An article popped up from a friend on my social media feed: “Feeling Blah During the Pandemic? It’s Called Languishing.” I clicked the New York Times link and read about that middle ground between the valleys of depression and the peaks of feeling good: languishing.
It is something that we have been faced with as our lives were turned upside down. I did my best to find projects outside of photography gigs (which were my main source of income) so I could keep moving forward. But still, I have had my moments of languishing. The past few days have been very weird for me. I have no motivation. I want to sleep or mindlessly scroll TikTok. Being creative has not been high on my list.
This strange and foggy place in between the big feelings is where I truly need to tap into small victories, like the fact I picked up a camera yesterday and took random macro images of things around the house.
Or that I have actually begun a series about conceptual photography on my very small YouTube channel.
This idea of and experience of languishing reminds me of a concept I just completed.
My mind often overflows with ideas. To make sure I remember them, I have several running lists in notebooks, on my phone, and finally a Google Doc. Every once in a while I combine the ideas into the Google Doc to streamline my creative process.
Themes of anxiety, anguish, and overwhelming feelings are all over my idea lists. I regularly see a therapist to work through my issues, but I find that acting out the feelings through a model – or my own self-portrait, as I did here – helps me hold the feeling and acknowledge their purpose in my life.
While the phrases “happiness is is a choice” and “other people have it worse” are floated to me in well-meaning tones from friends and extended family, they are simply not phrases that have a place in my journey, so I do my best not to say them to others.
My sadness and anxiety are old friends of mine. I know that without them, I would not be the person I am. They do not define me, but they have shaped me. They don’t visit me as much as they once did. Every once in a while, they show up unannounced. I sit with them, embrace them, and allow them to leave and overflow through their usual exit: my eyes.
Sometimes, as I sit with them, it’s difficult to remember life without them as a constant presence; when you’re in it, you’re all the way in it. It can feel like floating on an ocean, alone, with remnants of your “normal” sinking into the fathoms below. The storm will rage, the rain and tears fall, and the skies are dark and rescue seems impossible. But storms don’t last. The skies clear, and hope appears. The quiet lapping of the receding pain reminds me of my safety. I feel a bit foolish for allowing myself to be overcome by the presence of my old friends.
Much like Alice, I regret having cried so much. But also like Alice, I know that I am a continually evolving person; I’m not even the same person I was this morning. The tears that spilled will also dry eventually, having fed the soil and giving nutrition to my emotional and spiritual growth.
Curiouser and curiouser, isn’t it?
And sometimes, we won’t see any growth for a while, as we languish and toil over the land.