Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, May 21, 2010

Finishing School

In one of the first posts of this blog, I mentioned having considered "Finishing School" as the blog's name.  I had intended it, of course, as a play on words, since a traditional "finishing school" is somewhere I would never have been caught dead.  

In the historical sense, a finishing school was "a private school for girls that prepares them for society by teaching social graces and accomplishments."  Modeled after Swiss and British establishments, 19th century American finishing schools were intended to return a young lady 
home "finished" and prepared to grace her father's house and to enjoy the freedom of a debutante while she practiced the arts and graces learned at the academy.
'Northwestern Chronicle, July 3, 1884; St. John's University Record, 1:55 (May, 1888) 
American finishing school curricula generally included French, music and drawing, and etiquette (or "charm"); other subjects could extend to quilling (paper filigree), "the fine art of fainting," elocution, poise, English, and other, more academic fare, as some of these institutions went on to morph into women's "seminaries" and colleges.
The term finishing school is occasionally used in American parlance to refer to certain small womens colleges, primarily on the East Coast, that were known for serving to prepare their female students for marriage. Since the 1960s, many of these schools have become defunct as a result of financial difficulties stemming from parents [sic] decreased interest in paying for such an education for their daughters, and the rise of feminism making it easier [sic] for daughters to follow loftier goals. (From Wikipedia)

In any case, finishing schools being generally a thing of the past, and the blog name already taken, "Put it to Bed" was born.  But I remain in need of learning how to finish.  And not, with the exception of my kitchen cabinets project, wood finishing.

And so I am trying to develop a "curriculum" that will encourage the needed behavior, or skill, or mindset.  By way of establishing a benchmark, I observe that my alacrity in starting things is not matched by my ability to limp across the "finish" line.  And that's putting it mildly.  More than four months ago, I posted "Stuff I've Been Putting Off," which detailed some of the things I haven't managed to be done with over a period of several years.  Since then, I've completed one of the tasks on that list of 15.  I called my brother, more than a month ago.  But he "wasn't available to take [my] call," and hasn't responded to the message I left, so that probably doesn't count.  Of course, I haven't called back, either.  Suffice it to say, I am still "completion-challenged."

A potentially fruitful idea came to me this week, as I was struggling to work on my late-spring housecleaning project.  I watched myself buzz from cleanup task to cleanup task, like a bee suffering from blossom-mania and unable to light on any one flower.  And I thought that maybe there was something to be gained by practicing finishing, on a small scale, disciplining myself to work through to the end on things I take up.  Perhaps I can build a muscle of denouement in this way.  

So this morning, I finished cleaning the microwave before I moved on to writing this post.  Not perfectly, but completely.  And I am challenging myself to bring to conclusion the odious task of filing my son's homeschool transcript in the form required, instead of the form I earlier provided it in.  If this improvement effort doesn't make me more marriageable, perhaps I will better 
grace [my own home], and ...enjoy the freedom of a [more effectively recovering procrastinator] while [I] practice the arts and graces learned at [this] academy.

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