We have been in lockdown for weeks and under social isolation protocols for over a year. I can’t visit family or friends, although I have walked with a friend for fresh air and exercise. I can’t leave the house for long because there are three kids at home who may need me at anytime to address technological, educational, or relational (siblings!) issues. Conferences are virtual, meetings are by Zoom, and church, too, is about staring at a screen. I know millions, if not billions of people suffer much more and at a much more basic level, but I can’t shake this feeling of cabin fever mixed with a constant low-level blah.
Adam Grant in The New York Times reports last month that “languishing” is probably the “dominant emotion of 2021.” “Languishing” is defined as a vague no-man’s land in-between flourishing and depression, they say. It’s the absence of well-being. You’re not burnt out or hopeless, but there is this “sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.”
It is good to know it is not just me. We are all in this together.
I found this stone lying around in the local park. A grey day, among the brown leaves, in faded paint, on its own.
I’ve previously written about lament, which feels right now like the activity of someone with extra energy to give their feelings expression. Languishing doesn’t feel as intense as lament and doesn’t connect directly to some tragedy or trauma. COVID has restricted our activities, and while it has certainly shattered the lives of not just a few families, the vast majority of us don’t experience the busy intensive care units and it’s been a little bit surreal. Perhaps this is what allows conspiracy theories to proliferate: unlike a car accident, there is nothing to see here.
An article focused on flourishing came as a follow-up to the languishing article in the Times. Dani Blum offered five suggestions: assess yourself (try the very short quiz here); celebrate and savour the small things; practise gratitude; do five good deeds; look for community and connection; find purpose in everyday routines; and try something new. These sorts of things may cultivate a new interest in life, and revive the better part of ourselves.
Part of me sees such writing as part of the therapeutic society, the narcissistic focus on the well-being of the self, which gradually erodes the liturgy of self-denial and sacrificial service that lie at the heart of the Christian ethos. On the other hand, a primary part of Jesus ministry was therapeutic. He was a healer, and in the context of his wider ministry, the gospel, taken holistically, includes therapy.
I’m not an avid golfer, but golf courses just opened up again in Ontario last week and I jumped at the opportunity to get outside, get exercise, and socialize with some old friends. We have camping plans to anticipate this summer, D.V. I hope the positive trends in the graphs continue, and this daymare of COVID and its restrictions will come to an end. Maybe the doors of the church will open again soon, and we can brush the shoulders of friends and acquaintances not seen in over a year. Spring is here, and the long winter of COVID is fading.
Fresh air, anticipation and patience, coupled together with a deeper grace, will sustain us.