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Languishing

My daughter sent me an article from the New York Times on a new term coined by mental health professionals to describe the emotional state of many of us during CoVid 19: languishing. Such an apt word. Languishing is not depression and it's not burnout. It is better described as feeling joyless and aimless. The author writes that it is feels like you are 'muddling through your days, looking at your life through a muddy windshield.' I can relate to a muddy windshield, trying to see and feel what is around me but instead feeling cloudy, just off enough to not be clear. It feels like the 'absence of well-being'.


At last, a word for what has plagued me for the past 22 months or so. I am writer but I lost words, the ability to truly express. I am typically upbeat but I found myself lost a lot, muddling as it were. I felt, as many of you do, a feeling a collective grief for the world but not knowing what to do about it. At times, it was overwhelming.


I have written a lot about the chickens and ducks we started to raise a week before the CoVid shut down in the US. It was hard for me to unpack how important they came to be to me; how keeping them alive was almost an obsession. My husband and I were constantly fortifying their coop from predators; keeping them safe seemed to match the need we had to keep everyone we loved safe. The metaphor is obvious: in reacting to the loss of control we had over CoVid 19, we had control in this one place.


Back to the languishing. The ducks and the chickens played a dual role in giving me some purpose that I could not seem to find anywhere else. And they also gave me a creative outlet in housing the birds, painting their home, learning everything the Internet would tell me about breeds. They were my antidote for the murkiness, the muddy windshield.


We are now closer to an end to the pandemic as people become vaccinated but I think the aftermath may stay with us longer. That is not necessarily a negative thing, but important to recognize. Like the stages of grief that people experience from loss, I believe that languishing will be a 'place' we may go back to from time to time as we cope with the incredible losses of this year. As a lens on life, it's important to name things. Once named, we can act or not act, but at least we know what we are dealing with.




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