Please hold, your call is important to us…

A national radio station recently started a prank, which grabbed my attention. They’d call a celebrity and put them on hold, then see how long the celeb would wait on the other end of the line before hanging up. In the meantime, they’d be live-streaming snippets of feed from the celeb, so that the listeners could hear what was going on – did they whistle? Mutter under their breath? Talk to someone else? Wait in silence?

The objective (as well as a bit of a laugh at the celebrity’s expense) was to see how stuck-up and self-important they were; the shorter time they waited, the more arrogant they must be. Which pissed me off because (quite apart from objectifying celebs and turning them into toys) it made me wonder about how much time *I* spend focussing on those areas where I’m ‘on hold’, and whether or not my continued engagement with them is something dogged and loyal, or really just a little bit pathetic.
I’ve always been warned against holding onto expectations, and even though I fully agree with that, I think it’s innate within us that we develop them along the way. We build up a picture within ourselves of what life’s going to look like; the events we’d like to happen along the way; the ways we aspire to handle situations; the situations we’d like to get into (or out of) and ultimately, who we’re going to be.

The disappointment of those expectations can be excruciatingly painful.

I’ve found myself left, more than once (and twice this weekend), in roiling storms of confusion, anger, hurt and frustration, tearing my hear, trying desperately to say the same thing in thirteen different ways in hopes that one of them will make sense to the listening party, tears threatening to choke off my voice anyway, and determinedly restraining myself from shouting (because louder does not mean ‘better communicated’).

It really makes me wonder – am I just doing this to myself?

I feel as though I’ve been on hold and waiting for life to make sense, for many years now.

There was childhood (part 1), where no sense needed to be made, because life was good and we were all happy and safe and looked after one another. There was a feeling of being absolutely free and engaged and never any second-guessing or wondering. There was barely any comprehension of the passage of time, and it all just *happened*, quite beautifully.

There was childhood (part 2), where we crumbled and failed and everything was toxic, and the world became about hurt and blame and trying to carry on as if things were normal – living a lie, as though the perpetration of a lie could make up for the devastation behind closed doors. And though there was no beauty in this part, there was still no questioning, because it felt par for the course – deserved. I neglected to question whether or not this was really about me, and in so doing, assumed responsibility in a way, knowing that whatever role I had in it, was only making it worse. For all of us.

Then there was early teenagerhood, dark days of continuing the lies, hiding and keeping my head down, and waiting, desperate for it all to be over, so that I could begin to live – so that the burdens could be lifted and I could start to engage (though I was never sure that anyone would want to – sufficient numbers of other children had picked up on my inherent ‘victim’ status and sharpened their own claws, venting their own sorrows and frustrations on it, leading me to believe that I would never be worthy of friends).

Late teenagerhood was crowded with Depression and heartache and the cumulative impact of Life Thus Far slamming into me sideways and taking me out. In spite of having a true friend for perhaps the first time in my life, I descended gently into my first set of ‘Abyss’, like a frog lulled into sleep by slowly heating water, and stayed there so long I didn’t think it was possible to return. But I did. Not because I’m made of stronger stuff than that, or because I’m particularly brave or plucky, but because I was too scared (and even judged myself for being so weak) to stop life, make the transition to that ultimate failure, and disembark. And so I slogged, mindlessly, vaguely wondering (without any real hope) when it might be over.

Finally in early adulthood, it was over. There was release. The bubble burst and the toxins were released – dissipated by space and fresh understanding. It was the End I had hoped for, for many years. I began a job and started finding my feet as an independent person with a brain of her own, no longer crushed and sidelined. Yet even there, in taking orders and catching the buck for others, I was unable to see that I was worth more – that the hours of exploitation I endured were anything more than the least I owed to deserve the job, and to keep it. There was friendship and camaraderie there, and good times, but many were dark and although the learning curve ultimately made me a more capable person, I know that in none of it was I a strong one. I never stopped it, or stood up to it – I let it happen and lamented, accepting unquestioningly that this was my lot, and that life would likely be as unpleasant elsewhere, so better the devil you know.

Nine years is a long time to wait, and escape seemed to come in the form of marriage and a fresh start.

Beware the fickle bitch that life is. For marriage led back into the Abyss, in spite of escape, and although there were few points I would have changed back, this Abyss was deeper, sunk in grief and loss and mental illness and heavy combat; staggering back each day into the battlefield half-healed, trying to continue fighting, assuming that deep-down, it was worth it.

This time I was strong, and where I was not, I had people to prop me up. People who sat with me into the night, talking through my options and encouraging me. People who came at the drop of a hat and told me the reality of How Things Would Be If I Left (vastly different than the fantasy, I tellya). People who said to me “Keep trying if you want to, but if it’s not a marriage, there’s no shame in leaving.” People who let me run to them and cry and cry, then patched me up with a hug and a kiss and sent me back out to fight again.

