The Germans have a knack for coining words that perfectly sum up the human experience, words that have no direct English translation. For a culture that is sometimes (horribly and mistakenly) stereotyped as cold and technical, Germany sure has a colorful variety of ways to describe emotions and feelings.
Enter Lebensmüde. A rough translation is world-weary, life-tired, fed-up. 2020 was a full year of Lebensmüde for so many humans around the globe. It can be difficult to feel that certain vigor of life, when the daily outlook seems so bleak and unchanging. I’ve discovered through chats with other creative types that the never-ending barrage of terrible news, muted living due to shut downs, reduced face-to-face human interaction, and uncertainty about the future seems to have divided the community into two camps.
Some creatives have been able to actually harness the emotions of the past year and pair that with the increased free time to produce both quality and quantity of work previously undreamed of. Others have had the exact opposite experience. Instead of motivating more creativity, the effect of percolating in a too-warm pot of situational depression and anxiety has left some creative types numb. Immune to vigor. Lebensmüde.
I’ll allow myself to vulnerable here as I admit to being part of the later group. My writing trickled to a near stop. A book project I’d begun, sat pointlessly on hold for months. Grand plans of cultivating a professional social media presence disappeared. The fog of exhaustion that lurked over my every endeavor in most of 2020 left me passionless and listless. With that came the guilt. Shakespeare wrote through the plague for heaven’s sake! I was squandering precious time, precious words. My characters were languishing away, all but abandoned by their creator.
A few weeks ago though, something began to change. It was small, nearly imperceptible, at first. It wasn’t as if I were struck by the lightening rod of the muses and could suddenly type up thousands of words a day. Ideas began to creep in, ah- this one is good enough to jot a few notes on. Then pages began to slowly fill in. That paused book project was reopened. Writing related email and social media began to engage again. I’m not sure what to attribute the changes too. A few sunny days? Seeing my adult offspring looking forward to positive changes? News of successful vaccines and the ability to imagine once again a world full of travel and delight? An end to one acrimonious political era (albeit perhaps the start of another, but still… change. It’s a hopeful word.)
With this shift in my head, this lightening of expectations, came something I found surprising. Forgiveness. I forgave myself for not being more successful, more prolific, more creative, more capable during this dark year. I acknowledged that sometimes just surviving and making it to the next day IS a feat. Sometimes just waking up, getting through a work day, remembering to brush your teeth before bed, and getting sleep in is an accomplishment.
We can not all be Shakespeare. That’s okay. Be gentle and kind to yourself, when the feeling of lebensmüde deigns to lift- claim the joy you can find.
Author’s Note- If you are having thoughts and feelings of suicide, there is help. Visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call 1-800-273-8255