Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Improg word: Complete

For those of you wondering what the heck an improg is, it’s an improvisational blog entry. My improg partner, Hayley, came up with the idea of sending each other an envelope full of words. Once a week, we each pull out a word and write something about it.

You can be part of the fun! Leave a comment, submit a word (see Hayley’s post
here for instructions), or—if you’re really brave—you might even like to become an improgger yourself. We’d be happy to have you join us!

The word I pulled today is complete. Now, Hayley hasn’t specified if this is the adjective or the verb, so I guess it’s up to me to decide. Complete (v.) has actually been on my mind lately, so I’ll go with that.

For several years now I’ve had trouble completing things. As far as I can remember, this was not a problem I had when I was a kid, probably because in our house it wasn’t allowed to be a problem. We had to complete things. If we took a toy out, we had to put it back before we took out another one. Chores had to be done first—and that meant done, complete, finished. No forgetting to put the vacuum back in the closet or leaving a fork unwashed at the side of the sink.

So as a kid and a teenager and a young adult, I finished what I started. I read one book before starting the next one. I even finished one craft project before starting the next one (yes, I really did). When I went back to school, I completed assignments days ahead of the due date. That was just the way I lived.

And then I moved in with my husband. He is not a natural finisher, nor does he do things in a linear manner. We once shared a community garden plot with friends of ours, one of whom had a very rigid way of doing things. When we broke the sod on the plot, she worked in completely straight lines, left to right, left to right; my husband worked a bit over here and then a bit over there and then somewhere else entirely. When we planted, she drew straight furrows in the dirt and measured out planting holes according to the distance recommended on the package; he was happy to scatter the seeds in a vague line. He drove her nuts.

So when I moved in with him, I relaxed a bit. Well, a lot. I still got my assignments done on time, but rarely early. I soon had several craft projects on the go at all times. I no longer lived by a strict get-this-done-before-you-start-that rule.

Once I had kids, my problems with completion really grew. Over the next few years, between being sleep deprived and constantly having to change a diaper or clean up regurgitated milk or answer a question like “Where do the stars come from?” or watch impromptu concerts and plays, I really didn’t have time to finish anything in one go. I did manage to complete some things, most notably two degrees, just not very efficiently. And many, many things went unfinished. But I thought that the problem would resolve itself once my children went to school.

Alas, no. They've been in school for years now and I still don't complete things. My life is still full of interruptions. Worse than that, somewhere in all those loads of laundry I seem to have misplaced my ability to focus on the task at hand (it’s probably with all those socks that go missing in the dryer). I dither. I dilly-dally. I take on too much and flit from one thing to another. I have the attention span of a toddler.

One of my goals in my Year of Living Differently is to rediscover my ability to complete what I start and to learn to let go of things that I really don’t want to be doing. I don’t want to live by an inflexible rule—there’s a lot to be said for having 15 projects to choose from at any one time. But I do want to complete the things that are important to me.

As for the adjective, I hope I never feel truly complete. If I were to die in an avalanche of dust balls as I opened the hall closet one day, I would like to feel satisfied with my life. The quest for that feeling of satisfaction is what’s driving me in this year-long project. But I don’t want to feel like I’ve done all I want to do, been all I want to be, read everything I want to read, seen everything I want to see. I don’t want to get to the point where the world isn’t interesting to me anymore, where I feel like I’ve done it all.

1 comment:

Margerie said...

Ha Susan, you were just rebelling against your strict upbringing ;)

Now don't go and totaly reform. Prioritize yes, but a little procrastination is good for the soul.

I think I had the opposite problem. My childhood home was very chaotic. We may have had a dustball avalanche or two, plus a lot of angst. So I became Ms. Regimented in my teen/young adult/until childbirth years.

OK, impossible to keep that up! So now I just do the best I can. Sure I could get more done, but then I would be cranky. And we don't like cranky. BTW my husband went to the same school of gardening that yours did.

Wishing you peace, happiness and joy in the things you love to do and may the other things pass quickly :) (How is that for some convoluted advice?)