space between stories meme

This week, I experienced a trauma that collapsed my story of self, yet a new story has not yet emerged. Charles Eisenstein calls this “the space between stories.” Many of us are in this space between stories right now, when you feel lost, ungrounded, dislocated, as if your roots have been pulled up and you’re not quite sure where to land. Everything you thought you knew—about yourself and the world—is now in question. Even our systems—the medical system, our political systems, the education system, the banking system—they’re in the space between stories too. We know the old way is falling apart, yet the new way has not yet been born.

As Charles writes in The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible:

So please, if you are in the sacred space between stories, allow yourself to be there. It is frightening to lose the old structures of security, but you will find that even as you might lose things that were unthinkable to lose, you will be okay. There is a kind of grace that protects us in the space between stories. It is not that you won’t lose your marriage, your money, your job, or your health. In fact, it is very likely that you will lose one of these things. It is that you will discover that even having lost that, you are still okay. You will find yourself in closer contact to something much more precious, something that fires cannot burn and thieves cannot steal, something that no one can take and cannot be lost.

Earlier this week, I attended the memorial of the sixth person I loved who has died in the past six months. Along with others, I witnessed the deceased’s fiancé navigate her own space between stories. They were supposed to get married this year, and instead, they had to say goodbye. As she got up to speak at the memorial, she looked up at his photo on the projected screen and, with tears in her eyes, she said, “What are you doing up there?” The woman who was supposed to be the maid of honor hosted the ceremony as we all held each other in arms of grieving, celebrating, laughing, crying love. When we realize we are not in this lost space alone, we find comfort in the communion of the raw, unguarded, blown open heart.

Who Am I?

The trauma I experienced this week thrust me into a state of “Who am I?” What if I am not the person I thought I was? If I’m not who I thought I was, “Who am I?” Then down the rabbit hole you go, grasping for certainty and finding none, adrift in the question marks, yet discovering in the space between stories that grace that protects you. This space between stories is a ripe place, an empty place, a place filled with potential but also with loss. You don’t get to skip straight to the “Now I’m growing” phase without grieving the acknowledgment that you’re marking the end of something. As Charles suggests, we let go of the old story with great reluctance, clinging to any remaining threads of the unraveling tapestry as if they are life preservers. Yet at the same time, if we resist avoiding it, there is a deep knowing that all threads must be cast overboard as we rush headlong into the void, resisting the temptation to take on a new story prematurely.

We are being stripped down—all of us right now. Everything hidden is being revealed. Everything we were in denial about is coming to the surface. Everything that is not love is peeling away. This may feel painful, like dying, because in a way, we are dying. That which is not your purest essence is losing ground. Your soul is pushing through the soil like a spring bulb bumping up against frozen earth—pushing relentlessly against the resistance. You don’t have to push so hard, little bulb. Your true nature will curl its way to the surface and blossom without all that efforting.

Stripping Down

There is much to strip away—layers and layers of cultural conditioning, limiting beliefs you learned in childhood, the programming of what your parents taught you, the way the media brainwashes you, what “the rules” tell you about how to be human. Maybe we’re even breaking age old karmic ties to free us up to be something new. It’s hard to be both human and Divine, to hold that paradox with radical openness.

This hurts, this peeling away. It feels like you’re getting stripped of your skin. As Brené Brown said, “I feel like a turtle without a shell in a briar patch.” God, give me a shell. And yet this is what we are consciously freeing ourselves from, this prison of the shell we’ve worn since childhood. We can fight it if we want. But the pull of the soul is like the ocean’s tide; it is yanking us like the lunar magnetism that makes the waves crash upon the shore. We can fight it if we wish, or we can cave early.

If you get overwhelmed, rest in the sanctuary of your blown open heart, where you will know that this stripping down is not a punishment; it is an answer to a silent prayer for freedom that you may not even remember praying.

