We are not in this Alone: How a Newspaper Article on “Languishing” is Giving me Strength to Pick Myself Up

I gave the man a perfunctory “good.”

The question was, “How are you?”

He stopped, looked me in the eye, and asked me if I was good, or great.

I took a minute to think about it before I answered.

“Good,” I answered.

I was only good.

This conversation took place on Sunday, on opening day of the farmer’s market in Summit, NJ.

The place was bustling; everyone was excited to get back into the groove. The market had been open last summer during the height of the pandemic, but the rules were much stricter then. No dogs. A 15-minute time limit per person. No opportunity for conversation.

Now, we were still wearing masks, and the virus still hung in the air, but most people had received their first dose of the vaccine, some had gotten two. We knew so much more than we did one year ago. 

We were hopeful. Or at least we thought we should be.

Then why wasn’t I “great?”

What was wrong?

I couldn’t put my finger on it. On the surface, things were fine. Good. My son was about to graduate from college; everyone was healthy; I booked a family vacation for the fall. So, what was it?

The next day, I read an article in The New York Times that summed up the way I was feeling in a nutshell. In a word.

I was “languishing.” One definition the dictionary has for languish is to suffer from being forced to remain in an unpleasant place or situation. 

So, have we all been languishing? Were my feelings normal?

The article defines the difference between depression and languish. The difference between hopelessness and well, emptiness.

By nature, I am an upbeat gal. The glass is always half full. Give me lemons, I’ll not only make that lemonade, but I’ll plan an outing for us where we can slather on the sunscreen, and drink it from Adirondack chairs as we watch the waves hit the shore.  

But now, it feels like it would be quite the chore to get to the beach. The sunscreen expired, and I don’t have lemons, so just drink this glass of Crystal Light instead, and be sure to use a Solo cup so I don’t have to do the dishes. 

You see what I mean? What kind of an attitude is that?

 I thought I would be excited for re-entry, but seemingly, I lost the energy. My mojo. Gone. 

I don’t know if I should worry about myself. I look at those around me, and some seem like they are handling the transition really well. Flying colors, even. Am I envious? Probably. They are getting out there. Me, I’m still holed up.

Sure, I haven’t had my second shot yet, but once I do, will I suddenly feel like dancing the night away?

 “I’m not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.”


I don’t know. 

The article says that languish hits us as the fear and grief of the last year fades. 

“You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus,” Psychologist Adam Grant writes in the article. 

He says that part of the problem is that when you are languishing, you might not even be aware of it, making it harder to get out of it. 

“You don’t catch yourself slipping slowly into solitude; you’re indifferent to your indifference. When you can’t see your own suffering, you don’t seek help or even do much to help yourself,” he says. 

So, does the fact that I do recognize something is off give me a leg up on improvement?

Grant suggests tasks that move us out of the State of Languish. Play word games. Watch a Netflix show where you can care about the characters. Focus on small projects or other manageable goals. Have a meaningful conversation.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I did a lot of this. Proudly posted about my newly-organized linen closet, my Marie-Kondo-would-be-proud scarf drawer, the huge pile of mismatched Tupperware I was discarding. 

But, that energy dissipated. Did apathy replace it? Is this the new me? My so-called “new normal?”

I pick no. 

Because I don’t really have a choice. I don’t want to be here. I want residency back in the State of Hopefulness. But the only one who has directions on how to get there is me. I am the only one. 

So where do I find the road map?

I find it on the tennis court, where my girls have reassembled for the Tuesday night game. I find it at my mother’s house, where I finally will be able to go to see her and my sisters. It is hiding under the table at all the restaurants I can soon visit, the theatres I will be able to sit in.

And maybe I will have to force myself at first to take these initial steps back into civilization. It might be hard. 

I don’t recognize my vibrant self inside this milquetoast shell. I know this isn’t me, and I’ll do what I have to do to fight it. I know it could take a minute–it took 13 months for me to get here. 

I’m going to start with a trip to the store.

Would anyone like a glass of lemonade?

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