Languishing or Adjusting?

The New York Times recently suggested a word for people who are bone-weary of living with the persistent threat of COVID, of avoiding one another, of wearing masks even if you are fully vaccinated out of social solidarity.

"It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing."  

The paper goes on to define languishing as a vapid form of stagnation, "as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield."

Alice and I know people who are languishing. They understandably miss so much about life B.C. (Before COVID): they pine for hearty laughs inside restaurants, bear hugs with loved ones, not having glasses fog up due to the requisite mask. They have a boredom that Netflix can't eliminate; they feel an ennui which homemade sourdough bread won't heal; days drag on with a murky longing for a future that seems further away with each new mutation or vaccine side-effect.

While we are aware of the devastatingly negative effects this virus has had on many people since March of 2020, there are some who have discovered their own flexibility- they have been able to make adjustments. There's the media specialist who has been able to work from home, even preferring being "remote" in sweatpants (during a Zoom call no less) and wondering how she ever dealt with rush hour traffic twice a day or James in accounting. There's the insurance agent who decides that "enough is enough" and, taking a good look at his finances, trusts that he can retire and now spend more time with his wife and their garden and Church activities. Or the young person, introvert by nature and reticent in the classroom, who blossoms online with newly discovered skills in digital technology, writes fearless posts without the worry of blushing or stuttering and enjoys a growing internetwork of friends who don't bully or pressure or compare.

If you are languishing, claim it and name it. It may not change much but at least you'll know that what you are feeling is tied to circumstances mostly outside your control. You are not wrong or weak.

On the other hand, if you are adjusting, know that there are two kinds of adjustments: for merely coping or for thriving. If you are thriving, please be respectful, patient and sensitive to those who aren't. But go ahead and relish the way you have used this time to dig (deep) down and make amazing lemonade. And how wonderful if you can wordlessly share that attitude with others. You are not better or stronger than others. But you are alive and well!