You Can’t Rush Gestation

When you are in the space between stories, Charles writes, “The challenge in our culture is to allow yourself to be in that space, to trust that the next story will emerge when the time in between has ended, and that you will recognize it.” Or maybe there is no next story. Maybe this is how we begin to inhabit the present moment. No stories. Just NOW. And NOW. And NOW.

I don’t know much these days, but it seems to me that when you’re in this space between stories, the only thing to do is rest. Allow yourself to be comforted. Sleep a lot. Be in nature. Meditate. Bathe yourself in beauty. Create stuff for no reason. Do what you can to relax the monkey mind that is grasping for the next story. Surround yourself with the trusted beloveds who cultivate the stillness in you. Be exquisitely kind to yourself.

The space between stories is more about Being and less about Doing. There will come a time for the Doing, but it’s not right now. Remember, something new is being born inside of you. You can’t rush gestation.

Love,

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42 Comments

  1. Reuven Wertheim

    Lisa why do people make life more complicated than it has to be. You get up in the morning do what you have to do and go to sleep at night without analyzing all day long who you are, what you are why you are what to do in order not to be what you are and so on and on and on
    If you are a psychologist why not teach your patients to take life easy and just be what they are. If they feel that they should work harder, cheat less on their partners, pay more attention to their kids or whatever corrective steps they need to take than just get their act together, take responsibility and start.
    Reuven Wertheim
    rwertheim@013.net.il
    .

    Reply
    • Allan

      Reuven, Some of us, can’t make it that easy. Some people have it far more complicated than that. I am guessing you are not in a stage in your life where you can understand, and for that I envy you. Some people have lost their marriage and get their kids half the time, lost their home, their job and had to move away from all they know just to be with their kids. It’s not as easy as just do it. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but when all that happens and you cannot get a break in life to move on while all around you others are flying…it’s hard to cope.

      Reply
    • Risa Moreno

      Tell that to those of us who lose their life partner in their 30s. I was with my husband since high school – YES, I wonder who I am without him, thank you very much. Some days I don’t even feel like a person. “Just be what you are” – really? Just be a person with half a heart? A widow at 32? How does one be that? There’s no rules, no guidelines. People barely know how to talk to me, how exactly am I supposed to “just be”? How callous of you. Hell, my therapist doesn’t even know what to do, this is one of those horrible times in life that only time will smooth to something tolerable. What exactly am I supposed to “take responsibility” for that I haven’t already? Single mother of a toddler that won’t remember her father when she grows up. Paying the bills, ALL of them, on time, and hoping I haven’t missed one that he never told me about. Attempting to get the education to get a job that will feed us both. Keeping myself healthy enough that my cancer doesn’t come back. I have had a ton of responsibility thrown at me already, and you’re saying the way to fix the brokenness of my life is to take more? What, should I take responsibility for my husband being killed? Will that make my life better? Ugh. Get out. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

      Reply
  2. Maureen Russell

    Lissa, I found this really helpful for where I am right now. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this “space between stories”. I guess I feel that many of us need to go deeper than just moving through the day, especially when we’ve seen or been faced with a huge loss. I actually do know the one of which you speak. Today I believe I just lost a friend, but in that loss, I learned something huge about myself that will propel me forward eventually. Right now I just need to rest with it, not do anything and mellow out in the “space between stories”. This may mean a nice pizza is in my future with a soda…which I never drink! 🙂 That will be my space…Love, peace and “space” to you dear Lissa. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Susie Cassens

    Have you read “If Women Rose Rooted”by Sharon Blackie?

    Reply
  4. T Diaz

    Hi Lissa. First, I am sorry for this volley of losses in which half a dozen people you love have passed in so short a span of time. Your experience is especially interesting to me as I’ve experienced a number of what I call peripheral deaths in the past year or so, deaths of acquaintances or people who were important to me as part of what Martha Beck calls the “generalized other.” At the same time, I’ve also been handling and processing other longstanding challenges. Along with all of this, I’m in menopause, so find myself feeling especially teary and moody at times anyway. I’ve also delved deeply into personal development with courses and modalities that have lately left me feeling a bit overwhelmed, trying to wedge it all in to an already hectic day. I do meditate, I do reframe to the nth degree, and I do count my blessings and all that good stuff, at the same time staying aware so that I’m not doing a bunch of spiritual bypassing in the process. Whew. Thank you for the reminder to be “exquisitely kind” to oneself and to REST–important in general and especially when grieving and/or in any space between.

