Twenty years ago, as I began a new job for which I had fought hard and which I intended to keep for awhile, I was required to make a brief video introducing myself to the college that had hired me. Creativity, levity and all that jazz were encouraged. I wore black and white—modelling myself after Georgia O’Keeffe—and declared that I was “a parent, a poet and a recovering perfectionist.” Until this moment, as I typed those words, I had remembered calling myself a “recovering procrastinator.” So this little anecdote is perhaps not the apt opening I had imagined.
But as I think about it, and being reluctant to abandon my clever lead-in, I believe I can still make it work. Because the perfectionism I continue to struggle with is pretty clearly at the heart of the difficulty I have with finishing things. Along with, I admit, a fair portion of laziness, more than a modicum of flightiness, and the cursed blessing of an endless stream of new ideas to entice me away from any project’s dull middle.
Of course, it is tempting to succumb to the current trend toward late-life diagnosis of adult A.D.D. Or it would be, if I were the diagnosis type. But nearing the end of thirty-plus years raising three widely-spaced children, each with his or her own “issues” and idiosyncracies, I am beyond weary with our society’s desire to label and program each other. I don’t especially want to be regularized, to have my rough edges filed away. I just want to complete some stuff; to jettison some other stuff; and to make decisions I can live with about which is which.
So rather than popping Ritalin, or joining a support group of other flitterers, I am embarking on this public examination of my problem with finishing; and I am challenging myself to wade into the detritus of a lifetime of abandoned undertakings, and to begin to clear the field.