Laurie Borden, Ways of Seeing: Finding the space lying between

We seem to identify individuals on two opposite sides. There is this natural tendency to sort people into one or the other — old/young, boy/girl, Democrat/Republican, heavy/light, haves/have-nots, introvert/extrovert, leader/follower — you get the picture (or you don’t). I have been thinking about this habit a lot lately and it seems to me that this is leaving out the richness that exists in the space in between. 
Our perspective on those that we have known or our impression of those we meet becomes very narrow should we just look at them through our “either/or” lens. I have become very observant these days about this vast space in the middle, for I believe it is where exciting potential lurks. This land that separates us from one another could be explored to better understand the subtlety, options, nuance, unknowns we ponder, thereby opening a world of possibility. 
What if we could find ways of bridging the distance between us simply by plodding through the mire of mystery that creates this chasm that divides us? Like springtime in Vermont, placed between the crystalline winter and the resplendent summer, this uncharted terrain is probably muddy, messy and buggy. But isn’t being uncomfortable on an adventure part of the challenge? 
I remember hikes with my family on Mount Moosalamoo when the threat of treacherous trails, getting lost and mosquitos almost kept us from reaching the summit. When the bugs became unbearable, Grandad would secretly take a handkerchief from this pocket to collect the sweat from his brow so that the cloth became moist. He would turn back to us and say he had magic bug repellent that we could wipe on our necks to protect ourselves from their bites. We were then attentive to the frogs, birds and waterfalls along the way — all unseen had we not ventured forth. 
Instead of focusing on one side or the other, what if we practiced radical curiosity about what lies between? What if we had the courage to navigate this territory together; might we move closer as a community? 
Because I work in the hospice world, I often think about the gifts hidden in the space in between life and death. When we are going about our daily business — very much alive, we don’t think much about the flip side — the fact that we are mortal. It would be rather depressing to be preoccupied with the thought that our existence is going to end someday. 
But what if we were more attentive to the time before “someday”? What if instead of chasing wildly the wish to be forever young or crashing suddenly into “someday” with no preparation, we start to celebrate the real land of living — The place where we are more honest because we recognize our mortality, the place where we are more kind because we need each other, the place where we discover meaning in our imperfections and the place where we respect one another’s differences? 
The dying process creates us equal. Death doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, liberal or conservative, a talker or a listener. We aren’t saved because of our profession, our ethnicity or our possessions. The process is ours because we are human. The space in between is the story that honors each individual — who they are and why they lived — despite what side they are on. 
This territory is overflowing with mystery, marvels and memories. We have an intrinsic need to companion someone who is dying, just as we desire to have companionship on our own journey. Despite which side we are on. We can walk with someone in this land and remain true to ourselves — expressing our fear, our anger, our sadness — while also being true to those we walk alongside — calming their fear, validating their anger, holding their sadness. 
In this space there is room for forgiveness, healing and love. Despite which side we are on. There is authenticity in this struggle; there is sacredness in this partnering. We will not know this until we venture forth into this space between with our eyes and hearts wide open. 
Yes, it is messy, muddy and buggy, but it is also crystalline and resplendent. It is time we endure and rejoice — together. In the space between. Despite which side we are on.
Laurie Borden, is the program assistant at Hospice Volunteer Services in Middlebury. She also serves as the ARCH (Addison Respite Care Home) community coordinator, as well as on the ARCH board, exploring and creating end-of-life options in Addison County. She lives in Weybridge with her husband, mother and three Bernese mountain dogs.
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