Dear Donagh,

[….] I’m always leaving jobs unfinished.  Any job I do in the house or in the garden is left without being finished.  Even if I'm reading a book I go on to another one before I get to the end…. It was when I heard my husband saying to his sister about curtains in the spare bedroom “of course she didn’t finish them” that I saw how right he was.  That's always the way with me.  But knowing it still doesn’t help.  I'm as bad as ever.  I get fed up before the end of everything.  Nothing prevents me.  I've enough time.  But still something in me must be standing in the way.  Maybe you can understand me…. Thanks for anything you might be able to suggest.  Una


Dear Una,

I think you’re speaking for most people.  I had that tendency in a big way, and I still have it to some extent.  To shorten the story: I noticed one day that finishing things is very satisfying.  To begin something, however small, is a little bit exciting.  Finishing a job, however, doesn’t have that element to it.  But it has a different kind of satisfaction.  Finishing something releases a sort of energy: it allows you to cross one thing off your list.  It also gives you a reason to be satisfied – whether the job was big or small.  And it gives you a reason to celebrate!  When people finish their exams, or such, their instinct is to celebrate with their friends.  You deprive yourself of that if you don’t finish anything. 

What makes us forego that pleasure?  The excitement of starting something else.  We let excitement deprive us of satisfaction.  This may be our pattern right across the board. 

The greatest encouragement I ever got in this matter was a poem by Robert Graves.  He imagined all those unfinished things as malicious little beings that lurk in every corner, and he named them ‘Lollocks’.  Here’s the poem:


By sloth on sorrow fathered,
These dusty-featured Lollocks
Have their nativity in all disordered
Backs of cupboard drawers.

They play hide and seek
Among collars and novels
And empty medicine bottles,
And letters from abroad
That never will be answered.

Every sultry night
They plague little children,
Gurgling from the cistern.
Humming from the air,
Skewing up the bed-clothes,
Twitching the blind….

The signs of their presence
Are boils on the neck,
Dreams of vexation suddenly recalled
In the middle of the morning,
Languor after food.

Men cannot see them,
Men cannot hear them,
Do not believe in them  - 
But suffer the more,
Both in neck and belly….

Sovereign against Lollocks,
Are hard broom and soft broom,
To well comb the hair,
To well brush the shoe,
And to pay every debt
As it falls due. 

I omitted a couple of verses.  I hope you got to the end of it!


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