I think that it has become automatic for most people to say ‘oh I’m just so busy’ when they are asked how they are. Busyness evokes images of frantically rushing from activity to activity, being constantly stressed and running late, and having a lengthy, endless, and unwanted to-do list. Because of this I prefer to describe myself as ‘occupied’. Most times I feel a sense of flow in life, with my various interests and activities integrating to make up the wholeness that is ‘life’. A friend recently described me as ‘productive’ and I think she is pretty much on the mark.
I admit to finding it hard to do nothing, and regard myself as a ‘human doing’ rather than a ‘human being’. There are always gardening, cooking, and craft activities on my project list. And I love to keep a to-do list of everyday things that need doing, and always have projects unfinished. Meanwhile I’m thinking about what new projects I want to start, and not necessarily after the current ones are complete! My never-ending wallaby will need to be renamed soon, as I’m hoping to get it finished to exhibit in the Mudgeeraba Show in a couple of weeks. Once it’s done I’ll get on to finishing the tablecloth I bought in Salzburg in 1999! There are always more cards that can be made, and whilst my scrapbooking is currently up-to-date that will change after our traditional family day at the Show.
Learning how to do drawn threadwork is also on my project to-do list. Apparently my great-grandmother was exquisitely skilled in this art. A family history book comments that a drawn threadwork tablecloth she did ‘has to be seen to be believed’. I hope to channel her spirit whilst closely following instructions in a very old booklet passed on by a friend’s elderly mother.
Do we ever get to the end of the to-do list, and have all projects completed? What would it mean if we did?
At one point in his book ‘Night Letters’ author Robert Dessaix, who is waiting for almost certainly adverse test results writes “…..and I refuse to put my affairs in order, to clean out the cupboard in the bedroom, get the side gate rehung, sort out my tax and generally tidying up. It’s a temptation, but I refuse to start crafting a neat ending to my life, as if I were some minor short story. The more loose ends the better.” He seems to suggest that the absence of any untidiness or mess in the form of things half done or not done at all could lead to a quickly forgotten life. It would also be symbolic of a disengaged life. Not having a to-do list either means that our earthly existence has come to an end or that it doesn’t feel worth living.
So whilst we are all still here there will always be loose ends, unfinished projects, and a to-do list with more things to be added to it even as other items are satisfyingly ticked off. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The ‘collective unfinished’ is not only a sign of life, but also of our engagement with the process of making that life more meaningful and fulfilling.