Are You Languishing Too?

2021-06-09_151738The school year ended for my son last Wednesday. We have been looking forward to “the end” almost since the beginning. This pandemic year has been hard for everyone, and even though I’m still very much engaged in the daily grind, a tremendous weight has been lifted because at least my son can breathe a little easier and hopefully recuperate “enough” before August.

Some weeks ago, as I listened to Dr. Anita Phillips’ podcast, In the Light, she “hit a nerve.” As she introduced the episode “Beautiful Things,” I heard the word languishing and listened a little more closely:

It is a stealthy emotion […]. It sneaks up on you little by little […]. It is really easy to miss. The feeling of languishing is one of stagnation and emptiness […].

Phillips, a trauma therapist, also referenced a New York Times article, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing:”

Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.

I backtracked and listened to that part over and over.

Languishing.

Is this why I have little interest in doing things I usually enjoy? Is this why it seems I’m working all.the.time but have little to show for it by the end of the day? Why I don’t feel like cooking or cleaning? Why sometimes my brain seems completely devoid of thought?

I know I am not depressed, but I feel out of sorts and disconnected from my usual rhythms.

Languishing.

The word perfectly describes the state I’m in and the state of others with whom I’ve spoken recently about their mental and emotional state during this phase of the pandemic.

We once flourished; now we’re doing our best if we can climb out of bed in the morning. Of course, there are ways to combat this state of being, but for me, it really comes down to the very thing expressed in a Washington Post title on the same subject.

“We all need a break.”

We need time to take care of our mental health and process what we’ve just gone through and what we’ve come through. We need time to grieve the losses and celebrate the gains. We also need time to look ahead and dream of the possibilities once we are truly post-pandemic.

Is that doable right now when we’re barely doing life?

The whole thing is “a lot,” as some say, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the “too much” of it. But we must pay attention and we must deal with our languishing because as the NYT article points out, languishing, in some ways, may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness. Furthermore, as Dr. Phillips emphasized in her podcast, “the mental health impact [of this moment] will far outlast our return to physical safety,” so we must take the time now to “honestly identify and name how [we] are feeling.”

I have many coping strategies [journalingcreatingshutting down technologylisting, sleeping, spending time with trees, and praying], but I am taking Dr. Phillips’ advice of identifying and naming, expressing my feelings, and spending time with those I love. Additionally, because confronting the mental and emotional chaos can be all-consuming, I am processing in small moments. The few minutes while doing the dishes. The walk from building to building while running errands on campus. The half hour or so spent grocery shopping. Whenever I can find even just a moment of quiet, I take the time to process, to exhale, and to heal.

I pray you’re doing the same.


Note: I am not a psychologist or therapist, so I encourage you to read the articles and listen to the podcast linked in this post for more information, tips, and tools for dealing with this mental health challenge–and of course, seek professional counsel should you feel your issues are much larger than you can handle without help.

About the Image: The image above features the artwork of illustrator and designer Eunji Jung. It was this bit of gorgeousness that “introduced” me to my new Love Notes pal, Kathi G. I admired the postcard after another Love Noter posted it in the group, and Kathi kindly sent one my way. Thanks, Kathi!

Weekend Joy and the Clinton Row Colorwalk

A smile relieves a heart that grieves. Remember what I said. –The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards

So far this long weekend has been exactly what I needed. When I left work Thursday, I’d planned to take the four-day weekend seriously re: self-care and joy breaks. I had some “unfinished business,” so I worked till noon Friday and I haven’t thought about work since then.

I have been just as serious about my 10 days of joy.

Yesterday, I held my first full “brain dump” session in a long time and ended up with a three-page list of all the things that have been nipping at my soul. Now, I know that doesn’t sound very “joyful.” And it isn’t. In fact, without context, the list is sad, stressful, anxious, but the JOY is in how I felt after writing the list! I have been carrying too much stuff internally, and when I don’t deal with it or even take a moment to acknowledge it, all that soul-gunk spills out in not-so-nice ways. So…taking an hour or so Sunday morning to detoxify my soul was beneficial in many ways.

I’m not sure I would have been able to even approach that list if the guys and I hadn’t taken time out for creativity Saturday afternoon. We grabbed our cameras, headed downtown, donned our masks, and took a two-hour photo walk. The weather was perfect—cloudy, cool, and breezy.

I noted the typical street scenes—musicians playing, private conversations, storefronts, architecture, diners—but, because I am nearly obsessed with street art, the Clinton Row Colorwalk was my favorite joy moment of the walk!