    Reply
  5. melrummel

    After I’d posted an article to bring awareness to Building 7, (not hit by an airplane but fell free-fall into its footprint nonetheless on 9/11) a newly-awakening friend’s comment asked me how anyone can even discern truth from distortion anymore, saying “it’s just getting too hard”. In these times of uncertainty, where we feel blindsided if not blindfolded, it’s good to feel the hearts of others along the way; kind of a hand to hold onto in the dark. So thank you Lissa for your words. I also read The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible 4 years ago, and was so profoundly moved by the possibilities inherent in telling ourselves a new story about life itself in ALL its forms, I bought copies for each of my 4 adult children and then led a book study on it in town. In 63 years of reading thousands of books, none has inspired me more, or given me more hope for our future.

    Reply
  6. Carolyn Hebert

    Dearest Lissa….I just have to let you know how very much I appreciate you! It seems when no one else understands what I am going through right now you share these words of wisdom that touch my very heart & soul!!! Your work is so important and I feel that your messages speak volumes…I cannot thank you enough…all I can say is that you help me to see that I am not alone… I am honored that we are walking this path together…it gives me strength & courage! God Bless You! Much Love & Light…

    Reply
  7. Lynette Landing

    A friend shared your blog with me today knowing I could relate. Wow! Relate is an understatement. You nailed what I’m going through. It was so powerful, it inspired me to write my own blog and I highlighted yours. Thank you so much. You did my heart good. – Lynette

    httpss://barenakedtalk.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/life-in-the-void/

    Reply
  8. C. Martin

    The space between stories is a wonderful description of this period. I have just come though one of these spaces and find myself at times missing the internal freedom I experienced in between. The in between time is hard but it is perhaps the most real time and is to be cherished for that quality as living the story holds less appeal as you go along.

    Reply
  9. Stan Sands

    Thank you for this post. My life has been “Space between Stories” for some years now. Mine was a gradual slide into the space after the loss of my business’s and then a few short years later the loss of my partner of 15 years. She had been a disabled person for most of her life and finally after a stroke the cancer got her. I function quite normally and most onlookers would say that I am positive and motivated, yet I am in a space between stories. I have short periods where I develop a sense of purpose and set myself the goal of finishing my house, then I realise that only I am here and I have need of little. I think that, for me. the space is about recovering from exhaustion, yet the years slide by and I still see nothing that inspires or excites. I have a good life, on the land, with my dogs. My dogs give me joy and the work I do daily with livestock is very satisfying as are the other daily tasks. Yet, when I am in my free time, I lose my sense of urgency and am content with enough. I am indeed waiting for the next story. Meanwhile I live in the “Space between Stories”

    Reply
  10. Maltus

    It is interesting about the space, and the space between the space is an magical place where there is something & nothing, yet knowing it exists in one’s reality is a true gift

    Reply
  11. Elyse Hope Killoran

    Magnificently articulated. Thank you.

    Reply
  12. Sally B. Sedgwick

    Thank you.

    Reply
  13. Julia Woods

    Beautifully written. Sorry to hear about your losses. In your pain you have written something so amazing to help so many others like myself. Thank you. You have a very special gift.X

    Reply
  14. Erja Järvelä

    Lissa this is truly amazing. Appreciate your way of expressing. Always <3.

