I hate being on hold. This year, I’ve had to navigate some pretty intense bureaucracy, the kind where you get stuck in an automated phone tree thing, where the automated voice keeps getting your words wrong, then you get transferred to one person, put on hold, transferred to another, explain your entire issue again, then just get transferred back to the person you spoke to before, then put on hold again…
You know the feeling.
This year in particular, I’ve had this feeling of life being “on hold.” We’re all waiting for the pandemic to pass, for things to return to something like normal. In my family, we’ve been waiting on my husband to heal from his first cancer surgery so that we can schedule his ostomy reversal. We’ve been waiting on our son to get through a really rough phase and come home from a residential program. We’ve been waiting to get some home projects finished. Our daughter has been waiting to be able to get back to in person school. We’ve all been waiting to be able to see friends again, hug family members.
Waiting…on hold…on pause…feeling like we aren’t making progress.
Less serious, I was in a weight loss plateau for months. I lost 20lbs from July to September and then…just stalled. My nutrition wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t awful either and I was still working out, but it seemed like no matter what I did I was losing and gaining the same 5lbs over and over again. Sure, I had TONS of non-scale victories. I was getting stronger. I could feel more muscle. Clothes fit a little differently. But still…there was something draining about stepping on that scale over and over again and just seeing that number…not budging.
Again…more of that feeling that life was just on hold, like there was something good waiting, but I had no idea when or if it might come.
In times like these, and I’ve faced many in my life, my first knee-jerk reaction is to go all Type A about it. What can I change? What can I push harder? What can I switch up? Then, I remembered a big lesson I learned a few years ago when I was learning Hebrew. I still can’t speak Hebrew or carry on a conversation, but at that time my struggle was just to be able to read it so that I could follow along at my Synagogue, where they went VERY fast. Week after week, I stumbled over words, sounding them out much like a small child first learning to read. It was slow, painful, and humbling and I felt like I was NEVER going to be able to read. Hebrew, if you’re not familiar, is a tough language. It’s read the opposite direction of English. The letters are completely different, and, when it comes to modern Hebrew, they even drop all the vowels!
Just like our 7 year conversion journey, this seemed like it was just never going to happen for me, but I just kept going, doing the same thing and, one day, something in my head finally just clicked, as if there was a connection that had just been stubborn and difficult to connect, but once it did…BOOM! I could read and I could keep up. I’m still not perfect and I still keep improving, but I made what seemed like a quantum leap forward after months of just plodding along, seeing no progress.
Life is often like that, at least for me. I’ll be working steadily towards a goal and just not seem to be seeing any reward or progress for a long while. There were the days when I was in college, feeling like the semester stretched on so long, with endless all nighters in studio and project after project and then, suddenly, graduation was right there. There were those LONG nights with little ones, where my kids seemed never to sleep so I didn’t either or the time spend trying to potty train them that seemed like we’d never make it and then, suddenly, we were past those stages and it seemed like we fast forwarded to high school. There was my conversion, where I spent so many years working so hard and then, it was a rush of just a few weeks to get everything ready for the mikvah.
I think as a overly logical person, I tend to want to view progress in life as a nice, straight line. I like to visualize a graph with just a single line starting low at the axis and heading gradually up. Instead, it’s usually more like a bunch of stair steps, with long periods of plateaus where it seems like nothing is happening and then a sudden jump upwards, followed by more stagnation. And boy is it easy to get down or give up during those plateaus, those times of being stuck or on hold, just waiting.
And 2020 has felt like one very long plateau and time just waiting.
Last week I hopped on the scale, not expecting a budge. We just got past Chanukah and I’ll admit, I indulged some. It didn’t seem like it would matter all that much and I kept it in moderation. If the scale wasn’t going to move, why not? This time, however, it had moved by several pounds and I am now down by 33 pounds from where I began this summer! I realized that I made it through the plateau by not giving up and not suddenly changing my plans, but by sticking with things and just trusting that eventually I’d see some progress…and I did.
Which brings me back to the bigger picture for 2020 as a whole.
When I’m stuck in those periods of just waiting, it’s important to remind myself that although I may not see this as progress, progress may still be happening. I never know when staying faithful to my routines or doing what I know I should be doing is suddenly going to lead to a huge jump forward…and that’s just as true with everything else that feels like it’s on hold. Sometimes, I just have to dig a little deeper and keep going across that lonely plateau a little bit longer and then I’ll see the reward.
My husband had a scan last week and his first surgery is finally healed AND he has no further evidence of any cancer. Our daughter will finish her semester next week and get a break. Our son is doing well in his program and progressing. The first vaccines for Covid are rolling out. Even though I’m still waiting, there are signs that it’s starting to pay off.
Eventually, I got through to the people I needed to reach on all those phone calls and issues got resolved. Eventually, I was able to read Hebrew well enough to keep up. Eventually, I broke through my weight loss plateau. I also know eventually, I’ll be hugging friends and family again and celebrating my kids’ graduations.
And eventually, whatever part of your life that seems stuck right now will come unstuck. Until then, just keep on keeping on and trust that the progress is happening.