Unfinished BusinessPosted: January 16, 2013
The last time I wrote here I silently planned that the next time I posted I’d include a photo. The photo would show the pink cable-knit fingerless gloves that I started making six years ago. That lonely left-hand has sat all this time at the bottom of a bag waiting for the second ball of yarn to be made into its right-handed partner. So in my I’m-going-to-make-everything enthusiasm of the New Year, I started. I goofed a few times and ripped it out–ten, fifteen rows at a time. I cast those forty-five stitches on those three tiny needles four or five times. It would be okay, I told myself, I’d get back into the swing of it, and I’d eventually finish them and I’d feel great, even if I wasn’t sure I cared anymore. I ripped it all out one night as my son did his homework, growling every time he made a mistake, taking his frustration out on eraser and paper. Hot pink yarn puddled onto the floor.
“You’re ripping it out? Again?” He said, briefly taking a break from his assault on his worksheet.
“Sometimes it’s worth starting over to get it right,” I said with accidental wisdom.
I imagined my future sense of triumph, six years in the making…I felt strangely renewed, even as I put it away, not a completed stitch in sight.
It was relaxing; I dare say it was even meditative. Fifteen rows became thirty and so forth until I felt so confident that I’d be finished by the end of the weekend I decided to look at the left-hand glove, to compare them. The new one looked so nice, and maybe this time, I’d get the whole cast-off thing right so the second one wouldn’t be as messy at the edges. I set the two next to each other…
Glove Number One had fewer cables.
Where the right one had three twists, the left only had two. It’s not as if no one would notice–one glove was going to be at least an inch shorter than the second. It would hit my knuckles, where the other one would rest halfway up my fingers and it would drive me nuts, like when my sleeves were rolled unevenly as a kid. (I like symmetry, I guess.) I was eighteen rows ahead of the last cable. That’s okay, I thought, I can rip it out down to the stuff I want to keep and fix it. But finding the stitches again, getting them on the needles the right way, amidst the cables and ribs…look, I’m not that woman. I tried, but it was always a longshot. Don’t ask how it got this bad, it was six years between gloves.
Sometimes you just need to cut your losses. I spent the next half hour dismantling the first one so I could stop looking at an unfinished thing and tell myself I should finish it. Now it’s just a ball of yarn again, a possibility, not a pink, woolen manifestation of an exasperated, disappointed sigh. It’s no longer a cable-knit criticism of my inability to see things through. So there’s no photo, which makes me sad.
There’s a whole other analogy hovering here about writing and this thing on my hard drive that is growing into a novel. It’s been brewing for two years and only in the last few weeks have I finally figured out who those two characters are that I wrote about once in a tossed-off story. They’ll change again, the way they have before. There’s at least thirty pages I can’t bear to look at because I know they’re useless to what I’m writing now. And where I am now? Considering the scope of this, I’ve barely started. It exhausts me to think about it, and frightens me to think there’s no view to the end. The next time I complain about a tight deadline or a scaled-back plan in my work life, I’ll remember this and remind myself to be grateful for projects that just need to be finished. They’re good to have, the ones you can’t bother to get attached to, the ones that are good enough. My alleged gratitude won’t last long, though. Something will come along that I want to spend more time on, something I’ll want to make into a work of art but qualifies for a postcard rate.
But this is good, right? This is balance? People spend a lot of money and travel long distances to consider all this while sitting on the floor trying not to get distracted by their desire for their next serving of raw kale. This is breathing. In and out. Here and there. Now and then. Not quite finished and hardly begun.