Some of the darkness is gone now, and the Abyss seems more climb-outable, but we’re by no means out yet. My roller-coaster week underlined exactly how far there is to go. In the meantime there are still personal battles to fight, regardless of the other events in life – an underlying false assumption about my own worth, a hope for value which is too tied into self-image, and a changing reflection which is improving but still disappoints.

And I’m still on hold.

On hold, clinging to those expectations and waiting for them to begin:

  • Marriage to a man who isn’t sick
  • Marriage that is healthy and robust
  • Children, and all the wonder and joy they bring
  • A family undamaged by toxic relationships
  • A sense of self which is rooted in Real Things, not the superficial
  • Confidence in my own value

At the same time, there are voices telling me that life is passing me by – I hear them calling from the other room, whilst I’m standing, playing with the cord and hoping that the mechanical voice which says that “my call is important” really means it, and will eventually deliver.

Those voices tell me that the expectations I hold are perhaps hollow, probably unrealistic, and even if they come true, they won’t look the way I imagined. They tell me that in the end, I need to give them up, not because it’s stupid to want these things, or pathetic to be crushed when the opposites happen, but because I’m missing out. I can’t possibly know the future anyway, and all the time I’m hooked into them, tunnel vision is blocking my view of the rest of life.

And so I dither, torn, the edicts of The Wise ringing in my ears, and I cling.

Because to hang up the phone and let go of my expectations; to stop comparing the Now to the Should Have Been; to release the Could Be and watch it float upwards beyond my grasp and the illusion of my control, is terrifying.

It means knuckling down to the What Is.

It means accepting the What Is, engaging with it and trying to change the way I relate to it, rather than hoping that it will change.

It means tying on my kick-ass boots, donning my combats and going back out into the battlefield.

It means pain.

It means living.

And life waits for no-one.

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43 thoughts on “Please hold, your call is important to us…

  1. And what if the Canadian Government might have maybe been going to give you everything you ever wished for? Would you still hang up?

    Grief is happening, and hope – that frightening, frustrating, inescapable hope, is also happening. And I'm not keen on any of it, to be honest.

    The monkey has good aim.

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  2. So there I was on hold with the lovely Canadian government listening to the weird music that mixed nails scratching on a chalk board and jazz when I decided to not allow them to waste my time. I wrote instead and I may or may not have picked at a zit on my cheek.
    Where is this going?
    For the longest time I waited. Waited for something, somebody to save me from the turmoil and guide me back on the road I had intended to travel. Never happened. In that I realized that I am the master of my destiny (I learned that from my English teacher who had wonky eyeball and it may be a quote from something but I am lazy and don't want to look it up) and I have the power to let go and move on. It is so hard though. I think that we are allowed to grieve of what should have been but never came to fruition…but then let it go. Make the next steps in life yours…no matter when that monkey flings shit in your face.

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  3. I know this isn't exactly what you are saying, but this post reminded me of a line from John Lennon's “Beautiful Boy” – “Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.” You can't put it on hold, and if you wait around, you'll miss it.

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  4. I need to do that – doodle, write, look out of the window…forget I'm on hold for some of these things. (can't *imagine* why you keep going back to Beth's board…)

    I don't answer the phone in real life. Drives my family nuts ๐Ÿ˜€

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  5. When it comes, it comes. I don't think it's something you can force, and keep writing to them as long as you need to. That helped me hugely.

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  6. I wrote poems to mine. I got given the opportunity to put them into a memorial book at the counselling service I was going to. I didn't, then I ran away because it felt too much like closure, and I wasn't (am not) ready to say goodbye.

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  7. Lizzi, I can remember those days – after I'd been trying for ages and then had a miscarriage it seemed that everyone I knew was pregnant. It is hard, and yes, letting go does let the feeling pass, just like you found! How lovely that you were able to do that for yourself.
    A few years ago I came across a letter I that I had written to the baby I'd lost saying goodbye. I'd put the date on it, and it was eerie to realise that I had got pregnant right afterwards with our first daughter. I cannot promise you'd have the same thing happen, but letting go of the painful feelings helps whatever the outcome.

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  8. GADZOOKS!

    That was INCREDIBLE! WOW! Such verrrrrry pretty dancing. And a fun song. Did Astaire ever dance with Vera Ellen, I now want to know – because THIS is one of my favourite dance scenes ever from a film (closely followed by 'Mandy', from the same film)

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  9. I think it's the fact that they're so scuffed and worn that makes them look so kick-ass. You know, like the song,

    Do you remember the famous men
    Who had to fall to rise again?
    Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off,
    And start all over again!

