Monday, November 18, 2013

Everything is half-finished and I don't care

Carriage house in my neighborhood
I must be in good shape because I just ran a marathon. I am just myself, though. In normal lighting my stomach looks like pancake batter and the backs of my legs have been veined like a fancy wedge of gorgonzola since I was a teen. 

I say these things affectionately; I like my body, I don't feel separate from it. I may impose "projects" on it but ultimately it is a meat vessel over which I have limited control. I am going to start getting back into yoga because all that running has my hips wound up like twin mousetraps. And I decided I wanted to build muscle in my arms and shoulders, so I am doing some weightlifting thing based on a program I found by Googling, I'm not ashamed to tell you, "sexy shoulders women weightlifting". That's right.

Yesterday I was seated in a chair, struggling to complete my last "seated overhead press" rep with dumbbells and I started laughing. Let's say I attain sexy shoulders (women weightlifting), but to what end? Do I commit to the maintenance of my prized yoke forever? Permit a year withering before running the program again?

Everything is half-finished or hardly begun and I don't care.

There are these undone projects suspended above my head, like the helium-light gemstones that crown a Sim. And I love them like they are my badly-behaved children. They make me feel untidy and frustrated and yet they form a shield around me. I hope for things to be unfinished, in new and maddening ways, for all my days. Without them I am a Spartan baby on a hillside: waiting, bare, nothing to left to do but die.

We have no place to store things in our apartment, so I have to look at all of our stuff all the time. One hazy task we have assigned ourselves in order to address this lack of storage is to "have less stuff". We do have too much stuff. Nick is a collector of comic books and records and a few other things that take up a lot of space. I am a collector of nothing except old homework assignments from college and pay stubs and utility bills, apparently, so I don't know what my excuse is. What are we going to do though? We can try to get rid of some stuff but as long as we live here, we will still have to look at most of it.

Our bedroom furniture is ugly and mismatched but not in a fun way. Sometimes I wish to come home and find it has disintegrated into a pile of sawdust and blankets, but it never will. It was Nick's stepdad's from before he married his mom, and it's the well-made stuff. Maybe someday we'll have a big bedroom and we'll indulgently chuck it for something cooler, or maybe we'll just not ever live in the light-bleached, minimal but cozy, bohemian living quarters in whose celebration we've birthed a thousand Pinterest boards. Maybe we will always be stuck living with our shitty stuff, with our own hair spelling gibberish runes on the shower wall, our shoes in the middle of the common area like someone was raptured right out of them.

I recently realized with horror that if I have a kid, the kid will have me for a mother. I have lots of love to give but I still can't drive a manual transmission, I can't wrap presents nicely, I can't play guitar. I can't French braid, I eat things that have been dropped on the floor. Sorry, ghost-baby, I am crappy, I am learning, I will maybe never play guitar. I think we'll still have fun. Finish your homework! Just kidding. But you do have to do your homework.

In 2012, I did a proper push-up for the first time. For years I couldn't whistle, then once as a teenager, I produced a high shrill whistle out of nowhere, like I was speaking in tongues. I am getting somewhere without trying, and for now, I am trying just to be here.

I do want the floors to be mopped, to know where we'll be living in five years, to write a book, to keep the mail from stacking up on the table. Everything in this liminal place is murky as hell, and tentative like a field reporter blinking through the broadcast delay.

But the only space is the unfinished space. The things that feel like terra firma are an illusion; our homes, our health, our loved ones. And I don't love that. Still, here we are, together for now, at loose ends, not dead at all.


  1. This post has made me glad that I'm not the only one with ugly furniture, and hope that I may still one day learn to whistle.

  2. Joe still makes fun of me for the time I tried to excuse a misbegotten furniture restoration project by telling his grandmother that the chair, in pieces in her basement, was "In process." And had been for 2 years.
    Solidarity. Whenever someone successfully redecorates, or runs a marathon, or anything grand like that, most of my energy is spent trying to figure out how they managed to plan & execute it to completion. There's like 5% jealousy, and it's directed at the process rather than the product.

  3. There's a lot to respond to here and I am technically on the clock so I will respond to one fragment of your sweeping post: I remember feeling similarly a few years ago; in stasis but trying to appreciate that. The house we were living in in CA was crappy, like falling apart crappy, and our stuff was crappy, and then things happened and we moved and became those fancy people who bought a house and then we schlepped all of our crappy stuff into the house. And in some way it doesn't make sense, like, House-Buying is a definitive cultural WE HAVE ARRIVED adult moment and our stuff is everything but. Our stuff is hand-me-downs and college-leftovers and found-it-free-in-the-rain stuff. I'm okay with nothing in our home looking like a Pinterest board until we have people over, and then I am tripping all over myself to apologize for why our coffee table looks like it was left out in the rain. It's like, when others' perceived expectations are brought into the equation, I sometimes panic. And then I think, oh, maybe someday it will all look nice and purposeful. But the more I live and work in this house the more I realize there will never be someday when it's done. It will always remain unfinished, all of it. We will change it bit by bit, ounce by ounce. We will finish staining the bannister one day, and one day we will pick up a nice piece of furniture we love at an estate sale and we'll bring it home and be so proud, it will be our favorite thing in the room. But the rooms themselves will never be quite finished, renovation-wise or design-wise. We will continue to live in this imperfect space forever and ever until we choose not to live here anymore, and we will take our imperfect, shitty stuff and move it somewhere else that is incomplete. Fits and starts and sloppiness 4LYF until death do us all part, yo.