Monday, June 11, 2012

Fog Happiness: Children, astronomy, etc.

I’m grateful for Hannah's most recent blog post on how things get easier once children are a bit older (hers are 8 and 10, mine is 2).  This quote was great: “But I know my life is richer and more joyous with my children than without them, and all my lost sleep is well worth it.”

Recently I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s book "The Happiness Project."  I think a lot of women in astronomy might identify with her project.  Her life is wonderful but she thought she could appreciate it more.  She wanted to push herself to recognize the things that made her happy.  

When she gets to the bit about her children, she notes that there is a lot of data out there indicating that people with children experience a dip in happiness, and often children can be a strain on marriage.  I myself have seen articles indicating that marital happiness “returns” at a point somewhere between 18 months and 18 years (when the kids move out!).  It can sound rather depressing!

Gretchen Rubin disputed this by describing “fog happiness.”  This is happiness that pervades your whole life, but when brought under close scrutiny is hard to pinpoint.  Children create an abundance of fog happiness.  They also create good ol’ easily-recognized happiness, but sometimes we can forget about that when we have been up all night tending to them.

Astronomy is a discipline that also is rich in fog happiness.  I think many of us, inbetween worrying about proposal deadlines, writing letters for our students and postdocs (gosh, I am overdue to write one NOW), and whatever other career items we’re working on, have moments when we just step back and think about the object(s) of our studies:  galaxies from which the light has traveled for billions of years, distant stars that no rocket will reach in our lifetimes…   

So, thank you, Gretchen.  I’m a lucky woman to study galaxies and also have a tiny creature that reaches her arms out to embrace and kiss me in the grocery.   It is good to acknowledge all this happy fog.