Happiest being sad
I’m done with math camp, and I am stopping off in Harvard Square on the way home to New York. I collected my two older sons from their first stint at overnight camp yesterday evening, a two-week middle-of-the-woods experience complete with a cold lake, dirty socks and sticky bunk beds. They were actually happy to see me, I could tell by the way they let me hug them in front of other people. I cried when I realized they had each grown two inches.
The past few days have been incredibly emotional. Somehow I started to pine for the program and for the students at the program before it had ended, and now I seem to miss my kids even though I have them back. I’m a mess of yearning, for a million things at once, and it seems like I’ve set myself up for this.
Of course when I think about it I absolutely have, and I guess the only real question is why I’m surprised. I keep falling in love with people and experiences that often even love me back, and even though I’m an experienced piner it doesn’t get any less painful. And yet it seems like the only alternative, if it is a choice I could even make, would be to close myself off from that openness and compassion and live in a careless void. That is certainly more terrifying to me than the safety of wistful suffering.
My friend Moon came to the program a couple of nights ago and gave a kick-ass talk to the students about the Banach-Tarski paradox. She stuck around that night for dinner and asked the program director, who has been doing this for 40 years, whether I had ever been shy. The director said, “No, Cathy was never shy, but she was memorable for the fact that she always said the same thing whenever someone started a conversation with her.” I had no idea what that could have been, and to tell you the truth I was a little worried what he’d say. So Moon asked, and he said the phrase was, “I love math!” It brought back a clear memory of the passion I had then and still have, and hopefully will always have. I am happy to be this sad.