Lila, in Book Three of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Quartet, says, almost bitterly, "Each of us narrates our life as it suits us."
And I think, yes, planning is often done as a "prospectively retrospective" exercise, if you know what I mean.
Here I am, my first morning on what is supposed to be an academic adventure, wondering how I need to plan my time so that at the end of my four-and-a-half months I feel validated, that my family and colleagues will recognize that it has been time well spent, time that justifies my absence from the consuming routine of home and semester. The subtext here is: how to deal with the niggling sense of guilt of being away from my regular "duty".
I'm not sure I have an answer yet, or that I will have one. Like Lila says, we all want to live our lives in a manner that makes for decent telling. Or perhaps more correctly, we would like to tell our lives in the way we would have liked to live it. We want at least elements of a narrative that allows us to make sense of our existence in ways that make sense to the other, that listener to whom we speak--and this is why, each time we tell the story of our life, it changes in subtle ways, melding itself to the sense-making structure that we attribute to our listener.
So how do I plan my time here so that it makes sense to ... my family, my colleagues at the university, to my extended audiences, and yes, to myself? Is it about toting up academic points through lectures given and papers drafted? Is it about making progress on that second novel? Is it about making new connections that run the danger of being just as fleeting and imaginary and anything else? Is it about energizing some creative core with long walks and solitary hours with coffee and a book, with spaces and silences that are so elusive in the daily routine of my life in Hyderabad?
Which of these--or in what combination--will make the best elements of a narrative that I will use, to sum up my time here?
I'm not sure. And I have a suspicion that the longer I spend time thinking about this, the less time I will have to actually live those building blocks of my story.
So that's what I'm wondering this morning, as I sit on my friend's porch in Melrose, watching the leaves on the two large trees dance against the streaked morning sun, feeling just a little anxious about the days that stretch ahead, just a little scared that I won't do enough with them....