Do Not Disturb. Woman Languishing.

So that’s what to call it, “languishing,” this feeling  of inertia that’s lasted for more than a year. As described recently by organizational psychologist Adam Grant in The New York Times, it may turn out to be “the dominant emotion of 2021.” Swell. Those of us hoping the tide would turn as the early months of the new year unfolded and life began to resume some semblance of normalcy might be in for disappointment.

The first I heard the term “languishing” used in this regard I immediately pictured a 19th century woman, corset cording cinched too tightly, back of one hand pressed to her forehead, and heading toward her fainting couch. No corset lacing and no fainting couch here, but I did like the term. Better than my usual description of my own slug-like behavior this year.

My wonderful huge unabridged edition of The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, which sat in a place of honor atop a mid-century modern version of a roll-top desk everywhere we lived now is relegated to the kitchen table, where it provides height for zoom sessions on the laptop. Retrieving it from under that location, I opened the book to read all the definitions of languishing, starting with “becoming languid in any way…” Okay, what about that word, languid: “1. drooping or flagging from weakness or fatigue, faint (the couch!)… 2. lacking in vigor or vitality, slack…3. lacking in spirit or interest, indifferent…”

Most of that sounds like me during pandemic-related lockdown. When I would report to a daughter how little I had accomplished that day, she assured me she was hearing similar stories from many of her friends, much younger people with work-from-home jobs and regular paychecks. The early days of COVID-19 were truly frightening. Even if you were fortunate enough to escape actual symptoms, awareness of the dangers exacted a toll. Mr. Grant, the Times’ author, writes that “as the pandemic has dragged on, the acute state of anguish has given way to a chronic condition of languish.” Calling languishing “the neglected middle child of mental health,” he wrote, “it’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not functioning at full capacity…” 

“Languishing,” his piece continues, “dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression, and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.” An antidote may be found in a concept called flow, “that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away.”

I remember that feeling, and I miss it. Sitting alone with my thoughts was helpful to me as I adjusted to a  changed lifestyle, but I think it’s time to take the advice offered in this article and get on with the task of transcending languishing. Among suggestions offered: Tackle a challenge that stretches skills and heightens resolve. Like finally getting back to regular blogging on this long-neglected website.

9 comments on “Do Not Disturb. Woman Languishing.

  1. soverelfield says:

    As usual, most interesting!! I guess, following your lead, it’s time to stop my own languishing!!

    Are you still living in the same place or did you move?

    Warm regards, Joan

    • patnieder says:

      Still here. Same building, smaller space. You know, the incredibly shrinking lifestyle. You win the prize for being first to find me back. Let’s have a catch-up talk soon. Love, Pat

  2. Dorothy Woodson says:

    “Flow”? A sense of time, primarily shrinking time has not yet disappeared. Languishing conquers everything.

  3. kaybeck4019gmailcom says:

    I am glad to have the condition labeled and a “cure” suggested.

  4. Thomas Tamburin says:

    What a great message to read Pat! Very much appreciated. I’ve got so much to do here at home and at dad’s home and yet time just keeps slipping by me with many tasks undone. I have to prioritize and set small daily goals in order to move forward…. Thank you for reminding to do just that!

  5. Pat Nieder says:

    As I am finding with each comment, there are lots of us out there with the same problem. It helps to know that, don’t you think? Sorry to take so long to reply, Tom. Long boring story. The lesson: Don’t stay away from blogging for months on end or you’ll forget everything you knew.

  6. Roger Keyser says:

    Thanks, I needed that! Now to just get started on a couple of small tasks for today. One should be to find out why I no longer get notified whenever you release a new blog.

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