The tragedy of getting stuck in a holding pattern

The tragedy of getting stuck in a holding pattern

Personally speaking

Getting stuck in a holding pattern is one of the great modern tragedies. They are the jobs we keep despite them gnawing at our souls. It’s the relationships we hold onto that sap our energy. It’s the urban routine of living only at the weekends and living in the plans of tomorrow. And despite the pervasive negatives in all these things, we find in them sufficient comfort to prevent us from acting upon these states of inertia.

This is not some great call to action. #Blessed (my favourite word) are those who are content in their current situation. If there is no gold to be found below the surface, there is no need to dig. But if you think there are nuggets to be found below, then dig you must. There’s an about-turning and facing the shadows of the unknown, and maybe even the known. It starts with a step backwards, to examine the milieu of your life, and ask the hard questions. Why am I unsatisfied? What am I holding on to that is no longer serving me? Why is my mind twisted in knots?

And then we remove the typical medications that soothe the pains of the modern world. Food. Alcohol. Busyness. Distractions. And we search for moments of solitude beyond the clutter, and we explore the hidden recesses of our minds. The story of the boy, Eustice, in The Chronicles of Narnia comes to mind. Aslan, the messianic lion, purifies the boy of the evils that befall him. They are manifested in the form of a dragon, with putrid layers of skin, and Aslan painfully rips each layer away, revealing a fragile, vulnerable young boy inside. Only then can the healing process start.

This need not be the wanderlust dream of quitting your job & touring the world, or the not-quite-so-dream of cheating on your partner to add some spice to your life. Having done the former, I can tell that the reward is not in the brief excitement or escape. Seneca says it particularly well: “So we must realize that our difficulty is not the fault of the places but of ourselves.” Maybe someone who’s done the latter will tell me otherwise.

Rather, we should search for things in the realms of our ‘normal’ lives that might help us to remove our festering layers. Take up meditation or yoga. Change your diet. Sleep more. Find a therapist you can trust and begin to unpack your negative behaviours (easier said than done). There is, unfortunately, no panacea, even in the realms of more intensive spiritual retreats, as some may lead you to believe. Transformation is hard work, and no (insert number here)-step program will ‘fix’ you.

So if you’re barely tolerating someone, because you’d rather not be alone; or you’re staying in your job because it funds your comfortable lifestyle, even though it’s killing you; or any number of scenarios which you know intuitively are not serving you, you’re only prolonging your pain. Maybe it’s time to break the pattern that’s holding you in a bind. It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile. Your future self will thank you.


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