(September 1, 2020)
by Christie Shumate McElwee
I don’t know about you all, but six months into this debacle, I’ve hit a wall. I can’t sleep. I can’t think. I have trouble concentrating on much of anything. Yesterday my friend Marcia sent me a link to an article that helped me define how I’ve been feeling. It discussed an ancient Greek word that encapsulates these days for many of us. The word is “acedia,” defined as “a seizing up or freezing of feelings; spiritual or mental sloth; a lack of care.” Medieval monks cloistered in monasteries often experienced “acedia.” They suffered a sense of listlessness, sighing at their lonely existence, not knowing what to do next. Does this sound familiar? It’s not depression or laziness. It’s acedia, and sometimes it is reassuring to have a name for our emotions. When Marcia forwarded me this yesterday, I was at my desk staring at a blank page. It was almost as though she knew I needed help. It’s the universe (and a good friend) holding out a hand.
I think all of us are grappling with some form of acedia right now. We are stuck in an anxiety-riddled mire, constantly worrying about the impact of the virus, our political climate, hurricanes, fires, racial injustice, voting, our “leader’s” unhinged Twitter rants, the openings of schools, keeping our families safe, and not forgetting a mask when venturing out. No wonder we feel stranded, wishing we had a soccer ball companion named Wilson who would listen to our endless strings of worry beads.
How do I sit with my own acedia?
Place purple mums on my front porch.
Text dear friends my fears and hopes and deepest desires.
Rearrange my office.
Bake an apple pie.
Write cards to my grandchildren.
Read. Read. Read.
Read fiction. Read nonfiction. Read poetry.
Read. Read. Read.
Nap when I can.
Take my mom out to lunch.
Brew good coffee.
Listen to music. Always music.
Limit time on social media and the news.
Stay out of the comments. Nothing good ever comes from reading the comments. Nothing.
Reach out to our kids. Grateful when they reach out to us.
Venture out from my cloistered life.
Bask in the cooler days.
Hang onto hope.
Look for magic.
Send big messy everlasting love out to the universe.
“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ~Roald Dahl
“You can only go with loves in this life.” ~Ray Bradbury
And…because I’m still an English teacher in my heart….
Stillman, Jessica. “The Ancient Greeks Had a Word for the Specific Kind of Bad You’re Feeling Right Now.” Inc. 31 August 2020.