    Reply
  15. Jim Wohlford

    Perfectly Spoken Lissa… This is a state so many that we run into on our current paths are finding themselves in, and this formula is a perfect one to rest within. Peace Love and Light,
    Jim

    Reply
  16. Robert Gardner

    Lissa, the timing of this piece is impeccable. This is the SECOND major thing TODAY that has shared with me the power of letting go of an old story – that tangled skein of yarn I made with all the groping in my life. I had asked God for clarity about the direction I needed to go, and I discovered instead where I needed NOT to go. Clearing ground for new growth. Today is the culmination of a week’s worth of divinely placed “pointers” all urging me to bask in this place of being without hurrying on past.

    So thank you!

    Reply
  17. Mr T

    Thank you for your post. As a grief group facilitator I have found this an important if not central theme in grief. Joan Borysenko has a phrase that fits well (and has been helpful to those in grief) “no longer, not yet.”

    I also want to add the importance of telling one’s story to add coherence to the experience. We encounter a wide variety of resistance to “falling apart” and must be very skillful and appropriate when introducing this idea-lest it be attuned or even hurtful. Very important to bring these concepts forward without an agenda or time pressure–it can take years.

    Reply
    • Mr T

      “mis-attuned”

      Reply
  18. Risa Moreno

    This is a helpful post. My husband was killed in a motorcycle accident almost 8 months ago. I’d been with him for half my life – now I’m a widow at 32, with a daughter who won’t remember him as she gets older and a lifetime of shared dreams shattered on the floor. He used to have a ten year plan that he could adjust to anything…I’m barely looking beyond the end of this year. I keep putting one foot in front of the other – paying the bills, taking care of our little girl, trying to get myself accepted into a program that will get me a job to support us both – but I’m barely past survival mode right now.
    Some people in the FB grief groups I’m part of have already started dating this far in, and I still feel sometimes like maybe he’s just gone away for work again. I cannot fathom how to get from here to there, and honestly I’m not sure I want to. For all of my youth, I’m fairly positive I will stay unmarried the rest of my life. I’ll likely take casual lovers here and there, but letting someone take such a large part of my heart again? I don’t think I can.
    I never wanted to live alone, I never wanted this, and I don’t think there’s a single lesson I’ll learn from being without him that I couldn’t have done without. I knew I *could* live without him, I just didn’t want to. I don’t feel like any of this was necessary.
    Thinking of this as the “space between stories”…it feels very apt. It’s the empty stage between performances, dark and black and bare, but soft, in some ways. Unformed. I’m not sure what I’m going to make out of this wreckage, but I’ll figure something out, I’m sure. It won’t be anything as amazing as what we had, as what we planned to do…but it’ll get me from here to there, till I can see him again, and that’ll do.
    (And then I’m going to smack him upside the head and yell “WHAT THE HECK WERE YOU THINKING LEAVING THAT EARLY?!” and hug him for a few million years.)

    Reply
    • Kim

      My heart goes out to you. I cannot imagine the pain you must be going through. Sending love and healing to you and your daughter. She is lucky to have such a brave and special mummy and will come to know her father through you and your enduring love for him. Bless you x

      Reply
    • joni

      I’m so sorry for your unimaginable loss. I have no words of wisdom, I wish I could help you through the pain but we each walk our own path. Just breathe. Some days that’s all we have. Try not to beat yourself up for not healing faster, everyone’s pace is different. Love that wonderful girl of yours, I’m sure she’ll know her daddy through you.

      Reply
  19. joni

    Thank you Lissa! I love this post, and as often happens, your timing is perfect.

    Reply
  20. john march

    In the last 5 years I have lost my home and Life savings in the crash. I was badly injured in a catastrophic flood and wiped out financially by medical debts. I have seen many I love die and been orphaned at a late age. I have fought my way through injury and financial issues. I am an artist and craftsman in an age that does not value intellectual property or craft. I have been struggling with the pain of isolation and the challenge of aging in a society that does not value the experience of maturity. I am, in this moment, struggling with unemployment and health issues, and yet…this essay, one of many I read as I search for understanding and answers, is the first that speaks to my soul about the larger picture, the ineffable view. I find solace in the reminder of that larger view, the tale being told and my unfolding place within it that I so easily forget, and that painful transitions are just that, transitory. I am not sure where it is leading, but i can be willing to face my tenderness and broken heart with courage and willingness, and I am grateful that these words showed up when they did. To remind me that the space between stories, even painful spaces, are bridges between stories, between places I have been and places I simply cannot imagine, and that crossing a bridge does in fact lead somewhere else. That small hope is a good light to follow during this dark night of the soul that I and so many of my friends are going through. May all of us, all beings, find solace in the space between stories. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Deb Bridge

      John, this is beautifully written and touches me deeply — thank you for writing it and I am wondering if I might share it???

