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Trying to do anything while on hold is an exercise in supreme cognitive dissonance. Writing on what I meant to write blurs into the tight frequency response of hold music, the incessant ad blather of an overamped woman pushing free shipping and big discounts on your order. Stay on the line. Your call is important to us.

Waiting is a skill foreigners complain Americans don’t have. It must be part of our optimism and tireless pushing West: there is always something to do, somewhere to go. A century of Madison Avenue and planned obsolescence, the creation of a fashion “industry ” and slavish attention to the echo chamber of consumer preferences, and human foible makes impatience inevitable. This is your life slipping by!

So we sit stuck in traffic because the car is the fastest way to get anywhere, wait fifteen minutes in a Starbucks line because coffee from the office pot is insufficient, and try to write blog posts while waiting on hold. Though I suspect this last applies to me.

There is always something you can be doing.An old boss told me so and I believed him. It’s true, so eminently believable, and practical advice, so hard to walk away from. It was my first real video production job, the job I’d dreamed of and always wanted. When the boss suggests you be on the lookout for things to do, you listen.

But how could I have forgotten? Growing up there was always laundry to put away, a floor to vacuum, piano to practice, another book to read. I made lists, gathered my required school supplies in little bags. College loomed early. What are you going to do with your life? I checked my list.

This may seem strange, but during all the honors classes and extracurricular activities and SAT cramming, I spent no time thinking about what living life would be like. All the talk of goals was from the school industry’s perspective and benefit. Have you noticed the end result of schooling and classes and degrees are more of the same? I was too literal, too afraid, too beaten. That number can always be higher.

Over the years I have forgotten parts of myself. I abandoned lists for various reasons, a slide too much. I have forgotten how to play and joke and be spontaneous, to the extent that remembering the skits I would write and the breadth of ideas I had makes what I do now seem like only the most tenuous excursions. But I am remembering and allowing.

So I give in to hold. I write the first two sentences here, then decided not to fight. The call took ten minutes, and because I was fully there for it, I noticed some order details were wrong, and corrected them. The savings are worth ten minutes. On hold, I stopped holding.

It’s hard to let go when we have always held on. Grasping is natural, even though it is learned and hard. Letting go seems alien and naked, but when we relax, we go faster. Everything is easier when we let go.


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