I've been incredibly happy and satisfied with my life over the past few months, and I've put a lot of thought into what exactly has contributed to my buoyant mental state. Certainly I have absorbed some of the joy and confidence my partner feels in his new job. He has also sustained and nourished me in more tangible ways, by feeding me delicious dinners most days of the week. My family and friends are healthy and happy and are experiencing successes in their own lives, so I feel naches about that. I'm knitting a sweater, which is a fun challenge. I've traveled to Boston, Gainesville, Baltimore, and New York City (several times). These trips gave me a chance to spend time with family and old friends. I also got a lot of work done in NYC, which was professionally fulfilling.
What has made me happiest, however, has been the autonomy that I've gained since beginning my dissertation. I wake up every day and decide where, when, and how to do my work. Sometimes that means pulling my laptop into bed at 6:30 AM and diving right into my documents. Other mornings I force myself out of bed right away and head out to a coffee shop, so that I don't give myself the opportunity to fall back asleep, or do the dishes, or try on all of the winter dresses I just brought up from the basement. And once I begin working, I choose whether to start by writing or by reading. I set my own priorities, and I can give myself the time and flexibility I need to ensure that I complete the task and complete it well. There are days I work for six hours straight. Those days are uncommon and awesome. There are also days I barely manage to sit in front of the computer for three hours. Those days are also uncommon and, frankly, feel terrible.
It's not that I love having no structure. Quite the opposite, actually. My life is quite structured, in the way that a bounce house has a finite boundary. The walls of my work week span from 7:00 AM on Monday morning to (at the latest) 5:00 PM on Friday. I do not bounce in the bounce house on the weekends. That's when I do more sedentary activity, like watch Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles and playing Bejeweled on my iPad. There's no height requirement to get in the bounce house. The only rule is that you bounce for at least three hours each day, preferably four, ideally five. There's no overtime though so I don't overexert myself.
The problem with the bounce house, however, is that I rent it from a cranky, paranoid overlord who has goals and ambitions and gets very very worried about liability. It is amazing to bounce in the bounce house. What is really not fun is being responsible for it.
It's remarkable that I get to be my own boss--well, within reason, since ultimately I'm accountable to my dissertation committee and to the university that pays my bills. As the boss, though, I can be really hard on myself when I don't meet my own expectations. My partner asked me once why I shamed myself so often over perceived shortcomings of productivity. Through fumbling to answer his question, I realized that I am at once a bourgeois and a proletarian. I own the means of my production, and I desire to maximize its potential for my own gain. I am also forced to work every day for my wages, and it's mentally exhausting work. The best I can manage is to be a petit bourgeois as often as I can... to manage the productivity, provide a safe and rewarding workplace for the worker, and try to keep the boss-lady happy. And lately, I've been doing a really good job at it.