Languishing

Maureen MurdockArt and Creativity, Mental Illness12 Comments

If you’re feeling blah as we come out of the pandemic, the name of this feeling, according to Adam Grant of the New York Times, is “languishing.” “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness” he writes. “It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.” One of my psychotherapy clients put it this way: “I don’t think I’ll ever be somebody’s muse again. I don’t have that kind of creative energy, that life force. I feel flat.”

During months of lockdown, many of us enjoyed the lack of pressure to be anything other than who we were –living inside, not having to drive, produce or meet anyone else’s expectations. Yes, we missed hugging family and friends and seeing people’s faces but there was a sameness we enjoyed. Everyone was going through the same thing. Now that we are allowed out without our masks, many of us don’t want to go, don’t want to perform, have lost the drive to excel! We are struggling with the emotional aftereffects of the pandemic.

We came through the intense fear and grief of last year which kept us continually on edge. Let’s face it, it was a bit of an adrenalin high. Every day we listened to or watched newscasts about how many people died that day from Covid and we grieved with those who had lost loved ones. Focus was on how lucky we were to have survived. But now we’re in withdrawal from those intense feelings. What we feel now is a lack of motivation, inability to focus, and a failure to concentrate every time we crack open a book. I feel like I’ve aged two or three years in the last year and that thousands of brain neurons have fallen out of my ears. I can’t think! And I’m sure confused about masking. On or off?

An antidote to languishing is giving yourself a small goal each day: a challenge that matters to you—a meaningful conversation, a small project like cleaning out the trunk of your car, learning to play the ukulele, celebrating your child who was cheated out of a graduation ceremony in 2020, something that will give you a sense of satisfaction. The other side of languishing is flourishing; think about what gives you joy.

 

12 Comments on “Languishing”

  1. This is brilliant, Maureen. It’s the most succinct, and helpful, explanation of what I have been feeling/experiencing recently that I have seen anywhere. Thanks for sharing it.
    Bill

  2. That neurons out the ears quote is a keeper. Somebody good with Canva needs to make you an Instagram meme or reel or whatever they call those things. I am too old and don’t have enough neurons left to learn how to do this stuff. But I loved your post, so reassuring, and also read the NYT article. We are all languishing and it’s gotta be okay for a while. Goodness, we lived through the T@#$P years for god’s sakes, then the worldwide pandemic!

  3. Talk about “nail on the head!’ I’m copying this note to send to others. And maybe I need to aim for small goals. That quilt that I’ve been trying to get to…

  4. Oh Maureen,
    Thank you for this delightful and helpful article about our collective sense of “languishing.” I especially loved your sentence, “I feel like I’ve aged two or three years in the last year and that thousands of brain neurons have fallen out of my ears.” You made me smile as you “normalized” my feelings of aging from 80 to 105 in the span of twelve months.
    You also helped me see that my sudden inexplicable urge this past week to clean out wardrobes and dresser drawers instead of tending to the writing that has been neglected for the past twelve months is an antidote to my feelings of inertia and total lack of creative oomph.
    I appreciate your reminder of the reality of feelings of withdrawal after the adrenalin highs of the constant “breaking news” cycles we have all experienced during this time of intense focus on our survival.
    Your writing always informs, educates and inspires me, but this blog lifted me up personally. Thank you, my dear wise friend.

  5. Maureen, you are so good with words! Today I was out of oj so I went masked to S &F 🥰🥰

  6. Oh Maureen, Thank you for this delightful and helpful article. I breathed a sigh of relief when I read your sentence: “I feel like I’ve aged two or three years in the last year and that thousands of brain neurons have fallen out of my ears.” You just “normalized” my feeling of aging from 80 to 105 in the span of twelve months. You also made me understand that my sudden inexplicable urge this past week to clean out my wardrobe and dresser drawers rather than focus on the writing I have been neglecting all year is actually a positive antidote to my “languishing” state of inertia and total lack of creative oomph.
    We all have such high expectations of ourselves as women. I appreciate your reminder about our state of collective withdrawal after the adrenalin highs released in this past year’s “breaking news” cycles. Your writing always informs, educates and inspires me. This blog lifted me up personally. Thank you, dear wise friend.

  7. Such a great summary for all of us coming out of this cavern of “pandemania” and into the light. Yes, we need to find even small ways to flourish is such a great idea, including simply getting to a place where we can look upon a scene that brings us joy–a beloved tree, a street of people cherishing free movement, a sleeping baby. And now we feel our eyes adjusting to the light.

  8. This piece is wonderful mom!! Makes me all teary eyed as I read the line about celebrating the child that was cheated out of a graduation and makes me laugh thinking about the neurons falling out of our ears!! Thank you for posting. I will definitely set small goals every day – such a great suggestion as we move out of this pandemic and back to our regular lives that might be too fast paced for us now!

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