Back in April I read a New York Times article by Adam Grant titled “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.” At first I didn’t think it had anything to do with me. As an extreme introvert, after all, I thought I had survived the pandemic mostly intact, even thriving in some ways. But the more I read, the more familiar the words sounded.
Yep. I wasn’t depressed and still had energy, but I was kinda muddling through my days, somewhat aimless. Life became slower. Much slower. My breakfasts dragged on, and my days started progressively later. For over a year, the days of the week just blurred into each other, undistinguishable. I found it hard to remember what day it was, or if a holiday was approaching. Nothing felt urgent. And even though I derived much satisfaction from gardening and making art, finding the motivation to do anything at all became increasingly more difficult.
When the article was published, vaccines finally became more widely available, but I still found it hard to imagine post-pandemic life. I had hope, but was also afraid to hope. So many plans, after all, have gotten cancelled in the previous months, and so many aspirations have come to nothing… I felt a sense of stagnation, some emptiness, too. I was OK, but not quite OK.
Whether we want it to or not, the Pandemic was a watershed for all of humanity. For all of us, there will always be a “before” and an “after.” We’ve all emerged from the experience different in some ways. I am not quite the same person I was back in March 2019. The world had changed, and so did I. Something had shifted inside me. My aspirations for life and art took a turn. My priorities, too. Because beneath the calmness and safety of everyday life that those of us lucky enough to escape sickness experienced, there loomed something terrifying, raw and painful, a deep collective trauma. I, and maybe you, too, feel as if I am suffering from PPSD (Postpandemic Stress Disorder).
After reading Grant’s article, I made a series of four small art quilts to describe that in-between blah feeling, the pandemic brain fog. That space between joy and despair, the sensation of stagnation and emptiness mixed with pain and hope. I chose to use light and dark colors to portray the extremes, and acrylic-painted burnt red fabric to convey both positive and negative feelings.
Red has so many connotations, after all. It can express different feelings, based on personal and cultural preferences. Joy and happiness, but also fear, anger and danger. All feelings we experienced during the pandemic.
The quilts are all 10″ square. I created them out of mixed fabrics with some acrylic paint, and incorporated both machine and hand stitching.
Adam Grant predicted that languishing “might be the dominant emotion of 2021.” When I look around, at my family and friends, I realize that he might be right. Because even now, in mid-summer 2021, with a year and a half of pandemic behind us and with many of us vaccinated, new mutations are still spreading, and the illness just isn’t going away. We want the pandemic to end, even act as if it has sometimes, but the newspapers say otherwise…
Life is slowly going back to a new normal, and hopefully the languishing will diminish as we go back to our routines. For those of us wanting to speed that process, in the meantime, here is some advice.