On languishing, being dormant, and lying in wait.

Adam Grant’s article There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing has been floating around different places I spend time online and Austin Kleon wrote a great response, I’m not languishing, I’m dormant.

On Kleon’s Instagram post about this, a commenter quoted Aaron Burr’s line in the Hamilton song “Wait for It”: “I am not standing still, I am lying in wait.” This was my first thought on seeing Kleon’s post about this, as well.

The definition Kleon shares of “languish” and the more clinical/sociological definition Grant cites focus on ill-feeling. Kleon says that because languishing is antithetical to flourishing and he’s not attempting to flourish, he’s not languishing.

I’m definitely in a downtime stage of life, having just pushed through what I call a “Chariot moment,” based on the Tarot card The Chariot, which is my fave and also all about the hustle. I’m in more of a Hermit place right now. I even just had a conversation with W. about possibly spending most of the month of May in PhD recovery, only applying for jobs that are AWESOME, waiting to pursue freelance gigs until I start to feel a bit better.

To me, languishing implies unused potential. I have a bunch of art supplies languishing in a closet in my house. Grant sort of hints at this meaning, but the dictionary definition and Kleon’s response certainly don’t consider it.

So I’m not languishing.

Another commenter on Kleon’s Instagram post suggested that the book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times is a good read for thinking through this. I just borrowed the eBook from my local library and if I enjoy it, I’ll probably buy a hardcover copy. (One of the biggest changes in my life since the start of the pandemic is that I buy way more new hardcover books and I almost always buy them from one of my local bookstores.)

I’m lying in wait. If a great opportunity comes along, I’ll pounce on it. But like a cat, I’m conserving my energy.

And like a plant, I’m not ready to come up yet.

Feel free to apply other metaphors to the same ideas.

Kimberly Hirsh, PhD @kimberlyhirsh