Learning How to Finish the Important Things in Life
I was into knitting, once. Actually I was into the idea of knitting, which is entirely a different thing, but nevertheless, I signed up for class where I was supposed to learn how to knit a pair of fingerless mittens.
After attending a few brief knitting classes and doing some basic knitting practice, we were given some vague instructions on how to knit a mitten and then sent home with a barely-started project. I wrestled with the needles and yarn, and soon found myself stumped.
I went back into the knitting shop and asked for help.
“Could someone help me figure out how to do the thumb?” A lady sat down and took my half-finished mitten and looked it over. Then she began to work the needles this way and that, and a thumb emerged, like magic. I looked on dumbfounded. It looked so easy and yet so impossibly out of my knitting league.
She then handed me the mitten, and told me I could take it home and finish it on my own.
As it turns out, I had no idea what I was doing. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I still had an entire second mitten to knit.
I debated going back to the store, but I felt stupid asking for more help, so I put the mitten away, hoping to finish it some other time.
Some other time meaning, never.
Recently I was cleaning out the basement when I found a bag stuffed inside a box. I opened it and inside was the unfinished mitten. I cringed seeing the beautiful blue yarn wasted on a project I never completed.
Unfortunately, my life is full of these unfinished projects.
- writing projects I never completed
- fabric for shirts I never sewed
- DIY house projects I never started
- beads for jewelry I never made
We all have things in life we planned on getting around to “someday,” but it’s a painful reminder when we realize that we never will complete these things without being intentional (and maybe, getting more help).
But these unfinished projects pale in comparison to the bigger, more important unfinished things of life. I don’t mean mittens or DIY house projects.
These are things we leave undone relationally, and they eventually come back to haunt us when that relationship is broken in some way.
- Gentle words I did not say that might have mended wounds
- People I failed to invest in relationally
- Apologies I never made and the grudges that resulted
- Words I failed to say before loved ones died
So many of my own regrets are wrapped up in the unfinished things of life.
Now I use that mitten as a reminder, a visual form of accountability, reminding me that life is too short not to finish what you start, whether in relationships or other important things.
Life Lessons on How to Finish the Important Things
Here is how I use this lesson so I leave less of the important relational things undone.
Lesson 1: Take the time to say I love you and I’m sorry.
My husband Sam performed a wedding this weekend where he reminded the couple that the most important words they’ll say are “I love you” and “I’m sorry.” He said to put those two phrases on repeat, because they’ll say them often, especially the “I’m sorry” one.
Lesson 2: Hug your kids or spouse even when they don’t want a hug.
This includes when you’re tired, when they’re annoying you and when they’re hangry, snarky or crying. You will not feel like hugging and neither will they, but a touch mends many wounds.
Lesson 3: If you’re in grief, write down those words you didn’t have the chance to say.
If you’ve lost someone and you feel regret over what was left unsaid, then sit down and write a letter. There’s no way to send it, but you will feel a lot better having said it to yourself. Sometimes closure to a conversation is what we need to continue on our grief journey.
As it turns out, I almost trashed the mitten. Then I reconsidered. After all, this was a good reminder about what happens when things are left undone.
Relationships, friendships, personal goals–this mitten reminds me not to leave things unfinished if I can help it.
I’m owning this failure and in doing so, I’m learning to finish what I’ve started.
For me, that’s the most powerful lesson of all.