Article #1: knocking the problem over the head 1,000 times will yield results. Don't look for magic. Just address the issue over and over again and you will progress, because:
Article #2: it is not about being gifted or smart. There are plenty of morons who get really good at the cello. Maybe they get good because everything is hard for them, so they just apply the same nose-to-the grindstone ethic to the cello that they need for crossing streets, chewing with their mouths shut, and remembering to put their pants on before shoes. I was lavished with the titles of gifted and brilliant as a kid, and I was flattened by people who worked their asses off because talent and blah blah doesn't get you too far. I happen to know that most adult beginners (and Jen is a supreme example of this) are good at a wide variety of things, so the cello is particularly punishing because it rarely lends itself to innate technical ability.
Article #3: unless you take time off, there are no backward steps. I am just filled with metaphor and simile today, so let's keep it up: I think of being proficient at the cello as this 3 dimensional picture that one can observe from many angles and distances. One day, it looks like the details, the next it looks like widespread tendencies. But it's all the same thing, just different aspects. So you pick up the cello and you're really relaxed. That means that you've explored what relaxation feels like in spring, with a wildfire in Pomona, tomato soup for lunch, and Leo in Cancer. Tomorrow? Everything is different. The more angles you are presented with, the more likely you'll be able to bob and weave with the changes life throws at you and your physiology. The key is to find what's common to the experiences and to develop the thread that ties your whole playing experience together.
Article #4: What feels good will sound good. Even if it doesn't at first.
If you hold these articles as true, and then apply them to your practice, you should gain the comfort of knowing that what you are going through IS the process. IS the norm. And if I can talk about this stuff at such length, and bloggers of all different strengths and abilities are chiming in, don't you think that there is a way to muddle inelegantly through it? Just by persisting?
Then when you look back on this baptism by fire, the first time you are actually practicing the whole instrument and not just the notes, you will notice that there is definitely an elegance to simply nodding with patience and silently sharpening your resolve for another day of the Cello Life.
And they apply to any instrument and for any life.