Down with the Doldrums


It’s easy to get what I call the doldrums. It’s not sadness. It’s not depression. It’s just doldrums, defined by Merrium-Webster as “a state or period in which there is no activity or improvement.” What causes the doldrums is a lack of real purpose, a situation that is very real for some retired people.

It can happen after a successful, busy career or a job that required a lot of energy. It happens when one’s energy is still in place, but there’s not anything specific to do with that energy. It can happen to a person who lived life as a driven, Type A personality, but now finds that the driven personality has nowhere to express itself.

If you’re thinking that I am talking about myself, that I have experienced the doldrums, you would be right. I stare them down every day, along with the voices that say, “you’re all washed up,” “you’re lazy,” “you’re of no further use.”

But there is an alternative to staring down the doldrums day in and day out. There is a satisfying life that is available to those who refuse to hear the “useless” voices. And that’s the life I choose for myself.

Instead of giving in to the feelings I have just described, I have chosen to fill my life with things I never had time for before, important things, life-giving things. And so I spend each day entering into a contemplative mode. I read the Scripture. I read poetry. I create art. I sit under trees. I grow flowers and plants. I listen to music. I listen to the wisdom of philosophers, and I write down my thoughts.

I must admit that these activities are way better than the doldrums. In fact, these activities have enabled me to take back my life from the prison of the daily grind where I spent my career. There is so much unique beauty in our world. I hope I will always see it in every tree and flower, every sunrise and sunset, every ocean and stream, every shower that leaves behind a rainbow. With all of that in my life, the doldrums don’t have a chance.

And one more thing is really important to remember, words of wisdom that come from the Bible:

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might . . .
(Ecclesiastes 9:10 English Standard Version)

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