I was telling Joanna my story about how I have a history of not finishing things, and she was having none of it.
"What about your blog posts?" she said. "Almost every one is a completed piece."
"Well, yeah," I said,"...but I don't finish larger projects."
"What about those old artists books and visual journals of yours you've posted?
"What about your geography books?
"What about your movies?"
She was really annoying me.
My annoyance made me wonder, Why am I so attached to this story?
I suppose because it was the things I didn't finish that drew scorn, when I was young.
My favorite--because clearest--example is the Christmas my WASP grandmother sent my sister $100 and me $50, saying my hardworking, ambitious sister had "earned" more.
I resisted that judgement, but I felt ashamed, and shame is like tooth pain:
it may only be a small part of your being, but its red-hot pulsations take over everything.
After talking to Joanna, I started to think about things I have finished, and they are many.
They were often outside the system of recognition and praise, however--not class assignments or work tasks. They tended to be things I did for fun.
(I put that in the past tense, but that's often still the case.)
For instance, when I was an eleven/twelve-year-old horse-crazy girl, I wrote, illustrated, and published (on construction paper) three issues of a horse magazine.
I probably felt ashamed I'd only done three.
As an adult, I think three is a triumph, working in isolation as I was.
We were living in Copenhagen, where the sun appeared dimly for maybe six hours a day. My parents' marriage was falling apart, as was my beloved mother's mental state. I spent a lot of time after school sitting in the dark afternoons holding her hand as she lay on the couch.
I'm surprised these magazines even survived, but I found them a few years ago. I should get a scanner, maybe...these'd read better, but anyway, here's a sample.
The Horsemans Monthly, February, March, and April, 1973
Of course I could fill in the blanks of the Points of a Horse (below) when I was twelve. Looking at the answer key fills me with nostalgia. These were words of love: mane, fetlock, chestnut, hock, withers.
We were in Denmark for a semester while my professor father taught political science for a term. Sometimes on Sundays we went to the Charlottelund racetrack, to watch trotting races, which I wrote about here.
The next month, below, I had to print a correction ("Mistake," lower left) because I had mistakenly copied out the steps of a pacer, not a trotter. (I have some dim recollection that there is a difference between pacing and trotting; but what it is, I have no idea.)I can't fill in the crossword puzzle I made up either.
Q: "The ____ and the Arabian are the main ancestors of the Thoroughbred."
A: The Barb.
This was the spring that Princess Anne of the UK was engaged to Mark Phillips, and since Anne is an equestrian (she competed in the 1976 Olympics!), I collected articles about her (below, left) and her horse life--as well as anything else remotely horse related.
Three years after I made these, in the midst of my parents' divorce, my father told me he was disappointed in me because I wasn't a genius.
No doubt he wasn't at his best when he said it, but I wonder what he had in mind. And why I took it to heart.
When I look at these magazines, I see I haven't changed. The wonderful mishmash approach is exactly how I still approach my passions.
Would I have ever loved the Internet when I was a kid.
I could have had a fantastic horse blog.
On the other hand, I love that these are handmade, right down to their Scotch-tape bindings, so I'm grateful I've lived with both technologies.
I'm going to be fifty next year.
I am entirely ready to perceive myself more clearly.
The condemnation of my long-dead grandmother (godblessher) and all the other shaming voices turn into the powdery whispers of powerless ghosts.
So, thanks, Joanna, for seeing through my story. I may not be the sort of detail-oriented person you'd hire as a bookkeeper, but I'm certainly capable of finishing things I care about.
You can annoy me with the truth anytime.