      Reply
  21. Ian Moore

    I recently co-edited a feature length documentary featuring Charles Eisenstein quite heavily. It’s all about story – the co-creation of our collective story. It’s called A New Story For Humanity, it was funded through gift economy and it is launched online, for free viewing for everyone on the 30th of this month. Seems appropriate to let you guys know about it (I just stumbled in here from facebook – feels like a synchronicity). You can see the trailer for the film here: https://newstoryhub.com/film-trailer/

    Reply
    • Lissa Rankin

      Oh how wonderful! I want to see it!

      Reply
      • Ian Moore

        🙂 Pop it in your diary. I was a little mind-boggled at getting the opportunity to be on editing duties. Just one of those blessings of the universe: in the right place at the right time. It’s hearty stuff – just like your work, Lissa x

        Reply
    • Emily Ramirez

      The trailer looks amazing! I can’t wait to see the full film.

      Reply
      • Ian Moore

        Nice timing that I found this post: not too long to wait, but just enough to feel the anticipation 🙂 x

        Reply
  22. Claire Chapman

    Im grieving my failed marriage. Hes with a nurse called lissa. I wanted to see a picture of her. I found this. The grief is awful. I divorced him twice. I tried and tried to love that man. He gamed 18 hrs a day. Married 6 years four fantastic children. I got grumpier and exhausted. I got divorced. Im between stories. Im happy this explains where i am i was wondering. Thankyou Lissa.

    Reply
  23. Niki

    Lissa, this is absolutely beautiful and true. It articulates so beautifully that space between. I can see myself coming back to it again and again, both for myself and share with friends and clients.

    Reply
  24. Kasofo

    Lissa, Thank you for such a tender, heartfelt sharing. I can so relate to your story of loss after loss and I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through so much pain. My Guru states that pain purifies us. An extremely difficult concept for me, yet I’ve found it to be true. I’m beyond grateful to my God and Guru that I seem to be on the other side of several years of shedding literally everything material including loss of all finances, business, health, spiritual community, relationship, job…I can look back and see I was being stripped bare and the tendency to hold on in utter desperation was intense beyond belief. As I confronted each ‘let go’ I would say to God, “Are you kidding??? This TOO???” But trust me, I did the inner work and reached out for help and support. In short, I did not do it alone, a new concept for me. I felt such shame yet I knew I couldn’t do it alone anymore. It was the tender love (and sometimes tough love) that helped me get back on my feet again. It took hitting so many ‘bottoms’ over several years that I lost count. I just kept going forward, one day at a time, and relentlessly refused to give up (even though my mind swirled and was like a roller coaster ride every day, telling me that it’s too hard, and I want off this mundane plain. That’s no solution, though, as I believe that you take your karma with you.) Life now is looking pretty sweet, magical actually. I never thought in a million years that this would happen for me. I will say that I worked my ass off, dove in the deep end, and did deep emotional healing work. I’m happy in my home, relationship, new job, new found health. And at the same time, within that, I had a melt down last week where I was called to reach even deeper into the darkness and face some, embarrassing, shameful stuff about myself. The feeling of vulnerability was excruciatingly painful like a spear was in my heart. But I did it, with the help of 4, no, 5, trusting, loving souls. I’ve found that it takes a village to live my life. Bless you, Lissa, for baring your tender under belly and for the safety of this forum where we can share our space between stories. <3

