The Should's and the Supposed To's
Updated: Nov 3
“This sucks. I hate this. I wanna go home.”
This is what I imagine my pup, Raven, saying to me as we make yet another attempt at walking the country road behind our house. She gets SO nervous on this road, pulling, spinning, panting. There has been more than one occasion when wishful thinking would have procured a flask and provided a nice sip (or seven) of something warm and bolstering along the way.
Other roads and walks were fine. This one…not fine. And I couldn’t figure it out. For Pete’s sake, it’s one of those designated “natural beauty” roads. It’s peaceful. It’s quiet. Dogs are *supposed to* love their walks, right? Our old dog loved it. Other dogs seem to love it.
Raven? Not freaking lovin’ it.
I went through the range of emotions and behaviors that occur when your animal friend is doing something you don’t understand or not doing something their *supposed to* do and it’s sorta cramping your style.
Finally, I landed on…Observing and Breathing. Because what the hell else could I do? I took a breath, looked around and experienced this space from Raven’s perspective. I even got down on the road to see it from 18” high with humongous, bat-like ears that capture all sound. I pretended every sense was on full alert and everything was brand new to me.
I started to get it.
See, there’s a spooky woods on one side and it sorta closes over the road in places. Random sounds from unseen animals mix in with the occasional boom from a nearby quarry and wind whistling through trees. Animal tracks depicting dramatic chase scenes are everywhere. And when you’re a Type A personality dog with high sensitivity, the danger emanating from those coyote/deer tracks might set you a tad on edge.
She wanted to charge through this sucker and Get. It. Over. With.
My job was to make the road a more comfortable place to be while we were on it. We circled back and forth so it didn’t seem like it was such a long, straight, scary walk. We ran through mud puddles and the edge of alfalfa fields. We had SO many treats. I praised her and worked my ass off to make it fun and build her confidence.
Eventually, the road stopped being so scary. Eventually, I stopped fantasizing about a doggy lobotomy. Eventually, we began to enjoy each other.
And then it hit me.
This road was Raven’s Liminal Space. That unsettling, empty space between what was and what will be. Between deliberation and decision. Between here and there. For Raven, this road was standing between home and, well, home.
I eventually had the presence of mind to figure out how to help my dog through her own Liminal Space. But…do I do that for myself? When I come to an eerie, uncomfortable and unsure passage or transition in life, do I allow myself space to simply breath and observe?
Not very often, no.
Usually, I do what most of us do when one thing is ending, the next has not yet begun and the interim is full of uncertainty. I push through. Blinders on, I grit my teeth, make lists and charge ahead, thinking I can gut it out and organize my way through.
Usually there are tears, anxiety and a lot of muttering under my breath.
“I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
“This is *supposed to* be easier.”
“I wish someone would tell me what I *should* do.”
“F___, f___, f___ity f___.”
Because we’re *supposed to* know, aren’t we? The world tells us we *should* know what to do and where we’re headed and how we’re gonna get there. We’re *supposed to* know how to answer, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” And it’s *should* look like it does on social media. Glossy. Seamless. With an hourglass figure and pristinely white teeth.
Well, f___ that.
There is no *supposed to* and *should* can take a flying leap. We each have our own path. We each have the stuff that bugs us and the stuff that delights us and the stuff that scares us and the stuff that causes an acid stomach. And all that stuff is different from everyone else’s stuff. So how on bloody earth can there be a *supposed to* or a *should* for, well, anything as personal as a Liminal Space? Or, for that matter, how can there be a *should* or *supposed to* for something as personal as a life’s journey?
What if we cut ourselves some slack and took a moment to just breathe and observe? What if we allowed ourselves to…NOT know? What if we allowed ourselves to simply discover?
Perhaps our own Liminal Spaces could then take on a different sort of meaning. Perhaps they could become opportunities of discovery, joy and growth rather than resistance and fear.
So let’s take a breath, look around and stay curious. Maybe you don’t have to know, my love. Maybe you can just allow yourself to become.