Saturday, 17 December 2011

the finishing of things

It's the 17th of December... yes, this is Friday's post... but you know how I'm the late-nite girl who rarely posts during the time alloted for the day by her calendar. Four months ago, on the 17th of August, I left Aotearoa, and arrived in Toronto... after four months of being in Canada, things are still fresh and new and exciting... but all things are ultimately governed by seasons, and for some things the season is ending.

People are saying goodbye to people... I know of several people who are farewelling loved ones who have passed away.

Mum and Dad are spending this weekend packing up the house in Epuni... yes, next week the house I moved into halfway through 2009 when I got back from three months in Sydney, will finally be vacated and left for another family to enjoy. 

Megan and Matiu are on an amazing trip around the world on their way here, and they only have one more day left in Japan with the host family she lived with twenty years ago. They've been having an amazing time, and Matiu has been having a ball, and Megan has been connecting, and soon it will be time to say goodbye.

People in the US and Canada who teach at universities have been busily grading essays and exams all week, after finishing classes and saying goodbye to students. The feeling of finishing marking is always bittersweet: the grading is never something to look forward to - it always feels like such a task - but as you enter the grades and see the outcome of the work you and your students have put in over the past semester you suddenly realise how lovely they were; how smart, how fun, how engaged... you realise that, because teaching is about giving of yourself, that you've left a part of  yourself there too. 

Christmas and other holidays and celebrations are heating up... which involves the beginning of things, but also the finishing: getting to the end of the present wrapping; buying the food; making final decisions which cannot help but quietly close off possibilities... after weeks of pouring over magazines, I've finally chosen the cookie recipes we'll use when Megan and Matiu are here... the other contenders will have to be made by other people; that decision is done.

There are many things I'm supposed to be finishing, or saying goodbye to... the large list of things 'to do' is far longer than it should be right now. And so, I realise, I feel excited about the newness and thrill of New Year and having family around and Christmas and thinking about the future... but I'm weighed down by the things I regret, the things I'm embarassed to have not finished, the promises I've made and broken.

I never wanted to be one of these kinds of academics: someone who finds I always have about 27 hours worth of living to squeeze into the 24 we're all allotted; someone who misses deadlines, doesn't reply emails, isn't as prompt as I'd like with feedback for students, takes too long. I realise that this has implications for people beyond myself... there are flow-on effects of every incomplete task and I find myself feeling responsible for all manner of anguish and stress that I cause by not being as good at finishing things as I am at starting them.

I make resolutions, I read books about organisation, I take heart in what I do get accomplished, I make lists. These strategies all have variable effect... some days I'm pleased by what it happening and some days I feel awful giving in to my tired body and gonig to bed despite the things I haven't done.

It's okay, gentle reader, I'm not a complete mess about this... I have perspective on the situation... I don't need sympathy.

But. I do want to become as good a finisher as I am a starter.

It's not a resolution - it's too early in December for them! - but it's something for me to think about as I reflect that I am halfway through December, and the end of December is halfway through sabbatical. I am almost at the summit of te tau okioki... and maybe this is why the pack is starting to feel a bit too heavy. I've been loving the climb, but I brought a few too many things on the journey and I thought I would have dispensed with more of them by now.

So, rather than thinking that the upcoming trip to NYC to pick up Megan and Matiu, then Christmas, then a visit from Dominique and then New Year is a distraction, something that will torturously keep me away from the slow burning sense of panic about what's not yet done, I'll see it as a chance to put down the pack for a while, stretch my legs, reshuffle the pack a bit, look at how far I've climbed, appreciate the view from here, and get ready to enjoy the rest of the journey.    

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