The Clinton Row Colorwalk is an alley filled with murals painted by Huntsville (Alabama) artists.

Mick Jagger with Frame

Needless to say, every single piece of work thrilled me, but the quote written along the frame of the Mick Jagger portrait transformed the art into a powerful statement:

I pray that looking beyond this day we can all work together to overcome the hatred and division and start to heal the pain and suffering that everybody is feeling in this country.

Here’s a collage of “sneak peaks” of some the other pieces:

To see the full pieces, see my Flickr album here > Clinton Row Colorwalk Album and for more information about the art and some of the artists’ processes, check out the Facebook page here > Clinton Row Colorwalk Community.

What is today’s joy break? I’ll be spending time with family safely celebrating my baby cousin’s kindergarten graduation!

Joy all around!

A Moment with Eric Carle

2021-05-28_145935

The Very Hungry Caterpillar story is about hope. You, like the little caterpillar, will grow up, unfold your wings and fly off into the future. –Eric Carle

Beloved children’s book author and illustrator, Eric Carle, passed away May 23 at 91 years of age, but I learned of his passing just this morning. I spent today’s joy break revisiting Carle’s books and illustrations and thinking about moments I spent with my little one reading and rereading his books. I even listened to the recording of my son “reading” Brown, Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1967) that I mentioned in a 2018 post (linked below).

It’s sad that we lost Carle, but it heartens me to know that he will live on and on through his works and in the memories of generations who were mesmerized by his colorful books.

If you’d like just a little more of Eric Carle, here are two more posts which feature Carle’s work:

Take a moment to (re)visit Carle’s work this weekend and have joy!

Student Post 7: Wisdom from The Magician’s Nephew

Sunflower PhotoArtStudents in my course are encouraged to shape their blogs in the way that serves their blogging purposes, but there are obviously some skills they must exercise to become strong non-fiction writers. To that end, we do some workshopping and writing exercises in class that help them stretch their writing muscles. Some of these exercises are developed into blog posts. Some are submitted to literary journals. Some remain in the students’ writing journals while they continue to work with them.

One of the exercises required students to reflect on a significant quote. In today’s post Markus of Mark’s Art Stew talks about a quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, “The Magician’s Nephew”, and its recent impact on his life. Be sure to read his post and follow his blog. He offers a little something for everyone.


About the Image: The image above is one of the [far too] many pieces of sunflower photo-art hiding in my files. I might have to compile them into a book or start a sunflower blog. 😉

Student Post 5: Autism Awareness

autism-2377410_1280

It seems that for success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential. — Hans Asperger

Today’s post was written by the broadcast journalist of the group, Patricia of Patricia’s Corner. In the post she writes candidly about her experiences with Asperger’s Syndrome. She also invites us to look around and find others, like her, all around us. “They may seem different, but they’re the same.”

“Autism Awareness Month, or How I Learned to Cope and Accept My Asperger’s Syndrome.”

Patricia is, of course, in good company. Poet and artist, Morgan Harper Nichols, similarly shared about her recent autism diagnosis and how she’s learning to cope.

Student Post 1: No [Wo]Man is a Paradise Island

Rhododendron-2

No man is an island entirely of itself. –John Donne

I had many posts planned for this month, and like the many posts planned for the first quarter of the year, they’ve been placed on the back burner until I have time to actually enjoy putting the posts together. For now–this week, at least–I will share posts written by my student bloggers. I planned to share links to their blogs in one post; instead, I decided to highlight specific posts by the students and hopefully boost their readership.

The first post was written by Wanéa, the “small girl with big thoughts.” In “No Man is a Paradise Island” she talks about being an introvert during the pandemic.

Click the link and show Wanéa some blogiverse love. Be sure to follow Unbecoming:

“No Man is a Paradise Island.”


Notes: I’ll be sharing random shots from my brief escapes from the computer screen with the student links. That way I’ll contribute something. Right? Also, I know I can hit the “reblog” button at the bottom the student posts, but is that effective? I wonder how many people actually click the link to continue reading…

Easter Reflections

4 Purple Tulips
From “Dawn Mass Reflections at Corcomroe Abbey,” Walking on Pastures of Wonder, John O’Donohue in conversation with John Quinn:
 
On this Easter morning, let us look again at the lives we have been so generously given and let us let fall away the useless baggage that we carry — old pains, old habits, old ways of seeing and feeling — and let us have the courage to begin again. Life is very short, and we are no sooner here than it is time to depart again, and we should use to the full the time that we still have.
 