    Reply
    • Lissa Rankin

      Thank you Kasafo, for this comforting and deep share. I am in that place right now, that deeply shameful place of humility and pain and not knowing, and it keeps coming. And yet I trust that it is a purposeful universe and this is all happening out of love. It’s as if all the dualities of life are getting broken down around me- good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, real vs. unreal- all of it deconstructed into “I don’t know.” Who am I? I don’t know. How does the world work? I don’t know. All I know is I am loved and I am safe and somehow, as a soul, I called this in to dismantle me. It hurts- almost unbearably- so I can relate to that feeling of wanting to simply be free of this 3D world and all its pain. But I also know I have been sent her for a purpose and it is an honor and privilege to serve that purpose as impeccably as I can, knowing I will mess up over and over. I appreciate your wise and loving words. It’s tender to know we have villages that hold us when we’re in our dark nights. May your journey be filled with sweet love, ecstatic grief, and the light of truth.

      Love
      Lissa

      Reply
  25. Linda A. Curtis

    Lissa, you are saying something very important here, thank you. As a mentor for Honorable Closure and skillful endings, I believe a key component of ‘honoring’ is resist the urge to rush through whatever has ended (life, relationship, job, project, phase, etc.) because the yearning to see what is next is so compelling, and the discomfort of not knowing is so difficult. Thank you for your teaching and encouragement. Not knowing is OK. Yes! Someone forwarded this to me on Facebook, and I just shared it on my Honorable Closure FB page.

    Reply
  26. Patti

    What a beautiful framework to help us see the bigger story of our lives and deal with the space between stories. My ex has publicly refused to support his disabled young adult daughter who is chronically ill and needs full-time care-giving. I lost my job 18 months ago because I was gone too much taking care of her. What parent (a doctor no less) can deny a daughter’s birthday request for him to pay for her medicine? My mind wants to move onto the doing that needs to happen to support us but my heart and soul just aren’t ready for that yet. I think my grief and heartache need my time and attention right now. Thank you for helping me recognize that this is exactly where I need to be, until I’m not.

    Reply
  27. D

    wow, such a beautiful article. Thank you, it gave me lots of healing

    Reply
  28. D. Hill

    Thank you. From the very bottom of my heart. I hope you know that you’re reaching a special group of people with this. That level of wisdom is magic.

    Reply
  29. Craig Chalquist

    One of the joys of teaching mythology from a psychological perspective is that we can see how the old tales offer wisdom for current struggles, even for novel challenges. They also help us see why some stories wear out and why others might be on the way.

    Reply
  30. lauranimist

    Stories are coping mechanisms. They are half-truths and distracting mental machinations that cover up a deeper pain.
    Having a story taken away from you (from the victim perspective, anyway) is uncomfortable not because you are empty and bottomless without your story, but because you’ve ripped off a bandage.
    You’ve revealed the deeper pain.
    Waiting for the next story is an acceptance of that deeper pain as an inevitability.
    Waiting for the next story is reaching out to others, trying to find a new shared half-truth, a new distraction.
    But that deeper pain is also just a story.
    Fall through it, and keep falling.
    Don’t wait for your next story. Embrace your lack of one.
    Because at the bottom, once you get through all your layers, there is the truth. A much more beautiful truth than any story you could ever create or receive.

    Reply
  31. Joanne Jaworski

    I was in this space and was rocked to the core while my significant loved ones got extremely sick and passed away leaving me to handle my grief, exhaustion and shock, alone. I am an EFT coach, and I did a TON of EFT sessions with other coaches but none of them really address my SAFETY issue first! I had to figure that out by myself. Yes, money, emotions and the aloneness were huge but what was more threatening was a sense of security and reason to live. When safety and security is shaken to the core, nothing else matters in those moments. I would encourage anyone to use EFT to address THAT aspect as #1 if you are in those shoes. My “suffering” went on so long because people try to go to the symptoms and NOT the root. After food, clothing and shelter, safety is the next hierarchy of needs–not joy or affluence or creating a dream life!

    Reply

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