Skip to content

The Idealist

April 24, 2021

Languishing. That’s what an article in one of the newspapers I read says we’re doing now, after a year of isolation and alarm. I’m languishing, maybe you’re languishing, possibly we’re all in our separate bunks lying around, still on high alert and languishing, like “The Idealist”:

Friends, I am sick of the world, sick
of the way it holds its hand out and
yanks it back. You will say
I am feeling sorry for myself and I
am sick of that, too. I am sick of every day’s
demand to be loved, it’s ever-fresh
sunrises and moonrises and
rains and winds and heartbreakingly quiet
snows coming down like the hush
of young mothers. You will say
I am bitter. I know. You will say
I should get a life—and I have
tried! Do you think it’s for nothing
I spent ten years belting songs from barstools,
hitting on my coworkers, slogging through
the first fifty pages of a motherload
of “notable books”? My level of commitment
should not be in question here. If I say
the night is as boring as a long flight,
it’s because I have been up in it
for years. You will say
I am trying to pick a fight. Oh, friends,
nothing could be less true. It isn’t you
I blame for this stalled train of day
after day after day with the same
smirk on its face, ringing you out of sleep
like a telemarketer. Though even my dreams
are getting old—the same old lovers
traipsing around the same old hallways,
the same old feeling that something
has been irredeemably lost.
If there’s one thing I’m sick of,
it’s that. You will say, I’m being
melodramatic—as though
I were the problem! Friends,
if it were up to me, there’d be
a moratorium on boredom,
and dancing wouldn’t be so ridiculous,
or Ulysses so inscrutable,
or instruments so hard to play,
and if you wanted to feel a certain way
that’s how you’d feel, end of story.

From In Someone Else’s House, by Christian Barter

Isn’t it a lovely thought that if you wanted to feel grateful (for instance), then that’s how you’d feel?

I especially love the line “my level of commitment/ should not be in question here.” I’ve worked especially hard this year, and what do I get for it? Faculty and students complaining that it’s not nearly hard enough. Well, so much for that.

I’m heading for a summertime frame of mind, reassessing priorities and making time for more things outside of work. I’ll read more of the books I find notable and play the instrument I enjoy most, the violin. And I’m intending to substitute some lolling for languishing.

How about you?

18 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2021 8:14 am

    I love this. Thank you for sharing!

  2. April 24, 2021 11:30 am

    I love this. And it’s obvious to me that one person’s languishing is another person’s relaxation. But I’m retired now, so maybe I can’t tell the difference 🙂

    Hoping your summer is nice and lolling. And oo, the violin?!!

    • April 26, 2021 9:55 am

      It’s true that I’ve been told that most of my travel is not “relaxing” the way others sometimes wish it could be. I like to get out and see things! Not being able to do that has caused some of my languishing.
      I play the violin in the local symphony orchestra and in the last few years have been learning to fiddle (I posted a photo of my violin on April 21, 2020 with my post about Simon the Fiddler).

  3. April 24, 2021 12:17 pm

    Wonderful poem!!

    And lolling is the best word – I think this should be the Summer of Lolling; it would probably do everyone a lot of good. 🙂

    • April 26, 2021 9:52 am

      Pippin (the cat in the photo) models lolling very well. It’s his favorite thing.

  4. Rohan Maitzen permalink
    April 24, 2021 1:04 pm

    I hear you about that “level of commitment.” We have had non-stop messaging from so many directions about care for our students but I really don’t know one person in a teaching job at any level who hasn’t been going all out *as far as they are able*, and there doesn’t seem to be the same level of reciprocal concern, including from students who are quick to protest what seems like any disappointing experience without considering we are all in this pandemic too! Lolling does sound like a better alternative to languishing.

    • April 26, 2021 9:58 am

      I have a theory that concern about how people are doing mostly goes down–when we try to have empathy we think about those less fortunate or in a subordinate position to our own. This means that everyone has lots of concern for students and less for the faculty and administrators who have to deal with their demands and their disappointments.

      • Rohan Maitzen permalink
        April 26, 2021 6:04 pm

        And in many ways that makes sense – but it is hard sometimes also not to feel cynically that our admin “worries” a great deal about students’ well-being because students pay them money, whereas we cost them money.

  5. April 25, 2021 10:42 am

    Those last lines are really good and oh how I wish it could be so. I am very tired. (I know we all are.)

    • April 26, 2021 9:59 am

      Yeah, wouldn’t it be nice if we decided to feel energized and it just…happened?

  6. April 25, 2021 7:47 pm

    Retirement is my writing time, among other things, and the last year’s stresses had me producing very little. The weight of pandemic plus politics, plus some personal stuff, almost flattened me.

    I kept at it. Progress was made. But I felt the whole year I was swimming upstream to my doom – and just wanted to finish the trilogy first! Second book is coming along nicely, I haven’t even bothered to advertise the first because the best marketing is the second book, and I like it even more than I thought I would. A solitary flame at the end of the cave.

    I started tired – chronic illness does that to you – and have watched other people gain some measure of understanding, and seen long covid threaten the existence in the future of millions more needy newbies.

    “You will say, I’m being
    melodramatic—as though
    I were the problem! Friends,
    if it were up to me, there’d be
    a moratorium on boredom”

    And yet, we survived. The offspring are getting vaccinated and moving on with their lives a bit, but many parts of the world, including Mexico, my childhood home, are disaster areas of epic proportions, so we can’t rest.

    • April 26, 2021 10:02 am

      Well put. I think the phrase “swimming upstream to my doom” would be a good title for something.
      I’m glad to hear you like the second book! That’s encouraging!
      And yes, it does seem like every time we put something right there’s something else going really wrong, so we can’t rest.

      • April 26, 2021 7:09 pm

        I liked that one: I catch cliches before they are submitted, and tweak them – there’s always a more interesting way to say it, but cliches often state real wisdom.

        The salmon die after swimming upstream, those that reach the spawning grounds. Imagine the power of that imperative that keeps them vaulting over rocks and dams as they are dying. Many don’t make it – bears feast on them before they can lay their eggs. It makes me misty-eyed.

  7. April 26, 2021 6:42 am

    Such a great poem and wonderful mention of Ulysses! No languishing here, but then again, I have book festivals in full swing here, even if they are virtual.

    • April 26, 2021 10:04 am

      Oh yes, isn’t it a great wish, that a book that has to be unpacked so carefully could be less “inscrutable”? I guess it’s a warning that the wish to decide how to feel is similarly complicated and ultimately self-defeating. Why would we even want something so simplified?
      I’m glad to hear you’re not languishing!

  8. April 26, 2021 12:58 pm

    Excellent poem! I wouldn’t say I am languishing, just a little tired. I get my second jab at the end of next week and I’m looking forward to just doing normal things like going to the grocery store with my husband. Very nice of you cat to pose with the book, though there seems to be a bit of attitude happening 😀

    • April 27, 2021 7:40 am

      Normal things, yes. I went into a store for the first time in a year over the weekend, but it was not the grocery store; I like ordering groceries and having them brought out to my car.
      The cat does have a lot of attitude. He was slightly offended that I pushed the book just a little closer to him before taking the photo.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: