“What Does Finishing Mean to You?”

This title was the subject line on an email I received yesterday morning. And it made me gasp, and laugh, and bow my head in shame and embarrassment. And I haven’t even opened the email yet to see what it is about.

Hi, my name is Liz, and I am a chronic unfinisher. I tend to have many amazing ideas and start an immeasurable number of paintings and projects, only to come up short on most of them. And sometimes a single painting can take me MONTHS to complete…because I just keep fiddling with details or staring at it, wondering what it is missing, not willing to call it “done”. Recognizing this fact got me to asking myself a big question…WHY?

Before I can answer this, I need to really become aware of where this affects my life, aside from paintings. So bare with my while I brainstorm. Laundry…I say it is done when it is clean, BUT it still requires folding, organizing and putting away. Is a meal done when it is served? Or when it is eaten and cleaned up after? Let’s not discuss cleaning…it is never done.

Back to painting…I catch myself telling people their painting is finished when I am satisfied with painting it. BUT…this is an untrue statement, because there are still a number of steps to complete the project. Depending on the painting, I may need it photographed by my photographer and turned into a digital file. It needs at least 2 coats of varnish. I like to gesso a small patch on the back side of the painting to stamp my logo and contact information. And all of my paintings come with a hanging wire, so that needs to be attached with d-hooks. Painting is kind of only half of the project. So why, then, am I so quick to call it “done”? Even the ornaments above, I said last week I completed, but they need varnishing, signing, and stringing. Tiny tasks that take time. Tasks that are less fun than sweeping colour onto a panel and bringing something to life. So I allow myself to get distracted with the “fun” of starting something new, and my to complete list builds until it becomes overwhelming.

Ok, so now that I have exposed the severity of my inability to complete tasks, lets look at the why again. I believe when we have resistance to something, the root cause of the resistance is fear. But fear of what? Fear of doing it wrong, of it not being good enough. Fear of having made a mistake, or making a mistake and ruining it. Fear of failure. Shame…of not doing enough, of not BEING enough.

Deep down, isn’t that the root cause of ALL of my major hang ups and break downs? The fear of not being enough. Of not being accepted as I am. A paralyzing fear of judgement, criticism and ridicule. So much so, that I feel stuck, and unable to complete the tasks on my to do list. Seriously. I get so overwhelmed with my list, I sometimes just sit there trying to decide what to do, or how to organize it and prioritize it instead of acting upon something, anything, that could lighten the load. And sometimes, I don’t even try to get through the list, and opt to take a nap instead.

Ok, I am starting to realize that I may have more of a problem than I thought. But that doesn’t mean I’ve always been this way, nor does it mean I can’t change it. It’s just where I am at in this moment in my life. The first step in changing anything is acknowledging that something needs to be changed, and identifying what and why. The why is key to make a meaningful, long term change. Because we need to deal with the root cause of our resistances or they will come back to haunt us again and again and again.

It’s ok to not have your life completely together. Just own it, and either accept it for what it is or make an effort to change. I, for one, am a serial starter, and I am making efforts to complete the tasks I have on hand.

So while I figure out how to get out of this unfinshining funk, tell me, when is a project finished to you? Are you a serial starter of projects? Or do you pick one thing at a time and see it through to the very end?

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