. They want the happy ending, sure, but not if it’s painful or scary.
But you can’t skip Day Two.
“The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.”
Day Two is the space after death or divorce, but before life re-created in a new way. Day Two is the scorching pain of labour before the birth of a child. For some of us, Day Two is Easter Saturday.
During our times in between, when we can’t see the happy ending, we have to remember that wonderful things beyond our wildest imaginings could be around the corner.
It might be messy and difficult, full of grief, doubt, confusion or anger, but we have to go through it without knowing where it’s going.
It’s not fun, but you can’t skip it either. It’s where the magic happens.
Another week without our usual workplaces, casual trips to the store, or gatherings of friends.
Some of us have let go of long-planned vacations.
Some of us are seized with panic about lost income.
We have let go of what is not essential. We are waiting for “normal.”
Our situation reminds me of this beautiful work by Macrina Wiederkehr, a Benedictine sister, author, and lover of the spiritual.
She wrote this poem, which she gave me permission to share, about times when we are stripped down, vulnerable, and “wearing the colors of emptiness.” At those times, we are living out the Sacrament of Waiting, ready for a new, surprising kind of beauty.
Slowly she celebrated the sacrament of letting go.
First she surrendered her green,
then the orange, yellow, and red
finally she let go of her own brown.
Shedding her last leaf
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.
Leaning against the winter sky,
she began her vigil of trust.
Shedding her last leaf,
she watched it journey to the ground.
She stood in silence
wearing the colors of emptiness,
her branches wondering,
How do you give shade with so much gone?
the sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and the sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes
that kept her hope alive.
They helped her to understand that
her dependence and need,
her emptiness, her readiness to receive,
were giving her a new kind of Beauty.
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence,
and celebrated together
the sacrament of waiting.
It’s Pancake Day, a Lenten tradition with roots in the Jewish history of the Christian tradition.
On the day before Passover in observant Jewish homes, the family cleans thoroughly and uses or removes any food that has leaven in it. It’s a symbolic way to let go of old life and embrace the new. Christians morphed this idea into Pancake Day, a time to use up eggs and fats in decadent foods before the deprivation of Lenten fasts began.
Few people I know “give up” anything for Lent anymore.
Some have abandoned organized religion because they see only the harm that it can cause.
Others are still a part of a faith community but don’t “give up” because they see that as punitive instead of inspirational.
Still others don’t “give up” something they love in a way that feels like deprivation or punishment. They examine their lives to find something that is not feeding them mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually, and they give themselves “freedom from” that harmful element.
The minister at my church says Lent is like the time between when a seed is planted and when it sprouts. You know the seed needs to be nourished, but you can’t see any signs of new life yet.
No matter what you believe, this time of year is good for reflection. It’s a time to ponder what you can give yourself freedom from, or what you could take up instead.
Whether you eat pancakes tonight or not,take some time to plant a seed. Nourish it until new life grows.