finish me | nicely put, it is a work-in-progress
photograph by Nia Garza
I used to think it was out of habit to leave things unfinished. Lately, however, I’ve been considering that maybe I do this because I like it. I’m not sure if it pleases me, but there is some kind of beauty; a forbidden excitement, of sorts. We are told as children to finish our plate, our homework; to pursue and eventually desire completion. Isn’t that counterintuitive? We are made to feel guilty of the unfinished—our lover, on the bed, starving, and therefore, unsatisfied. No, dissatisfied with us—When did Incomplete begin to equate lack of skill, interest, or care?
I sat down to write this thinking it would only apply to my paintings. Then I felt my nails scratching the keys and realized, no, it is not confined to one medium. Everything I do is incomplete: relationships end too soon; some, gone on too long, made to feel overworked and therefore unfinished in an entirely different sense. To be finished is to be terminated, made to feel some kind of closure with the project or the person. To be incomplete is to be partial, aware that there is something missing. I am unfinished and incomplete in so many ways.
You commented on my eating habits: “It seems you never finish your plate, and not because you don’t like the food.” I hadn’t thought of this ever before. Perhaps, you are responsible for me realizing this practice–(I’m eliminating the word “habit” altogether)–and I should thank you for revealing a part of myself that was hidden and always present, like my own nose.
It is my writing, too. I have so many ideas which I’ve become so accustomed to spawning, I don’t even bother to jot them all down anymore. If the itch becomes constant or repetitive, then I address it, but otherwise I know my curse will consume anything I set out to do. And my novel, what a feat it has been—I’m determined to finish it–but that is such a relative term! If I finish it, it will remain a part of a conversation: explaining what I do, that it is alive in the mind of the reader, future edits, always wondering if words should be changed or if the message was naïve. “Charlotte” was like that. It came to a point where I just wanted it off my mind and out of my hands. Those things all feel unfinished, as if the inkwell and the drying is just another step to an endless list.
I don’t take on too much. I don’t think I take on enough. And as I’m sitting here, enjoying the day, dreading the continuation of this chapter, trying to remain positive in the confusion and divinity of humanhood, I come to love the painting unfinished; I come to find a breathy excitement in the things that cannot be totally complete. Because–this is existential fodder–when do artists decide their work has reached its potential? I’m resolving that they don’t; I’m absolutely certain that the feeling must be complete, not the work itself. The strife and pursuit of art and expression is completely insatiable, and humans—we are like our art—there’s never enough time before we die, never enough love from our spouses, nor enough peace and goodness in the world: we want it all. We want to represent all, keep all in the conversation; never leave a man or concept behind. And in the end, we do; we will; there’s just no stopping it.
So, we might as well enjoy the unfinished, the incomplete, in these moments of water and pigment on a page not fit for these elements. Are any of us fit for our own humanity?