Sunday, March 25, 2012


I have always been a project person. My little brother used to say proj-deks. It makes me feel like a failure when I cast my eyes about looking at the myriad things I've begun and abandoned. But I'm starting (it's one of my projects) to get more comfortable with the unfinished.

It's funny, my students figured out that cras means tomorrow in Latin and is at the heart of procrastinator, but fortunately they haven't applied it to homework all that much. I cannot say the same. Let's see. A shifting pile of tests to correct. Tangles of yarn wrapped carelessly around some needles...there was a vision in there somewhere. That novel deep in the recesses of computer memory. Good thing machines and paper can hold our place for us. I keep incessant lists. Sometimes I scribble out the things I didn't get to on a given day, which is different (in my mind) from crossing out. That satisfying arrow shaft run straight through the heart of a task is reserved for those things I actually accomplished. I gave no idea when I began this scribble vs. crossing system. But what bothers me is that a good deal of these tasks are things I love to do. So why the negating? Maybe I need to add on to a list when things happen and watch it g r o w. Or move it from one side of the paper to the other. Or take the phrase bake bread, and rather than bake bread, bake bread! Exclamation point! Bread! In my kitchen! Eat! bread

Oh all these frayed edges. I try to tie up the loose ends at the end of each year, taking stock. Did I do what I set out to do? I heard a long time ago that successful people put themselves through these sorts of machinations: making goals, poring over lists, even mission statements, etc. And yet, what is more compelling to me lately is the fact that a great many people I admire thrive in that very tension of not-yet-completed. But who says unfinished means unsuccessful? Look at the "unfinished" symphony, "unfinished" poems, and extraordinary paintings displayed that are technically unfinished. Genius is often not vindicated in the lifetime of the un/fortunate bearer. We are all mere mortals, straining under the weight of a desire to make something immortal, and yet often end up passing it on to the next generation.

That was a bit grandiose. We're just talking about a loaf of bread here, or maybe a pastel drawing. Or are we?

My art teacher purposefully encourages us to have several projects going at once in order to keep fresh eyes and sane mind, which would probably not happen if you stared at the same graphite drawing for hours on end. By design, the creative life lives with a holy mess of works already-not-yet perfected.

Which gets me thinking: how am I any greater than my Lord, the One who began a good work in me? It is far from done, but He will be faithful to complete it until He comes back. Really, my life is one extended, unfinished project, projected far out there until only-He-knows-when. Someday. And that someday hangs upon those words which only He could say:

t is finished.