I just realized, just now, that it’s been just over two months since my last post. Why am I having such trouble with Prousting? I have my copy of Proust. I carry him with me everywhere I go. In the pool blue tote bag that holds my notebooks and multi-colored roller ball pens, possibly my most prized possessions, I have my copy of The Way by Swann’s carefully tucked away. And just carrying him around with me seems like I’m moving in the right direction. But the question remains: why can’t I get any reading actually done? Why can’t I get a coherent post drafted? We can talk about Proustian digressions in writing and thought. But what happens when our lives become a Proustian digression?
I mean, here I am, nearly 37 years old. And in one way, I suppose I’m quite accomplished. I have a PhD; I have tenure at a college that I have come to love. Isn’t this what we wanted when we all signed up for grad school? Wasn’t this the result we sought? And yet, it all feels like a digression from what I thought would be my “real” life. I though I’d get married, have babies, host dinner parties where I’d wear high heels and serve fancy drinks. Instead, I find myself making a pot of soup for my single friends as we gather to watch bad, bad reality TV. Today, I’m happy to have these friends, happy to be cooking for them, but there are still moments when all of this feels like a digression from the life I thought I was supposed to have. And yet THAT life, the one I was “suppposed” to have, the one I see my friends from college living week to week, it really wouldn’t suit me, not any more. I wouldn’t have the time and space to think and read and write (and yes, watch reality TV) the way that I want to. And so, the digression has become my real life. I have learned to be reconciled to this somehow. The digression has become my life, my real life. What feels like the digression is the life I’m really meant to have, not the one somebody else always told me I was “supposed” to have.
But the other digression is this: I intend to write. Every day, I intend to write, and most days, I get some sort of writing done, often just brain dump in my personal journal. But that’s OK; it’s still writing. Still, I wonder why I can’t manage to write myself back round to Proust. I’ve read the opening paragraphs over and over, thinking about sleep, about my own issues with sleep, about the experience of sleeping even when we think we aren’t. As someone who struggles night to night with insomnia, I’m certain I’m hyper-sensitive about sleep and how to sleep and how much to sleep and when I’m sleeping and when I’m not. And right now, it seems to me that Proust’s opening, “For a long time, I went to bed early,” invites us to consider the ways in which the acts of reading and writing and themselves a kind of somnolence or even a kind of somabulation (and I truly hope that’s the right word). As I’m writing, drafting this very post, am I merely a sleep walker?
Julie Andrew’s “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start” is so much, in my mind, tied to the Red King’s admonition to “start at the beginning, go on until you come to the end, then stop,” and forgive me if I’ve misquoted Lewis Carroll at all. It’s just that sitting down and starting at the beginning is so hard to do, especially when there’s so much to distract us in our lives and in our brains. Later in Carroll’s Alice works, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee suggest that Alice may merely exist as part of someone else’s dream. Alice is simultaneously incredulous, indignant, and frightened by this suggestion, as well she should be. And yet, I feel as though writing about literature, writing about Proust is somehow only becoming part of his dream, part of his experience of going to bed early at Combray. How do I feel about this? I don’t know.
I want to claim my own voice, to live my own life and break out of the digressions.