New chapter

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I’ve been off of Facebook and other social media for a while and have enjoyed my increased ability to focus on what I care about (rather than be bombarded with lots of ads and posts throughout the day).

But I do feel a creative impulse to have somewhere to share some thoughts occasionally.

So, for a while, I’ve been thinking about starting a blog [and also re-publishing (with back-dating) old articles of mine that I dig up].

I think I had one in college but maybe never since.

Then today Katie sent me this amazing article, which is a response to an article that Dr. Adam Grant wrote about “languishing” being a word that names the feeling of neither thriving nor being depressed. Here is a piece of the article:

A number of friends and colleagues have linked to Adam Grant’s piece, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.” In psychology, Grant says, “we think about mental health on a spectrum from depression to flourishing,” but a “term was coined by a sociologist named Corey Keyes” that describes the “void” in between them: “languishing.” It’s a state in which, Grant says, you’re not totally burned out, but you’re not full steam, either.

“Psychologists,” says Grant, “find that one of the best strategies for managing emotions is to name them.” But one has to remember that naming doesn’t just describe the world, it creates the world, too. As Brian Eno says, “Giving something a name can be just the same as inventing it.”

We tend to see what we’re looking for, so if you hear the name for something, you start seeing it everywhere, and your eyes get trained to see that particular thing, while you miss everything else. (That’s why Paul Valery said that real seeing “is forgetting the name of the thing one sees.”)

There’s also a danger that when you hear a term that sort of describes what you’re feeling, or seems right, you’ll be satisficed, and say, “Good, enough,” accept the term, and move on.

I disliked the term “languishing” the minute I heard it.

I’m not languishing, I’m dormant.

Like a plant. Or a volcano.

I am waiting to be activated.

I think, especially because of the pandemic, lots of people have been feeling that way.

For example, I recently read:

Something strange is happening to the exhausted, type-A millennial workers of America. After a year spent hunched over their MacBooks, enduring back-to-back Zooms in between sourdough loaves and Peloton rides, they are flipping the carefully arranged chessboards of their lives and deciding to risk it all.

If this movement has a rallying cry, it’s “YOLO” — “you only live once,” an acronym popularized by the rapper Drake a decade ago and deployed by cheerful risk-takers ever since. The term is a meme among stock traders on Reddit, who use it when making irresponsible bets that sometimes pay off anyway. More broadly, it has come to characterize the attitude that has captured a certain type of bored office worker in recent months.

To be clear: The pandemic is not over, and millions of Americans are still grieving the loss of jobs and loved ones. Not everyone can afford to throw caution to the wind. But for a growing number of people with financial cushions and in-demand skills, the dread and anxiety of the past year are giving way to a new kind of professional fearlessness.

As for me, I don’t identify with the phrase “I am waiting [to/on/for ____________].”

I don’t feel like I’m waiting around hoping that lovely experiences land in my lap.

I do identify with the idea that “In life, you get whatever you tolerate.” And over the years, I’ve noticed that it’s possible to raise my standards in terms of whether I’m spending my energy and attention on something that is useful for others and is fun for me. I feel discerning.

I’m excited to be starting a new chapter starting May 2021. I don’t know exactly what it will look like yet. Stay tuned.

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