I went to an exhibition once called Tales of the Unfinishable. It was by crafters who had not only unfinished projects but projects which they knew to be unfinishable. The crafters explained in a written note beside the work, why they knew it could never be finished and why they had kept it. The reasons varied from “Can’t get those same materials anymore” and “Poor eyesight” or “Arthritic hands”, to “Have moved on in my tastes, styles, way I work”; and some were “Started in a part of my life which was just too painful to go back to”.
I think the above photo of a tapestry, which I started to make in my twenties, represents nearly all of these problems. I was having a nervous breakdown through a lot of my twenties, and I worked away for hours on this traditional tapestry kit as a sort of therapy. The plan was to make it into a cushion to go in our traditional thatched cottage home, where it would have suited perfectly. This home has long since been sold, and as I recovered from the breakdown, this tapestry got put away unfinished. I came across it quite recently in a box marked “Unfinished Projects”, as I was moving house yet again. I opened the bag and could practically smell the unhappiness I had felt at the time of doing it! But also felt some admiration for all that stitching and effort and perseverance I had put into it…..
We all have projects we have started and never finished, or bought and not even started. Somehow we outgrew them, or never found the time. So why don’t we chuck them out? We cling too long perhaps to an outdated hope or unworkable plan. We start too many things and then get bored, or can’t be bothered to learn how, or it turns out to be more difficult than we thought…..
Maybe one should persevere, learn how, make the effort to finish it. I was brought up to always finish things, do what I said I would. Not just waste things, both effort and materials. On the other hand, maybe we should be ruthless, focussed, cutting out of our lives and clutter all those things which do not fit into our current focus and ambitions. Do a ruthless pruning job of our activities, projects, use of time…… It is difficult to know which one should do. Both involve discipline….. It is a difficult decision also to make with each project, whether it is truly unfinishable, or just unfinished…..
When I look at myself and my life, there are lots of aspects of myself which are “unfinished”. Time is beginning to run out, also, as I age. Once one had seemingly infinite time to finish or work on things, now one is aware that soon I won’t be able to do lots of those things any more. I never got to a higher level of piano. I never learnt to water-ski. Should I persevere beyond beginner level New Testament Greek? Which things should I work more on, and which things discard? How do I progress to becoming a better person? Should I be doing more voluntary work? More long walks or trips to the gym? Cook new recipes? More travel? More creative work? More blog posting? Or stay at home and finish the box of unfinished projects?
Thank goodness, though we are an unfinished work, God does not see us as unfinishable. One day, one day, we will be a finished work of God’s creation. What a relief.
Meanwhile this tapestry is going back in the box of unfinished projects, back under the bed. A bit like a photo album from the long ago past, or a decades old diary, it was too much a part of my life to be thrown away.