This past year has been rough. Sure, life is often tough and there are lots of valleys but for our society, this has been a hard year. Last year saw the fear and grief that the pandemic brought as well as the social and political unrest (including death). Then we slipped into 2021 with more of the same. The grief and fear may not be our primary emotions – we’ve been faced with some of our fears (a global pandemic) and demons (further uncovering racism, bigotry, and violence) and taken some actions to begin mitigating these (or at least bringing them into our collective consciousness that we have a lot of work to do as human beings). But, we are still in the problems—there is still a pandemic and there is still massive inequality and injustice. And, we are tired.
The New York Times recently ran an article saying that the predominant emotion for 2021 seems to be languishing. We’re aren’t in fight or flight mode any longer (at least as the pandemic currently is---the larger societal problems may currently be stuck in this place, angry at the fear of injustice) but most of us aren’t in a place of being settled and thriving. The general sense of things right now seems “meh”.
It's interesting to collectively experience these emotions. These are feelings that most of us go through solo. As far as languishing, until I started writing again, I felt that sense of blah often. I had spent much of my 20s in problem mode and started my 30s deep in the valley (drinking almost daily to excess is a great way to quickly hit rock bottom). I got sober when I was 30 and have been so for the last 12 years (twice as long as the amount of time I actually drank). Once the chaos of drinking melted into the frustration and freedom of sobriety, I spent my 30s dealing with my anxiety and the unhappiness of my job, another period of being constantly alert. Since my breakdown six years ago, I spent a lot of time curled into myself, healing (and hiding). It’s only been in the last few years that watching Gilmore Girls and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on repeat and memorizing the entire JCrew catalog were no longer comforting, let alone helpful. So, I have been languishing in my own life.
There may be a public experience of the “blahs” that we are all going through, but this past year has been hard and different for us all. For some people, this waiting has been curative, a time to rest. Others have found it as an opportunity to really reassess priorities and make changes. For many, it has been a time of upheaval and just managing to hang on. And, then there are those that languish—not inspired or scared but just being.
There are no simple answers as to how to make life feel normal again. Like with any great change, the idea of normal just shifts to a new space until it becomes somewhere we are more comfortable (and then the next transformation occurs). While there are myriad ways to muddle through this fallow period, one thing is for certain that life is continuing. No matter how terrifying or boring or inspiring, time moves forward, whether we are in pain or joy or boredom. The price for one is the others and if we are brave, we will make it through and be changed by them all.