If you’ve ever felt anxious in your day-to-day life, like you were waiting for something to happen, but didn’t know exactly what that was, I believe this is a true state we all are in from time to time. I feel it to be an actual stage of the process of life itself.
I call this place a holding pattern. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of a holding pattern is “a state of waiting or suspended activity or progress.”
Waiting to land
I vividly recall returning home on a flight many years ago, lining up and preparing to land. Our airplane, instead, started to circle over the airport. As I looked out the window, I could see that across the way from us, another airplane was doing the same. Looking behind that plane, there was yet another.
We were multiple airplanes, circling in a holding pattern, awaiting clearance to land. I was in awe, for some reason. At the time, it seemed funny to be circling round and round, just waiting. Waiting for permission to return to the ground. Waiting for permission to resume the flight process itself. Waiting.
Eventually, we received clearance and landed safely, and life continued for me and the rest of the passengers on board. But it’s always remained with me, that feeling of being on hold. If an airplane can manage it, without issue, what about people? Do we manage our holding patterns? Do we even acknowledge them?
I’ve come to the realization that many points in our busy lives are all about waiting. This seems to go against everything we are taught about life, because life is supposed to play out in a forward-moving motion, a process, a plan to keep getting ahead.
We move forward to grow older; we move ahead as we are educated. We move ahead to finish schooling; we move onwards to find employment, to get jobs and so on. We start families, we buy homes and we live life. But if you pay attention, most of us really don’t spend the time we have in between actually being in those moments. Our own holding patterns.
Well, we do, but usually while in the midst of it, we feel many other things and grow invariably frustrated. We are often negative. We get upset, grow sick of waiting and are frustrated about things not going the way the process is supposed to go in our minds.
We get stressed out, we often cry and we become increasingly angry at the state of our lives:
- Why isn’t the job promotion happening yet?
- When will I find out the blood test results?
- Did I pass the exam?
- If not, where do I turn and how long will it take to start over?
These are the sorts of questions one finds when a holding pattern enters their life.
You can usually tell if you’re in one, because you feel stuck. You feel worried, you’re paused. Nothing you do changes much of anything. It isn’t mood-related, though some might suggest you’ve ‘got the blues.’ It is factual, it’s real. Your life is, dare I say it, on hold.
So now what?
You learn a lot at ‘rock bottom’
I have learned to embrace it. Somewhat. No, I’m not some guru who has found great peace in this state. Quite the opposite. Although I have great faith in my own religion, it isn’t about that.
I have found that saying about ‘hitting rock bottom’ to be very true. You learn a lot down there.
I have found that saying about ‘hitting rock bottom’ to be very true. You learn a lot down there. And it’s really true that you can only go up. But before the elevator starts to bring you back up, you are, for lack of a better visual, on hold.
And while on hold, sometimes it’s good to get familiar with that place. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have found it’s that time and that place in which I am forced to see my authentic self, and realize my truest and ugliest feelings.
I don’t much like it. I don’t enjoy it. I don’t gain some superior strength and then turn around and find that life becomes easy. Not at all.
What I do learn is that I can manage. I can be on hold. I can find hope. I can learn to wait it out. I can plan while I’m waiting. I can prepare. I can change previous errors I made, or better still, change how I react to them.
I can wait and focus on what is to come. I can wait and seek new solutions for old problems. I’ve learned that I am horribly impatient. Yet, in a holding pattern, all you can be is patient. It’s interesting, how the human mind works in these circumstances.
The next time you’re frustrated at the state of life you’re in, step back and be. Be aware of how it feels to be on hold. Be present in that moment, that state. Dig deep, find what makes you feel whatever it is you feel.
You’ll be surprised by what you learn. Much of it, you likely won’t want to face, but that’s precisely what you have to do in order to start that elevator moving again.