Stop Languishing And Flow

Posted on April 26, 2021


Hello, Reader!

I am excited to welcome Cathy Fleischer to CT! A little over a year ago, Cathy asked me to write prompts that would get people to go outside and to write. I wrote a year-long cycle of prompts, and when I was done, I asked Cathy to write something for me, to give me some indication of how a writer has responded. In the past, when I wrote prompts like this, they were for a live audience: high school students or workshop participants, and I would see and hear what people wrote immediately. This time, I wrote prompt after prompt, never knowing what they inspired, so I asked Cathy to write something about what happened when she used them. What follows is her response. I am so happy to share it with you. Enjoy!

Earlier this week, I read a piece by Adam Grant in the NYTimes, entitled “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling:  It’s Called Languishing.” I was hooked by the second paragraph as Grant described the feeling that he and many of his friends and colleagues were experiencing: “It wasn’t burnout—we still had energy. It wasn’t depression—we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless.”

I felt seen. I felt heard. And because naming is something that matters to me, I felt validated. This year has been differently hard for all of us—in personal, structural, systemic ways. And as some of the grief we’ve experienced is starting to fade a little—as we’ve gotten vaccines and seen more people (even physically distanced)—I recognize that this feeling I now know to identify as languishing has permeated everything I have done over these thirteen months: every interaction with family and friends, every approach to my own work life, every thought I have about the future.

Grant (thank goodness!) continues his article by noting an antidote to languishing, based in something known as flow, “that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away.” I knew about the concept of flow in my daily work as a writing instructor, a concept that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi named some years ago and that we apply to that moment when creativity takes over as we lose ourselves in our writing. 

I had all that in my mind today as I set out on an early morning walk, something I’ve taken to doing every single day since the pandemic began. I took deep breaths as I watched the sunrise make the snow on my newly-bloomed Magnolia tree glisten. I listened to the bird sounds, noticing how different they sounded on this chilly snowy day in late April. I watched my new puppy take tentative footsteps in this newfound wonder of snow on her grassy lawn. I felt that elusive state of absorption, and I was grateful that my daily foray into nature has given me a chance to break the cycle of languishing.

And then I thought about the great gift lisa eddy had given to the world this year, the twice-weekly writing prompts about nature that took me through a full year of watching, listening, pondering, wondering about the world right outside our windows. I began to notice, with intent and purpose, footprints, vegetation, even scat. I watched how a single space transformed over twelve months and lost myself in questions about why and how. I experienced flow—even for a small chunk of every day. And I know that this focus, this immersion into nature, has helped me through this year like no other.

I also know that I am different now—from the pandemic, of course, as I reevaluate so much of what matters—but also from my daily walks and the mindfulness that has accompanied them. 

If you haven’t done so already, check out lisa’s prompts, available on the YpsiWrites website (and soon to be collected in a single pdf in book form!) Find the flow that nature naturally provides and that lisa helps us notice.

Cathy Fleischer is a professor at EMU, where she works with practicing and pre-service teachers to become more thoughtful writing teachers and advocates for education.

lisa & Cathy, Hollerfest Merch Volunteers

lisa eddy is a writer and editor for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

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