That was January, flying out the window. I won’t lie, January 2013 was a pretty complex month me. I spent most of it hibernating in my apartment (and the numerous days of sub-freezing temperatures only reinforcing my behavior).
I tackled ghosts from last year and it was more difficult and took a larger part of me than I anticipated. 2012 was a hard year and it was only okay because I had allowed myself the year to heal. Heartbreak takes time, I had learned the hard way previously in my life and as such, I had no expectation that I would bounce back quickly. But when the one-year mark passed and despite a significant career achievement, I was disappointed in myself, an emotion that digs deep into my mind and settles in for while (and let’s face it: it’s the middle of winter – who doesn’t want to settle in for a while?). And once that happens, it’s nearly impossible to get yourself out of that downward spiral.
Why wasn’t I happy yet?
I’ve all but abandoned this blog – it’s primarily been about food, yet I don’t want this to be a perky, isn’t-life-grand!!! and OMG are you as obsessed with quinoa as I am? sort of space. Those sorts of blogs are increasingly irritating to me, resonating as shallow and superficial and isn’t something that I want to participate in or even be associated with. I have no interest in food styling and having a whole cupboard full of food props. Instead, I strive to have similar tones of emotional honesty that I read here and here. (I’m not entirely sure if its a coincidence that both authors live in the Pacific Northwest). Don’t worry – I still love food.
It’s just that I’m moody.
And that mood has had undertones and, in most cases, overtones of sadness. There’s been a rain cloud that’s been hovering over my head for longer than a year now – and in January I got fed up with it. I tried to actively push it away. Turns out, it’s pretty challenging – pushing a cloud. I even went to a pretty terrible social dating event that completely freaked me out and made me realize that perhaps telling myself that I was ready isn’t actually the same as really being ready. Did I mention that I am currently writing a big career development grant? No? Well that’s happening also and wrecking all sorts of havoc on my mental state.
And then suddenly, my perspective shifted. I read two articles (one I can’t recall where I found and this other one). The first referenced a book I distinctly remember reading as a 10th grader for Honor English, Man’s Search for Meaning. Now, while I remember reading it, I can hardly recall any of the details aside from it was written by a psychologist and Holocaust survivor. But, this article, the one I can’t seem to place, made the point that you don’t need to be happy to having meaning in your life. It’s a somber thought, I know, but it made me realize that perhaps I shouldn’t have happiness be the state I aim for. There is oodles of meaning to my life and it turns out that this emotion is much more important to me.
The second article centers around the idea of joy. That it is not only distinct from the idea of pleasure (my first cup of coffee in the morning is a moment of pure pleasure); but that joy is intense, complex, simultaneously surreal and yet fully rooted and at times exceedingly uncomfortable. As I’ve been holed-up, writing my grant, I’ve come to realize that’s how I feel about science. Being a scientist is hard (and not because you have be super-duper nerdy smart, but for a whole host of other reasons). I’ve even at times considered leaving it – but something, something that has always seemed beyond definition, stops me.
I’m pretty sure that something is joy.
Then a funny thing happened. Once I let go of the idea of happiness, accepted the meaning in my life and realized my joy, I’ve been able to see things clearly. It feels different. It feels good.
Oh, and that rain cloud? It seems to have lifted.