Are You Languishing?

Apr 20, 2021

I spent a lot of the last year inside the house, as did most of the world.

We decided early on to play it super safe, plus it was simply too hard to parse risk every single day: was it safe to run with friends? Which friends were safe? Did we need to wear masks or just stay 6 feet apart? Was it safe to have a drink outside – safe with one couple but what about two?

The endless debates and constant reading of the new research exhausted us. It was easier to just say no.

But now here I am, on the cusp of being fully vaccinated, and I’m noticing: saying no has become a bit too comfy.

Adam Grant wrote a piece in the NYTimes this week naming the state many of us find ourselves in these days languishing.

“Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. 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 the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing 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.”

Adam recommending finding more flow states, which is great but I also wonder if it might be helpful to tune into our desires?

Allow me to give you an example. This is from Laurie, a member of the Oasis (shared with permission):

“After a year of not facilitating writing groups because of the pandemic, I was not even certain I would again. (All those ‘stories’ about not being good enough, not having anything to offer, etc. Sometimes inertia = failure in my head.) But when I organized my materials last week–to pack away?!–I realized I couldn’t give it up. So my teeny tiny container this week is to open my planning spreadsheet and … get my ducks in a row and begin to PLAN a group: prompts, poetry, and all.”

Laurie beautifully captures how the inertia and being ‘out of life’ during this weird time can come to equal “I can’t do that anymore.”

We may be languishing partially because we’ve forgotten how to desire. How to take action on what we want.

Old fears may have been fed by the pandemic and spun very real-sounding reasons why we can’t ___________ anymore, or ever again.

Or if we do, we will be overwhelmed or burn out again.

Just like we have to learn to be social again, we may need to learn to dare again.

To learn, to let desire and curiosity and wonder pull us forward into life.

But there’s no hurry. No deadline. It’s like getting back into shape after an illness or injury: takes as long as it takes. Gentle, easy, steady does it.

Be gentle with yourself and remember: action confuses fear.

Flow states feed our confidence.

And take heart with what Laurie discovered:

“I did it! I just opened the spreadsheet and looked over the past couple years. My self-talk stopped dead in its tracks–because I saw what I had done and thought, ‘You’re no impostor after all! These were good groups.’ Then I started planning. For a workshop that isn’t even on the calendar yet… and who knows when it can happen in our state… but still. It made me happy. You are dead right. That the fears took over. It occurred to me they might even be unrealized fears about the virus that crept their way into other areas…”

May we all remember that we are resilient creatures who can re-emerge from this horrible hard time with strong boundaries and a more true relationship with what we want next.

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