The Art of Ending Everything

I spent the last few days cleaning. It’s nice to feel like I’m progressing in a project. The two of us live in a four bedroom house, and my grandmother was kind enough to let me use two of the bedrooms. For the longest time my desk and entertainment room was in the front room. It’s smaller, quainter, a one-window shoebox bathed in 90’s beige-pink. The other room, the corner room, is somewhat bigger. It’s brighter, two windows, painted light grey when I moved in – a color I always like to point out became popular after I choose it.

A month ago I had the sudden idea in the middle of the night before bed to switch the rooms. I’ve built up quite a collection over the ten years I’ve life’d here. DIY tools, decorative pieces, more bedlinen and pillows than one person can use in a lifetime. Papier-mâché Ravens. Glass bottles. Two desks. A large TV I was too embarrassed to exchange for the correct size. A broken boxspring and an ankle-biting metal bed frame. All of this found their way into the tiny hallway as I maneuvered the contents of each room into their new homes, squeezing my mattress between the narrow space between doorframes, trying to be as quiet as possible to not disturb my grandmother, all under the watchful eye of my mistrusting terrier.

Finally, I was done with the main components. Tiny desk and bed in one room, big desk and TV console in the other. it was enough to sleep, but there were still pieces to go, still ten years of stuff in limbo. Bags of old clothes to sort. Boxes of seasonal decor once hidden under the bed now bare to the world. It would take some time to clear through, but eventually the big pieces would all be where they needed to go, and the sense of accomplishment grew with each step. I could forgive myself for how long it took to move between each step because I know myself. Doing anything is an accomplishment.

I’ve spent a lot of time honing a very particular skill: quitting, forgetting, stopping, not starting, doing absolutely nothing. It’s served me well. It’s one of those traits I’ve spent years being upset about. Ironic, kind of, that I never seemed to learn to stop hating myself for that. I spent a lot of time calling myself lazy, unmotivated, stupid. I’ve chastised myself for letting friendships disappear. I learned at a very young age that nothing last forever and everybody leaves. The art of ending things is making it seamless, it’s making it effortless. It’s a skill that kept me from mourning loss, from reliving trauma.

The problem is, we’re not meant to be that way. We’re creatures of comfort, of community, of the familiar. My lifetime has been one of anxiety, always ready for the next person to leave, for something to fall through, and I’m always ready. I’ve been one to accept that something wasn’t going to happen too easily. It’s the reason I haven’t finished college. It’s why I don’t put energy into dating. It’s why I can never seem to build myself a new life. Why try when it’s all going to fail or fall apart?

The same mentality of accepting the inevitable finality of being is the same one that kept me from moving forward in literally anything. I can spend three months on a diet and let it die in an evening. I can spent 15 minutes a day learning French and let it go, Frozen style, in an instant. That doesn’t really work for me anymore.

(Blood)letting things go doesn’t work when you have a plan. And most of my goals have always been pipe dreams. They were less of a North Star to follow and more of a pretty constellation to gaze up and wonder. They were beautiful distractions from the insufferable torment of everyday life. Having a North Star feels like one of those medicines that only works if you go into rehab therapy. Like my muscles for trying have atrophied, and without a plan there was no way to get them working again. But it’s still going to take a shit ton of agony stretching that try muscle before anything happens. Before I can walk on my own again.

Last week I spent a fair sum updating my bedding – ignoring the piles of old bedding folded in the workspace, it felt like a new start. I was doing something. The boxspring and metal frame that I’d allowed to give me back pain for years found temporary housing as a new platform bed moved in, one I’d visited at Ikea for years before finally biting the admittedly bite-sized bullet. I put in a foam mattress topper, new sheets, a new summer blanket. I hung a picture ledge with some art above the headboard.

I spent yesterday clearing the bedroom of all the other stuff still living there. Some of it found their way into the corner room, still to be sorted. Some found themselves labeled and folded away into drawers. Others found themselves in the trash bags piled at the porch door. Shelves that made sense in a workspace were pulled down, their holes patched. Paint swatches still adorn the walls, a symbol of future changes, a chink in the pink-beige armor of the past.

There’s still so much to do. Still piles to sort in the workspace, still things to buy, still walls to paint. But every step feels like regaining my ability to try again. And having a good nights sleep, waking up without feeling broken, is a nice reminder of what happens when you do things. There’s so much to learn before the five year plan is up, but the North Star is already directing me day to day. I find myself asking me questions like, how can I run a farmhouse if I can’t even organize my current home? When things get hard and I just want to quit, to break, the mantra rings: five year plan, five year plan, five year plan. That voice in my head, the one of hope and opportunity and progress? It’s been awhile since I could hear it over the other voices, the ones of self doubt and anxiety. And it’s a nice voice.

It led me here, to updating my blog with a 1000+ words that maybe, one day, I’ll be able to look back on as a reminder to where I was when I first started trying things again.

In the coming week, I definitely need to plan out the last of my projects. I have an idea of what needs to be done and completed, but I haven’t budgeted anything and that is an important habit I need to start doing – not to mention scheduling my projects too. If I’m going to learn the successful Art of Finishing Everything, I really need to learn the art of planning. Clearly having a plan is, you know, useful. Who would have thought? That subtle difference – ending vs finishing – has really opened my eyes to what’s possible and what I’m capable of.

Let’s go finish something.

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