Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Am I happy?

Last night, in bed, RocketMom said she was pleased to see me happy, that she was glad so many things are taking off for me and my business. I kept waiting for the "but"... it didn't come. I asked. No buts... just I love yous.

... Hmmm. Am I happy?

I'm one of these people who often whistles to myself, imbuing the space around me with sound. What is that you're whistling? I don't know. It's nothing. I'm just making it up. So many remarks over the years about how happy I must be. I've often wondered at those remarks, not feeling particularly happy in my doings (not sad either, simply being). I guess 1950s musicals trained us to see whistling => happy. Or maybe it's deeper than that? Maybe it's true. Maybe I was just unaware of my own contentment.

Am I happy?

I'm busy, that's for sure. More activity in my life condensed in a month than I've felt for years, YEARS! The post-doc depression (for me, and I'm sure many others) was a sink hole the size of Kansas, the kind of chasm you'd expect from a 1970s era movie on earthquakes, where faultlines disappear into depths below, swallowing cars, houses, people.

I'm no longer in it. I'm not looking behind, to see the devastation. I grieve for Myanmar and Sichuan today. I have a distance from their suffering (theirs is physical, tangible, mine merely emotional--why do we say merely?).

To some extent, I'm not ready to pause and revel in my happiness, because there is no stopping point just yet. I've a house again. For that I'm glad. My family is receiving state aid (a hand-up as I see it, not a hand-out).

I'm edging closer and closer to accomplishing practical applications of these ideas which have swirled for years in my head. They begin to congeal, clearly and concisely on paper. I'm attending meetings, and workshops, and seminars, and talks. I'm working on proposals. I'm discussing state funding for various projects. (If it were my own money, how would I spend it?) I'm talking to lawyers about protecting my intellectual property. (What can I patent? Is it the right moment? Do I risk losing patent rights, if I submit grant proposals before patent protection?)

When that first check arrives, I will surely celebrate. Happiness is an attitude, not so much a state. Am I happy is not the right question. Do I admit to my happiness? (To quote Dr. Lanning from the movie I, Robot): "That, is the right question."


"Tae's Mom" said...

Yay! Glad to hear you are whistling again my friend.

Lilian said...

Yes, I'm thrilled that you're inching closer and closer to happiness and I'm DETERMINED that I won't let myself get sucked into that huge crack of postdoc depression. I don't really want an academic position, I'm happy as I am, with my boys and my family and someday I'll find a way to work and make money too as well as fulfilling my life's passions. If it's not in academia, that's FINE. I'm so glad that I had you going ahead of me and pondering each step and sharing your thoughts with us. I am TRULY thankful for you and other fellow bloggers -- did you see my latest post? I mention you (as a group) in my dissertation even!