June 28, 1985
I realize, now that I have time for it, how much back-logged junk I have to clear out of my life. Here it is, summer, stock-taking time, time to catch up, time to plan ahead, and everywhere I look, there are things I should do, things I want to do, things I have to do before I can do other things. How am I going to tackle it all? Set priorities? Be systematic? Do the important things first? I tend to do whatever I stumble upon first, interrupted by whatever I get distracted by while I’m doing that. As my graduate student said, “You sure do manage to fill up your life."
When I started writing this, I intended to make a list of all the things I needed to do and try to figure out how important each one was to my well-being (and “the future of all mankind”). I get tired just thinking about it!
There is the personal stuff – the bills to pay, the mementos to put away or file, the papers to organize. This has been sitting around and piling up on my desk since Christmas or before. There are magazines to read (throw-away stuff) and books (and books and books) to read, and the library to pick up and organize.
Then, of course, there is the writing, the novels I have wanted to get to for the past year or two and haven’t been able to discipline or force myself to sit down and do them. And there are letters to write – to friends and relatives – and visits to local friends and shut-ins.
And, of course, there is the work stuff – papers to read, old journals to peruse and clear out, micrographs to file, old slides to evaluate, not to mention papers to write and letters to colleagues and manuscripts to revise and resubmit.
If I enumerated each of the subprojects in each of those paragraphs, I would be listing all night long. There is so much to do, I wonder how many years it would take just to get caught up, forget about taking on anything new. Yet I feel like I must clean up my life, streamline it, take care of the most important stuff and get rid of everything else.
Details vs. essential structure: What is the essential structure of my life? Oddly enough, it lies partly in the complexity of it, in wanting to see and experience and record, as broadly as possible, the range of human activities and emotions. And for that, I chronically complicate my life.
Still, I want to hone. What is the crucial thread? The slow, steady (fractal-like) movement toward understanding (a sort of enlightenment or salvation, for which the things and relationships of my life have been part of the path), toward which end I have tended and for which I will have to divest myself of every extraneous concern.