The Middle is the Best Part
“Beginnings are usually scary and endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts. You have to remember this when you find yourself at the beginning.” – Hope Floats
This quote is a favorite of mine, but only recently have I been able to understand why. On the surface, it seems terribly cliché and saccharine, but I’ve begun to interpret it differently over the last few years.
Right now, in my career, I’m at the beginning. Again.
Opening my practice has been a lesson in perseverance, fortitude, and courage already, and I’ve only just begun. As anyone could tell you, it’s not easy. I’ve never been much of a risk-taker, always following the tried-and-true paths that were set before me. I’m certain no one who knew me at the beginning of my career ever thought this was something in my wheelhouse – least of all, me. The level of anxiety and self-doubt I’ve carried in my life would surely seemed to have intervened in the acquisition of a dream this size. To be sure, I’m having no shortage of those qualities at this point in business. I’m unsure of almost everything, from finances to processes, from marketing to business law. I have the knowledge I need as a clinician, but the rest is new to me.
Beginnings are scary…
At the same time, I’ve realized I’m nearing the end of my parenting journey in the way it was previously defined. Two of my children are now officially adults, at least in the eyes of the law. My “baby” is nearing 14. None of them need me in the ways they did before. My children now sometimes give me advice, instead of the other way around. (Sometimes I even take it!) It’s strange and upside-down from when I used to feel whole by thinking of their every need. I miss the days when I could make everything ok for them. I’m lucky, in that we all still have fun together, and I have a little more time before they move into the true realm of adulthood, but the end of Motherhood as I’ve known it is on the horizon. It’s an age-old story of women merging their younger, naïve, energetic selves with their older, softer, wiser counterparts. There is nothing particularly different about my parenting journey than others before me, and I find myself repeating the eyeroll-inducing “it goes by so fast” as I forge a new path to who I’ve become.
Endings are usually sad…
…But it’s the middle that counts.
The middle. It’s where the action is. It’s where blossoms grow. Where memories are made. Where we learn from failures, freedom, and fantasy. Where we persevere and sustain. Where the WORK is done.
This analogy doesn’t rest only in the musings of a newly-older woman. It applies so much to what I’ve learned as a clinician. Often the children I see in therapy seem to be “on” or “off”, with their regulation, self-control, independence, or muscle control.
On its face, therapy appears to be measured in beginnings and ends. Evaluation and discharge. Goals and measurements. Often, evaluations cause apprehension for those who already know and love our clients. By discharge, we often have a bit of sadness that we’ll no longer be a part of that child’s path. But the real benefits come from the small changes and adaptations we make throughout the therapeutic process. All the teaching and learning happens in the middle, by accessing the privilege of developing a therapeutic relationship with our clients and families. The seemingly small gains on the way to the end goals are where the joy and celebration shine.
Muscles get stronger by working in the middle of their full stretch. The longer they can continue to expand and contract in that space, the more benefit you can see in their active control over time. We always try to keep from locking joints at the end of the movement, to keep the work happening where it belongs, for the most benefit.
The same applies to modulating sensory input. If you can’t adjust your responses, you only get the ends of the range. You get more big feelings than you bargain for, or what may appear to others as a lack of feelings. Everything is too much or too little, in the way you feel inside and the way others perceive you. It brings reduced self-control and increased frustration.
Teaching your body and brain to cooperate requires all the work that happens in the middle. We don’t just one day start reading or dancing, we learn a little bit at a time and practice and fail and try again and fail some more, until one day, we’re doing it.
The middle is the hard work and the anticipation. Where we learn control, adaption, and flexibility. Where relationships are built. It brings us the scaffolding to get to a more satisfying end, and the confidence for another beginning, another skill, another adventure, another piece of knowledge.
It’s also where the beauty is. Imagine a painting with only the center and edges completed. Music that can only be on or off, without the varied speed, volume, and pitch. It’s where laughter lives, and strength is nurtured.
The middle is what counts.