How to Finish

I’m good at finishing lots of things. I finish chocolate ice cream always. I might finish your sentence or even interrupt your thought to finish my thoughts. I finish the very last drop of half and half regularly. But when it comes to the seemingly important things I’m not a finisher.

I’ve had more blogs than I can remember (although I know my first blogspot in college was called Strike That. Reverse It. and I put my heart and soul and everything I thought was funny into it) and when people say they’ve been blogging for ten plus years I want to say: me too! But I’ve only been sporadic and have nothing to show for it because I deleted them all. Because I’m not a finisher.

I threw away notebook after partially filled notebook throughout my childhood. Every time I didn’t like what I had written or I’d waited too long between I’d viciously tear out all the pages, leaving gaping holes in whatever beautifully bound journal I’d been gifted. Only to toss these to the trash, because I’m not very good at finishing things.

My basement holds countless sewing projects in plastic totes that I started once upon a time. I remember a bluebird crossstitch that I loved, but barely got halfway. And even a full quilt that I started in college with my mother’s help. They lay untouched and unused. I just can’t seem to get the hang of this finishing thing.

I attribute different reasons for various unfinished items. Sometimes it was embarrassment or pride over my work that caused me to rip it out and throw it away. Often it was a lack of commitment or desire to see the project to completion. My efficiency has gotten the better of me more than once; I don’t have the patience to learn a thing well and therefore if I can’t do it quickly I won’t do it at all. So many excuses, which leads to feeling worse about the unfinished item and whatswrongwithme? makes me even less likely to touch it with a ten foot pole.

A book I read about boundaries (with an aptly chosen title) lists lack of follow through or finishing things as a boundary issue with ourselves. The author suggests remedies for this lack of follow through: take responsibility for your actions, seek support from others, strengthen your “no”, pray to God for help. These are helpful suggestions and I’ve already started to put some into practice: praying and talking with a spiritual father came naturally in my faith. Reading books on building habits and working to take more responsibility in an efficient manner has been so helpful.

But the one thing that stuck out to me the most was strengthening your “no”. Suddenly the way to finish things seemed so clear: it is imperative to choose carefully before starting something. 

I’ve never been concerned about a lack of follow through in certain big things I’ve started: a marriage, parenthood, my career. When I chose to start these things I put a lot of thought (and in some cases time and money) into them before I committed. And now I’m sticking with them. Or, as in the case of my career, choosing to be finished.

That’s the other thing I am learning to recognize: finishing something can mean that I’m choosing to be finished. I realized I don’t have to work this job forever. I don’t have to be the president of this organization always. Stopping these things does not mean I’m leaving them unfinished. It means I’m being intentional about choosing a closing point.

So, there you have it my loves. I hope you learn it earlier than I have: you can be a finisher. Choose carefully before you begin and feel confident in choosing to finish things you no longer wish to do. We can all be finishers.