Life's Holding Patterns

Sometimes life puts us on hold. In a “go-go-go” society where the busier we are the "better" we are, a little pause or reprieve can seem counterproductive. We’re supposed to be constantly moving, accomplishing, and checking things off of life’s to-do list. But sometimes, it’s in the pauses and detours that we’re able to glean new perspective and growth. While unpleasant and oftentimes even annoying at the time, it’s these holding patterns that ultimately land us in the perfect place at the right time, with all our systems in check.

Thanks to my resident pilot (aka husband), I’ve used some of the basics of aviation holding patterns to apply to life’s pauses. With flying, holding patterns are used for a number of reasons. Perhaps the aircraft has hit a flock of birds and needs to run systems checks before landing, or the runway is unusable (maintenance, overcrowded), or there’s some other emergency warranting a checklist that’s both lengthy and cumbersome. Regardless, each situation requires holding before proceeding to the final destination. Life’s holding patterns might look something like one of these scenarios:

  • Flock of birds: Sometimes we run into things in our lives that do extensive damage. This could be a financial surprise (car trouble, house maintenance, health crisis), job detour (layoffs, transfers, career changes), relationship or family struggles, or some other unexpected situation life may throw our way. They lead to burnout and require us to stop and do a little recovery and maybe even strategic maneuvering
  • Maintenance: Sometimes things just go offline. When we push the pedal to the metal for so long, something is bound to give. Oftentimes an illness or health challenge is our body’s way of forcing us to slow down and recover.
  • Runway Unusable: Sometimes the path ahead isn’t ready for us. We need more time to grow, more time to rest, more time to build up our strengths, strategies, and defenses. Better to land when the time is right than crash and burn into the wrong situation at the wrong time.
  • Emergency: We’ve all been there, dealing with one of life’s unexpected U-turns. Give yourself grace to deal with the circumstances, time to heal and recharge, and permission to proceed at the right pace for you. Forging ahead without the proper time to assess the damages sets you up for weakened defenses and almost guarantees further destruction.

I found myself in one such holding pattern at the beginning of my marriage. I was jobless for the first time in my adult life, living in a new city, and my husband was often deployed. I had no idea what I was doing with my life and all the time in the world to figure it out. I felt purposeless, bored, and irritated. But it was ultimately in this period of waiting that I discovered my passions. Through the ins and outs of my days, I was spending time in the kitchen trying new foods and recipes, making connections at farmer's markets, reading nutrition books, and getting fired up about the true picture of health. Time and research led me to finding the Nutritional Therapy Association. This extended period of time also helped build independence, empowerment, and courage to go after what I wanted. This holding pattern for me, although difficult and often frustrating, ultimately gave me the tools and guidance to go after the desires of my heart. And although building a business and client base has been a slow process with lots of necessary maintenance in between, I’m learning to trust the process, knowing that time will lend valuable perspective and tools for the steps ahead.

Life often puts us in these holding pattern situations, where there’s no moving forward. We’re just stuck in an aimless loop, perhaps checking and re-checking our own systems (health and mental status, family situations, financial recovery, life purpose discovery, dealing with burnout, etc) to determine the safest way to proceed. When we’re stuck in these holding patterns, it seems as if we’re just burning fuel and yet not going anywhere. But even in the midst of pause, there is purpose. There are things that need to fall into place, or self-maintenance that needs to be addressed before we can move on.

If you find yourself in one of life’s holding patterns, perhaps pause to consider what needs to be addressed before moving forward, and aim to recognize the value and purpose in the reprieve. Give yourself grace for the process and patience for the pieces that need to fall into place.

Let me know, what are some of the holding patterns you’ve dealt with, and what valuable perspective did you learn from them?

In loving health, 





*The cover image used for this post was taken in-flight by my husband.