A constant agony

I learnt a new term this week “languishing“. Apparently this old English word is given a new hip meaning, a meaning to describe a certain state of mind. And this sensation is sweeping out the entire human population, joined force by the never-ending pandemic.

Doctors and scientists tell us the constant agony or frustration we feel, it might not be a sign of depression. It is more like the the beginning of the end that we should call it “languishing”. What a relief. It already looks less intimidating than depression.

This stagnantly aimless, joyless life is crawling under the skin of many of us. With our government dawdling between the orders of reopening and shutting businesses every few weeks, the polite, half-baked Canadian way of “keeping things under control” has gotten us nowhere close to the finish line.

For the ones who still have a job, work is all we know how to carry on with. Forget about vacations, or even personal days, because we got nowhere to go and nothing else to do. I bet you don’t dare to feel a tiny bit of illness anyway.

Even if you did, you’d rather cover it up with a brighter foundation or some more blush. Feeling sick is almost forbidden. Imagine the steps you ought to take to prove that’s not Covid related, and the potential fear you’d bring to your family and colleagues?

I didn’t even count the number of sicks days you will add to your personnel file. What a weak baby! Think about what your boss will think of you when the negative test result comes back. It’s not even Covid related!

What are we supposed to say to the people who ask “how have you been?” It is such a loaded question. Do they expect a single word answer, or are they prepared for the real truth?

I have been on both ends. And I have seen two ways to answer it.

“I am well and hope you are well, too.” Or “same same, but I am grateful for what I have.”

Occasionally someone would say “this sucks! I am so tired of all the bullshit!” But the majority of us feel obligated to uphold the optimism, as if admitting the agony equaled to showing the side of weakness.

We can’t afford to be vulnerable in front to the others! The chronic pandemic war is not over yet.

Thank goodness now we can say we feel languishing. It is not a mental illness. It’s just an absence of well-being. As if once we figured out a name for it, it’s as good as if we had figured out a way to defeat it. This non-illness related emotion would quietly disappear, and leave us in peace for the rest of the years.

Admit it, identify it, and fix it. Not possible? Then remove it!

No no no, naming it didn’t give me any sense of relief. Does someone have the magic antidote? Just like the morning blues. We indeed have a label for it. But all we’ve managed to do is maintaining the coexistance, at best.

Adam Grant at the New York Times suggested that, to stop being consumed by languishing, we can try finding some uninterrupted time to focus on getting into flow (an “optimal experience”, a state of consciousness), or setting some smaller goals for some easy wins. Challenging, but not unachievable. The idea is to help us “rediscover some of the energy and enthusiasm”.

Shrugged my shoulders, I moved away from the laptop screen. The way out of this absence of well-being is through more work, smaller, manageable work, outside of work.

Did we forget the reason why we go out to work? Sure, for survival: to pay the bills, to keep a roof over our heads, to bring bread home.

But more importantly, it’s to have a chance to experience the things we don’t even know that exist. For instance, we travel the world to new realms and fall in love with the local people, culture, music and food. Those are what the most of us busting our butts for. Not for more work?!

We live in a society that requires socialization and team playing. We might very well be able to live in solitude. But that is not the normalcy.

Friday afternoon happy hours was the normalcy. Our senses are heightened in a crowded bar, mind being challenged to process overloading information, populating conversations to keep the engagement. You take a sip of a mediocre cocktail, anticipating what the others will say next while scheming up a clever come-back. You sweat. Your eyes shift side to side. You are tense but that’s exhilarating. All the five basic human needs are being satisfied right here in this single social setting.

Obviously, we have a better chance to feel content, or achieve a state of well-being, when we are allowed to indulge from time to time. I say any sensory stimulation would do.

My dishes are getting spicier lately. Regular sit-coms don’t do the trick anymore. I’ve moved onto Hannibal series. Am I coping, or slipping?