    Except women, you know.

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  10. They're VERY kick ass boots! I need to put some more dubbing on them actually – they look a little as though *they've* been kicked in the ass!

    Attainable? Maybe. We'll see. But I'll keep trying. And yeah, I reckon you're right in that these things fluctuate SO much. But hey – we're nothing if not an adaptable species, right?

    Is it?? Well that's good to know, o crunchy granola friend ๐Ÿ˜€ (Still love that I know what that phrase means) And hey, anyone who's MET GLENNON is forsure an inspiration. That kind of thing rubs off, yaknow!

    Thanks for opening the computer ๐Ÿ˜€ โค

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  11. I have the worst trouble with Disqus on my phone, and then the reception's just not great at my parents' house. So I've actually opened my computer. Wild!
    Here's what I think I wrote:
    Super ass-kicking boots! Love those!
    I think your goals are worthy and attainable, the best kind. But when I read them I thought about how my marriage robustness, my children's wonderfulness, and everyone's mental health varies weekend to weekend. Day to day, perhaps. Which I'm sure you know is part of it.
    The way you are embracing and LIVING your life these days is so very, very inspiring!

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  12. Never mind 'first' mojo, this is *counts* about 16 hours late to the party ๐Ÿ˜‰ Now I know where the land truly lies!

    One way or another, the 'on hold' ends. I think I'm gonna take Clark's idea of leaving speakerphone on, and getting on with life. That's a more comforting thought than hanging up completely and trying to live life NOT THINKING about it. Because I'm sure it's all I'd think about anyway.

    These things come out in the wash. I got a bit maudlin. I'll get my happy back ๐Ÿ™‚

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  13. They could be jarringly different. Could be jarringly amazingly wonderfully different.

    But yes. No point wiling away our time wishing for 'maybes'. We need to live. And to live we need to accept that those 'maybes' are hooks, and we need to let them go.

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  14. I was in Boots earlier, waiting for a prescription for Husby, and in between half nodding off (20 min wait – standard *sigh*) I noticed this woman, probably a coupla years younger than me, browsing the multivitamins. Then she asked the pharmacy boy over and started asking about folic acid and Vit D, and I realised that she was buying pregnancy supplements, and it was like someone dropped a stone into my heart. I felt like going over and offering her the two unopened bottles of folic acid I have at home. Cos they're never going to get used.

    And gradually as I sat there, I thought to myself “I can cry about this because it's her and not me, or I can let it go – because someone's *always* going to be pregnant. It's how it works.” And gradually the feeling passed.

    I definitely think you're right about making a conscious decision to think differently, and how that can impact (hopefully for the better).

    You're right – some of those are within my right and ability to control – certainly as far as my behaviour goes. I'll think on that. Thank you.

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  15. Each time we get back up, we make it OUR terms. Life is the field and we decide what we're gonna do with it. Someone, somewhere (perhaps) has a nice smooth field. Mine (and yours?) seems to look more like no-man's land, full of old trenches, muddy puddles and barbed wire.

    But you know what struck me just as I wrote this – we're not out there alone – we have each other, right? We're all in this together somehow, and can help one another across those snags and pitfalls once we've decided that what we're gonna do is get off the phone and get living.

    Interesting that you and I have had such opposite experiences in a way – I wouldn't have known a pedestal if I'd been hit over the head with it. I would never dare to dream that I'd belong on (or even near) such a thing. Still wouldn't, really, and the thought makes me really uncomfortable.

    Sorry to hear your crash was so bad. But I'm glad you reached the light again, and that you're doing so much better for having lived through that and learned more about yourself and your choices and capabilities.

    *HUGS*

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  16. Well Tracie, I invite you to pull on your combat boots with me, and we'll go out and face this. But leave speakerphone on, so we can hear if anything happens at the other end of the line. That way we don't miss out too much, and still get to go out in the sunshine.

    Living in the Now is hard, especially when you're trying not to wish for the 'Maybe Someday'. Ack! I'm glad you found this helpful reading. WE will pull on that strength WE have, and life will have met its match in us. Let's make that happen, at least.

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  17. We shall see. At the moment I feel like I'm sat on the floor, wearing the boots, but not tying the laces up yet – still deciding, hoping that this is the right thing to do.

    I do like Clark's idea of leaving the speakerphone on, though ๐Ÿ™‚

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  18. I've recently also been untangling 'happiness' from 'feeling good', because the interweaving of those two is also a bit of a confusing kind of farce, as they're two separate things. I saw earlier that you'd posted about 5 myths of happiness, and was very excited to get home from work to see what you've written. I shall be prioritising ๐Ÿ™‚

    Good to know that even a right-brain can get into the correct frame of mind once in a while ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you.