We don’t realize all the good we can do. A kind, encouraging word or helping hand can bring many a person through dark valleys in their lives. We weren’t put here to make money or to acquire status or reputation. We were sent here to search for the light of Easter in our hearts, and when we find it we are meant to give it away generously. The dawn that is rising this Easter morning is a gift to our hearts and we are meant to celebrate it and to carry away from this holy, ancient place the gifts of healing and light and the courage of a new beginning.

 

May you seek and find the Light…

Steeped in Purple

A garden in purple is always in bloom.

Today was gorgeous, and I was desperate to get out, soak in some sun, and spend a few moments with my camera. However, the task list kept me at my desk until I [literally] ran away from my office.

I couldn’t get to the spring blooms, so I’m taking a moment this evening to appreciate [again] all the purple in this gorgeous collection of purple flowers Connie F, one of my Love Notes friends, sent for International Women’s Day. The postcard inspired me to go in search of more purple this week, but because the to-do list limited my outdoors activity, I went to my purple happy place on Pinterest, my “Purple Passion” board.

Now that I am perfectly steeped in purple, I’ll return to my tasks. Be sure to find some purple in nature this week–especially if you’re a purple person. 😉

You are a purple person if…

You are imaginative, sensitive, artistic, and sophisticated.
You have noble ideals and a keen appreciation of the cultural.
You are alert, demanding, foresighted, confident, resourceful, spontaneous, and highly independent.
You take delight in the beautiful, the gracious, the sensitive, but maintain an attitude of critical appraisal.
In love, you seek to attain a magical quality and refuse to settle for anything less.
You refuse to be “swept off your feet” unless genuineness and integrity can be absolutely ascertained.
You are active in the support of things you believe in, and are concerned with the pursuit of truth and other human values.
You take chances and believe that you must do so to make the most of what life has to offer.

Purple is a unique color, and it is truly a unique individual who holds it dear.   —Pin Image

P.S. I do not like this new thing WordPress has done to the editor. Bring back the “classic” Classic Editor! [Insert side-eye]

Suddenly Spring!

Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you. The lion
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,
queen of the weeds, revives
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.

 

The Japanese magnolias and flowering pear trees have reached full bloom. Soon the blossoms will fall and the branches will fill with the cheerful green of early spring.

Winter has its purpose, but oh, how I’ve longed for this first day of spring! After a few days of rain, the day is bright and beautiful, and I’m looking forward to some much-needed time in the sun!

Nothing says spring in certain parts like the daffodil. I’ve been seeing clusters of them crop up in the last few weeks–at the edges of driveways, encircling trees, around mailboxes, and in the floral section of the grocery stores–like an invitation to this moment.

I was happy to find the cheerful watercolor of daffodils [above] in my mailbox. Eileen V, one of my Love Notes friends, sent it in celebration of International Women’s Day, but in the dismal last few days of winter, it was a welcome reminder of the sunny, hopeful, healing days to come!

Wishing you a…

Happy Spring!

Mental Health Day: The Task List Can Wait

Life is all about balance. You don’t always need to be getting stuff done. Sometimes it’s perfectly okay and absolutely necessary to do nothing –Lori Deschene, founder of Tiny Buddha

Since we have no spring break this semester, the University built “mental health days” into the calendar. Today is our March mental health day.

I woke up this morning and performed my morning rituals—journaling, worship and Bible study, and writing. I, then, filled my task list with all the things that must be completed by Friday and went back to sleep for two or three hours.

That felt so good.

Initially, I looked forward to today for a different reason: I thought of it as a whole uninterrupted day to get caught up on “all the things.” In fact, I worked the entirety of our February mental health day and proceeded to work doggedly until today. I realized, as new tasks and challenges arise daily, the work is never done and if we plan even our days off around our task list, we will never, ever get the breaks our minds and bodies need.

I’ve given myself permission to rest and I’m accepting the gift of this mental health day. I’m going to enjoy the rain, watch a Netflix movie, write postcards, daydream, and play board games with my guys [later].

Days of “not bothering,” to use Piglet’s phrase, are good for the soul. Have you taken a mental health day lately?


About the image: The skillfully captured image of the columbine above was shot by my Love Notes friend, Christine B. She sent it in celebration of women for International Women’s Day.