Day 7: (Un)Finished


Taking part in the Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoir Writing Challenge. This is Day Seven

I am terrible about finishing things. The better part of my life has been spent making stuff- painting, writing, sewing, knitting, babies, cooking. And while I finished the baby-making and I usually finish dinner, there are very few projects or goals I finish, really finish, on the first pass. I used to feel bad about this- when I would paint, I imagined if I didn’t finish it the first go-through, it was never getting done. And it became something of a self-fulfilling prophesy. I believed the story I told myself about me.

As the years have swept over and past me, I find I look at many things differently now, and my propensity to leave things unfinished is actually okay. I come back to them, I rethink my ideas, I circle around, with a new perspective, like ascending a spiral staircase. As my life moves on, I come back around to themes and vistas that are familiar, only I am not exactly in the same space, and I can add something different to my work. There is nuance in trusting myself this way.

Recently I have been listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History, and he spends one whole cast talking bout creativity, and the process by which art and made-things are brought into the world. There are people who burst full-force and fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus, they are Picassos. There are people who incubate, who spiral around, who revisit and retool and rewrite; they are Cezannes. Both are important and vital. Age makes me more comfortable with the duality in my own life- there are times I am Picasso, and there are times I am Cezanne. Both manifest differing impetus to create in my life, and both yield important, if very different results.

I think the trick is to be kind enough to yourself to allow yourself the room to be both.

One of the things I have Cezanne’d is finishing my graduate degree. I started, full steam ahead, but when my program was changed and I was offered a spot in a different cohort, it wasn’t what I wanted to do, and I found myself at an impasse. It seemed like a good time to take a break, and now, education-wise, I am a lonely train on a siding, and I’ve got some weeds around my wheels. Honestly, I love (love!) being in school, but every time I mention it, my kids audibly groan and side-eye me. They remember my college years, unlike most kids, and they know the work involved. But it bothers me that I left it undone.

When I am kind to myself, I actually see the body of my work, and it cannot be summed up in a degree or in a trite statement. The things I have created are complicated, varied, vast— and maybe some of them are even meaningful to some people besides me. My life has not been simple or boring, and the stories behind the things I have made might one day fill books. More and more, I am hearing the whispering: It’s time.