I must tell you that it feels great to be able to walk like a normal person again. After running 13.1 miles in and out of town, past real Texas longhorns and a gorgeous brown horse, my legs weren’t quite themselves for a few days. The day after the half-marathon, I contemplated hiring a nice, strong-looking male undergraduate to carry me, piggy-back, to the bus so I would no longer have to endure the pain of putting one foot in front of the other. It was so, so tempting, but I’m cheap, so I squinched my face up in pain and walked over to the bus, setting myself down ever so gently in a seat. Sitting had never felt so good.
As if finishing a half-marathon weren’t good enough for one week, I learned yesterday that three out of the five DNA constructs I’m trying to make for my big project at work are finished. That means that 60% of this project has been moved to the next stage. This is very good news for me. Very, very good news. What would also feel very good is if I were not feeling a vague sense of letdown, of deflation after all this success. Why is it that success can be such a mixed bag of emotions?
The problem, I think, is that I have no template for letting success wash over me like a warm rain. This problem has plagued me for as long as I can remember. I can recall bringing home report cards lined with A+ after A+, and my mother would tease me, “Only six A plusses? Aren’t there any more?” She meant well, I know, but I always longed for a more serious response. Right now, I can’t even remember what my father used to say, which probably means he rarely said anything, at least to me. My parents had a lot on their hands—five kids, one marriage, often two jobs, a house, a cat—so it’s understandable that their attention was drawn to the things that really needed attention, like sick children, broken cars, or a hungry cat. But their parenting style has imprinted itself on me in some unpleasant ways, such as my tendencies toward anxiety and depression. Less grave than mental illness is my need to constantly demonstrate my worth through achievement. I am a middle child, an attention hog, and I don’t know how to relax when the hard work is finished.
Despite all the wonderful news this week, I’ve been restless and irritable. I don’t like it at all. I suspect hormones may also be in on this, as they are wont to do, but there is little I can do about that problem. So I did what I could to pass the time. Yesterday, I snuck out for a 4 PM coffee, just in time to catch the summerlike warmth of the afternoon. Earlier in the week, I took a 5 PM phone call from Matt, who was out riding his bike, and we discussed the history of marriage. Today, with 20 minutes to kill before my flies would be finished with their feeding assay, I went outside again, this time to stroll around campus, checking out the cacti and the clouds, so majestic and mountain-like in that big Texas sky. And in the meantime, I’ve been reading blogs and Salon.com like a word-starved fiend. These days, I am insatiable.
Matt has told me many times that I have a “rage for order.” It sounds awful when he puts it that way! But he has a point: I love order. I love the feeling of an organized home, an orderly method, a systematic approach. It just makes life seem so much less chaotic and more manageable. It is a top-ten reason why I became a scientist. Tonight, I decided to embrace my rage for order. I emptied the dishwasher and cleaned the black gunk out of the sink. I made a delicious and minimal-mess dinner of nachos, using flour tortillas made at the tortilla factory down the street from me. I even plated my nachos so they’d look cute and festive. And later tonight, I’ll sit down with a needle and thread to repair the buttons on my favorite white sweater, the one that lost two buttons on the day of my thesis defense. (That, my friends, was disorder. And embarrassment. But kind of hilarious too.)
I wish there were a magical way that we could make ourselves feel the way we think we should feel. It would save me a lot of grief. But with neither magic wand nor fairy dust, I realize that my only hope is knowing that tomorrow is a new day and maybe, just maybe, after days of restlessness and grumpiness, tomorrow will bring some peace and contentment. I hope, I hope, I hope.