by Phyllis Capanna © 2012 joyreport
I skulked out of B. U. with two full years complete and that one semester hanging in the air like a wet flag.
I also have a preemptive ending thing, which goes like this: I think you’re about to dump me, so I beat you to it and dump you. I’ve done this with jobs, relationships, friendships.
There’s also just not showing up. The worst of these was probably reconciling with an old friend over the phone, which led to him inviting me to a small dinner party in celebration of his birthday, followed by my not showing up.
I’m not proud of these, so I’m not boasting. I’m reflecting on how difficult it is for me to take responsibility for what I’ve started and see it through to a conclusion that leaves no loose ends.
Why am I bringing this up in the Joy Report?
First off, this is the next to last essay in the Thirty Days of Joy series. Secondly, I feel it coming up again: I don’t want to complete the Thirty Days! I feel like kind of pretending it never happened. A good way to do that is to leave the end unraveled, like finishing a knitting project by just removing the needle. You can pull on the end of the thread, and the whole thing comes undone.
Don’t finish, and maybe it never happened.
But you know what sucks more than facing an ending and feeling whatever about it?
Standing around at a party and hearing yourself say, “I did this thing that I almost finished but couldn’t because I contracted encephelomuddle disease and had to put it down.” Everybody knows what really happened. Everybody knows you could have stayed up writing despite your fever and boils, if you’d wanted to.
You know what it is, really? It’s being chicken. Not only of endings, but of successes. Part of me recognizes this completion as a success. If it’s not the billboard kind of success, the sidebar in Time Magazine kind of success, or even the feature in the local daily paper kind of success, it’s not a real success. It’s a little success. And little successes are embarrassing.
Please do not, whatever you do, tell people I wrote an essay a day for thirty days and the world went on.
Not to mention the dreaded “What’s next?”
There is a what’s next, but I’m not sure what form that will take. Maybe I have to actually finish to find out.
But I do know this from my Thirty Days of Joy exercise: Writing every day for publication, no matter how humble a publication, feels good. Finishing an essay every day feels good. There is a satisfaction where there used to be a nagging feeling of wasting my life on chores and eating.
I’m reminded of the time management story about putting in the big rocks first, then filling in with the small rocks, and thereby “finding” enough time to do the things that are the most important. The thing that got displaced during this project was my sleep schedule. But in the perfect (and, yes, fearful) symmetry that is life, I concurrently lost most of my hours of work, so that getting up in the morning wasn’t as much of a necessity as it usually would have been. So, I stayed up way too late, writing, no doubt drawing on my all-nighter skills.
Some nights I cursed. Some nights I agonized. Some nights I knew exactly what I wanted to say. Some nights I watched in fascination as something coherent emerged from my tap-tap-tapping and my listening.
My writing muscles are stronger. My editing ear is surer. I’ve delighted myself, surprised myself, and inspired myself. I’ve dipped my big toe into the world of blogging and have started to seriously learn about self publishing. Some very old, very dear dreams are resurfacing, and just like with an old friend, the conversation picks up where it left off as if no time has passed at all.
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