Tuesday, 26 October 2010

I’ve started, so I’ll finish...

This week I am on holiday. My annual leave runs until the end of this month, and as I have five days left to take, I am obliged to have a week away from the office. It’s a hardship, I know, but hey, I’m a trooper.

I haven't got any major plans for the week, other than a visit up North to catch up with my cousin at the weekend, but already my diary is filling up. I have been ordered by Him Indoors to make sure I give myself some “Shelly Time” with which I am in full agreement. But unfortunately I have a feeling my “Shelly Time” will be taken up doing something I don’t really want to do.

You see, my problem is I take the commonly used catchphrase “I’ve started so I’ll finish” a little bit too seriously. Take films, for example. Over the last couple of months I have sat through some pretty dire movies, but rather than switching off my DVD player and perusing the telly guide, I have sat and watched them to the end, even when Him Indoors has given up and gone to bed early in disgust. Why? Well, I tell myself it is because it might get better and I want to know how it ends. But I suspect there is more to it than that. I think I have a bit of an issue when it comes to sticking with something until it grinds to a painful, arthritic halt.

With films, it isn’t too much of an issue. Most of them are only a couple of hours long. But then there are books. Books tend to take a bit longer to get to the end of, and let’s face it, if you aren’t really into a book it can take twice as long to finally get to that blissful back cover than if it's a page turner. Earlier this year someone suggested I read a book of feminist existentialist philosophy. I was intrigued. 100 pages in I was just baffled. Yet I read it. All 750 pages of it. It took me about six months, on and off, and the sense of achievement was, well, there. But has my life significantly improved since I read it? Has by mind been noticeably expanded? My life enriched? Maybe not.

I guess perseverance is a good thing. If you need something finishing, I’m your girl. But it becomes a problem when I just can’t let go, even when the end result or product of my endeavour is no longer really relevant. Take that book for example. I started reading it for a book club, but had only managed a small portion of it when we met to discuss it. But I still insisted on reading it all- for no good reason.

My good intentions when it comes to making gifts for my friends and family also fall into this dangerous category. The pile of old clothes under the bed would fill my local Oxfam shop twice over, but I refuse to chuck anything out. They are all useful materials for the beautiful handmade toys, bags and household accessories I WILL make one day, you see. And, okay, so I might not get around to realising all my crafty ideas before December, but there’s always next year. And birthdays.

The problem even spreads into my work life. Once a task or job is on my “to do” list, that is it. I WILL do it. It might not get done for another three weeks, but once it is on that list, it has to be done. Or I have failed.

So, where does this small obsessive behaviour leave me? Well, it does make me ultra reliable, for sure. But it is very irritating for the people who are waiting for me to do more pressing tasks at work and for Him Indoors who just wants to watch something decent on the box.

It is also irritating for me. My life is taken up with doing meaningless things, watching meaningless movies and reading meaningless words, purely because I feel obliged to. So when you switch off that dire television programme or chuck that incomplete project in the bin, think of me as I pour over another exceedingly tiresome book as I attempt to make a lampshade out of some old newspapers and a faded t-shirt. But, whatever you do, don’t try and stop me. Like a tube of Pringles, once I pop, I just can’t stop...Read more by Shelly