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31 December 2010
Reading Romanticism Over Chocolate

When you've got to finish that paper...sometimes hot chocolate helps.

So, 2010 is over.

There are those who have accused me of having trouble finishing things.  I’m not someone who didn’t turn in papers in college or graduate school; in that one little area, procrastination was my friend.  Instead, I would get 90 percent of the way through a paper and decide that my topic was not merely terrible but pointless and uninteresting.  With the deadline bearing down on me like a tailgater on I-95, though, I’d have no choice but to finish and turn it in.

In real life, I have found it harder to push through the fear and trembling of that last 10 percent.  This has manifested itself, variously, as endless revision of a story that should have been considered finished; difficulty finishing projects back when I had an office job; a real aversion to saying goodbye to people; even getting all the way to the end of a knitting project and not sewing it together (but, um, also I just don’t enjoy sewing knit items together).  Sometimes, I prefer process to product; I’d rather knit with the gorgeous Sublime Organic Wool than block and wear the scarf I’ve been making with it.

Heathrow Scarf 2010

Scarf started and finished on the plane from Heathrow to Dulles.

It’s not just liking the feel of the yarn in my fingers, though: it’s also the safety of not having to wear the scarf and have others see it, of not having to send out the story and hear what an editor thinks of it.  In my 20s, this was a major block, in all areas of my life.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, a few years ago life happened to me in such a way that I have been in a state of flux.  I have changed my career, spent two summers abroad, and signed a book contract (hey, how did that happen?).

As I look back over the past year, I realize that it’s brought various situations that require finishing and saying goodbye: the book deadline that sits on my shoulder even as I write this for the blog, the career change that required me to say goodbye to coworkers I really enjoyed, the summers abroad that meant leaving behind family and friends in order to take advantage of an opportunity that I definitely wanted.  At the same time, there were some goodbyes I really didn’t want to say, like the sale of my mother’s house this fall.  It had to happen, but it was so sad to say goodbye.  In the next year, Mr. Trask and I are looking at different life changes that might take us out of this area, and so I have been thinking a great deal about the complications of goodbye, of being finished with a certain part of life.

Maple Terrace Tree

Goodbye to the tree in whose branches I used to read books; Goodbye to my mother’s house.

On Wednesday, I interviewed a student who is applying to my glorious alma mater.  She was talking about how she really wants to go to college, and at the same time knows that she is really going to miss her family, her high school friends, and the life she has in high school.  I remembered a Carolyn Hax discussion (yes, I read Carolyn Hax; don’t judge) about mixed feelings for some attendees of weddings: that there’s an ambivalence there that we often don’t acknowledge.  Even as we celebrate the couple, those closest to them may also be a bit sad that their relationship with the couple is about to change.  One commenter suggested that weddings be thought of in a similar way to high school graduation: it’s a change, and with that come both positive and negative feelings.  It’s hard to say goodbye to childhood or young adulthood in favor of a new phase of life that will represent new responsibility and new fears as well as new adventures.  This doesn’t mean we don’t do it; it means we acknowledge the difficulty as well as celebrating the excitement to come.

It occurred to me this morning that this kind of ambivalence is what holds me back when I don’t want to finish something, when I don’t want to say goodbye to 2010 in favor of 2011, when I don’t want to send out the story or stop playing with yarn in favor of wearing a sweater.  Maybe acknowledging the shadow, the sadness of saying goodbye to something that is important while moving on to something you wouldn’t want to miss, is the key.  The new possibilities in front of me are exciting as well as scary; I don’t want to miss the adventure.  At the same time, I hate to say goodbye to what is wonderful in the here and now.  And all of that is okay.  Today, I can recognize the difficulty without letting it stymie me.  That’s real progress for me, and – hey! – maybe it will help me finish more projects in 2011.

What about you?  Do you have trouble finishing knitting projects, or other kinds of projects?  Do you prefer process to product?  Tell us in the comments section!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Brooke permalink
    31 December 2010 4:13 pm

    Oh, amen, sister! You know, I think, that I am a kindred spirit in many of these ways. I too much prefer the process to the product; hence, my daughter still awaits a scarf and a cowl that both began in 2010, or was it 2009…and my poor husband will struggle through yet another winter without a sweater, or even a vest!?

    I love to plan a party: the shopping list, the menu, decorations, even the actual grocery runs; but the cooking, the cleaning, the actual partying? Not so much. Maybe that’s why my job is good for me: I do all that organizing behind the scenes for graduation and interviews and ceremonies, and then just step aside and laisse les bon temps roule, watching from the sidelines. I’m the proverbial mother hen, fretting and clucking and laying eggs (!?).

    Yes, I’ll take the process over the product any day. It lets me be busy without having to ever put anything out there for final judgment and approval (or not); it lets me be a part of something, but not the central force, the ultimate word, the major domo; it lets me do without being done; I can sketch the garden plans and not lift a hoe; I can draw the kitchen of my dreams, and not live with plaster dust; I can post on other people’s blogs ’til the cows come home, and never have to write my own (and risk that disapproval, perhaps).

    So, tomorrow I launch the process once again. The New and Improved Version will step out from behind the curtain. The 2011 model will be so much better than the old and outdated ’10. It’s a wise investment in these uncertain times. Buy now before the rates rise. Join the club and see amazing results in just weeks. Yes, tomorrow I tentatively put fingers to keyboard and start my own blog. And, since it’s all about the process, it doesn’t even have a title yet! Stay tuned.

    • Kathleen permalink*
      31 December 2010 6:22 pm

      Brooke! That is so exciting! You must let us know when your blog is set up. Hurrah!

  2. 31 December 2010 11:23 pm

    Kathleen, you are an amazing writer.

    If change means that life opens itself to my making friends with someone like you, then I say, bring it on!

    Happy New Year. Celebrate.

  3. 31 December 2010 11:28 pm

    PS: I think I prefer product when it comes to knitting, but in life, I’m not ready to get to the end . . . unless of course the end is actually the beginning of another cast on.


  4. 31 December 2010 11:58 pm

    Do I have trouble finishing projects? God, yes. All sorts of projects. A baby sweater sits unfinished on size 6 needles as I type. I started strong, but other things took precedence.

    Wishing you great joy and continued success in 2011. May saying goodbye get a little easier, and the road forward offer smooth, safe travel.

  5. n2garden permalink
    1 January 2011 2:28 am

    What a great tree…reminds me of a cherry tree we used to
    have in our front yard years ago. We loved to sit in it!

    • Kathleen permalink*
      1 January 2011 3:40 pm

      Isn’t it lovely? Somewhere there’s a photo of me up there with a book around age 12…I’m hoping I’ll be able to find it someday.

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