“Today, I finally completed a task that I have been putting off for six months. It took me 15 minutes. I will learn nothing from this.”
These words came across my desk as a Meme splashed across a pink background. But they hit me like a ton of bricks. How many times have I procrastinated for months or even years, avoiding a chore that actually took very little time? Even if it takes a long time, completing a job satisfies something deep within us.
Recently I spoke with a friend who has spent years writing short pieces and editing books for others. She asked me what I thought about the fact that she has been writing a book herself for many years. She said her daughter told her it was time to finish her book. And I agreed. “It is time to write your OWN DAMN book,” I told her. She appreciated that. But what caught her attention was the phrase “Finish what you start.” In a way, this is a variation on advice an author friend of mine gave me some time ago. I asked him what the most important thing I could do to get my book out to the world. “Set deadlines.” He said. First, he wrote articles as a syndicated columnist. Later he published quite a few histories of the Civil War Era. He understood the power of deadlines. So when I mentioned this to my friend with the unfinished book, she understood that power. She thanked me repeatedly for giving her permission to finally complete her book. It is essential to finish whatever it is you are doing. Completion works for books, for cleaning out your top drawer or planning a party, or doing your taxes.
Years ago, when I was a teenager, my mother used to feel frustrated by my constant moving from one project to another. “You never finish anything!” she said.
“I bet you never finish having a baby! You are so distracted by the ‘next thing’.”
Those words landed. I remembered them.
As I grew into a woman, I was still pretty bad at completing tasks. Homework was late; my senior thesis nearly did not make it on time. My closet half cleaned, short stories which I began but never finished, big projects, small projects, often left in mid-task, my mother was right about me not finishing things.
When I had my first baby, it occurred to me during my pregnancy that my mother’s words might have jinxed me from going to term. But the baby boy arrived intact and complete. I was thrilled. In the back of my mind, there was a smug little thought that “I showed her,” I could finish what I started. Yes, and to prove it was not a fluke, I ended up having five children.
The sad truth is that I still tend to leave things unfinished due to pressure to complete some new projects instead. It has been a lifelong fault. Today I am creating this blog post to prove to myself I can do it. It is Mother’s Day and this is a gift to my mother who left us last November to go into the next realm. I hope she is sitting somewhere comfortable with a lot of dogs whom she loved on earth. Maybe she can read what I have written. “See, Mother, I have finished another one!” And it makes me smile to say. “Happy Mother’s Day!”
Copyright©. 2020 Bonnie B. Matheson