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  19. clark said you would know what this means. ha!โ€

    (yes, it's meโ€ฆbut hey! i-frickin-talics! damn! I've been trying to find a way to do italics in Comments for a very long time!)
    โ€ฆgood post, too!

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  20. We all wait for things in life…answers it seems that will never arrive. But perhaps they're not meant to…if they did, our lives could be unexpectedly, jarringly different. You are right, acceptance, and as Yvonne says, natural acceptance, is the key.

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  21. You are absolutely spot on: accepting what is and changing the way we relate to it is the only way to feel any peace in life. Not always easy in any given moment, and like you say it can mean pain – but it's easier than not accepting! Eg, after my dad died, I noticed that the times I felt most pain were those when I wanted him to still be alive.

    And sometimes what we need to allow is that we feel resistant to what is. Trying to force acceptance is not the same as acceptance. I'm not saying you are doing this here, just that I know from experience that it's easy to slip into that and it's just another trap that doesn't work. It's sounds as if you are starting out a journey that I've been on a good few years now, and there are times when it feels like treading in mud, but when I don't fight that the feelings pass. (And I do still fight sometimes.)

    You don't even need to give up all expectations – perhaps see them more as intentions, and let go of trying to control those you can't control, such as having children, while working towards those you have some control over, such as:.
    Marriage that is healthy and robust
    A sense of self which is rooted in Real Things, not the superficial
    Confidence in my own value

    Those are great intentions or aims! Absolutely go for them!

    And “a family undamaged by toxic relationships,” could be a family healed, or even just yourself healed and able to accept your family as it is.

    So you're doing great, just keep going!

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  22. I relate on a lot of levels here. My life, while having turned out well, was a turmoil filled journey for many, many years. My childhood, far from perfect was at least safe. I was a golden child, a dysfunctional family's hope for the future. Until I fell from the pedestal with a huge and very loud crash that ended in anger and disappointment. Then the years of battling demons that I had never, ever invited to the party and finally…the light at the end of the tunnel at the age of 28. Life for me has been an exercise in rewriting and then, still, constant editing. I still struggle and I still doubt every thought I have and action I take. But life is never, ever on hold and you couldn't have said it any better than 'And life waits for no-one.' We try, we fall, we get back up, we try again. This is life on life's terms my friend. Do I have it down now? Nope. But I keep getting up.

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  23. It is like you stepped into my mind, and wrote down all the feelings I have about life being on hold and not knowing where (or if I even will) take that first step).

    The What Is and the living in the now can be really scary. (Which is probably why I find myself avoiding them more often than I should.) Thank you for sharing your heart on this and being open. I know you will pull on that strength you have, and take on life in a powerful way.

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  24. Hugs to you, Lizzi. This whole “on-hold” is nervewrecking, I know, and not knowing what is going to happen, this limbo-state. But I agree with your realization, adapting to the situation instead of waiting until the situation may change to your liking. I can't imagine how very difficult that is, Lizzi. Hugs to you for being so ncredibly strong!

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  25. hey, there *is* a compromise approach, the allegory being made available due to the very technology that has allowed this conversation to come into being!
    (a little set up, first: back in the olden days, when you got a telephone call you waited, in part because you could not move very far, the cord of the phone being a certain, limited length and there was not a 'Hold' function on non-business phones back then and so you waitedโ€ฆ. for the call to begin or to continue or to end. I marvel at how the premise for the 'call prank' persists, despite not longer applying to everyday life.)
    so back to you and your life.
    everyone is correct.
    (there, that was simple!)
    but to keep things interesting, apply what you would do, were I to call you and put you on hold: trust the phone systemโ€ฆ. but it on speaking and go about your life.
    Most of us are not equipped to simply (or, *easily*) set aside that which has been the focal point of our lives, just because it might not happen. (I would submit that clarks least of all are inclined to do so, our gift is creativity, creativity is built on believing anything is possible, therefore we have great difficulty believing that something is *not* possible).
    โ€ฆso put the caller on speaker and do other other stuff, trusting that you do not need to stare at your heart's desire in order for it to come into being.
    it will if it does and you will know.
    if it doesn't then you will not have wasted a lifetime doing nothing other than waiting for the caller to come back on line.
    simple but not easy but you are already demonstrating this approach

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  26. No. It does not wait. And it is promise to no one. It is one day. Now. Today. It is indeed about how you relate your self to: fill in the blank (family, lack of, friends, lack of, achievement, lack of….insert al that is appropriate). Those are good boots Lizzi. Worn well. Sturdy. And ready for more:)
    Sometimes the life script we've written for ouselves requires a re-write from time to time.

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