“Maybe I will eat a single, ripe, peach. Anything. Anything to completion…. We forget that the restoration is possible. And then something happens and we remember. But we don’t have to wait for it to happen by accident.”

The joy and release of completing… anything. Especially when you are an intensive. Especially when every started-but-not-finished thing haunts you, shames you, makes you lose trust in your ability to finish… anything.

Japanese knotwood: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynoutria_japonica

Transcript and notes: https://dev.intensivesinstitute.com/captivate-podcast/the-lushness-of-completion

Recorded 1 June 2023.


Hi, everyone. Thanks for tuning in.

It's June. Somehow we are all the way through May and it's June. It's the season of lushness, things begin to flower, to root, to grow. And also here there is sun, and less water. Watering is something we have to do on purpose. Or we choose things and people and places that don't require so much water.

But there's still a sense of lushness in the air, in the world. Everywhere things are leafing out and green. This is my first year in a long time having a garden. And like every garden here, it needs some source of water. Some source of water to buttress it against the coming of the hot hot sun and the dry baked Earth. This is the season when, years ago, the grasses all turned yellow and crisp. And now- Now it is time for us to decide where we will distribute water. We have access to water that we wouldn't have had 150 years ago. How should we use it?

I've spent the last several weeks gradually, slowly, feeling my way through setting up a simple irrigation system. I have tiny isolated beds, each one of them needs water. Each one of them needs an individual feed so as not to spend the water elsewhere. This is miles and miles of tubing. Plastic, although I detest using plastic. Hose to go from the spigot to the edge of the field where the water needs to be and then, increasingly smaller tubes. What is effectively leaky hose. Sprayers. All kinds of things to distribute the water just exactly where it needs to go, and nowhere else.

The lushness of the land is coming. Most of what I'm growing seems reasonably happy. I don't know what to fertilize with. I'm guessing as I go. I'm also conceding the point- in some cases they're weeds that are edible. So I'm adopting those and calling those part of my garden. Nipplewort. Dandelion. Mostly things that grow in rough soil but are managing to thrive here in my yard.

I've taken an "eat your enemies" approach to Japanese knotweed, which is so invasive than in England if they find it on a piece of property, they might not give you a mortgage. It's not so terrifying here for reasons that I don't understand. Something to do with genetic diversity, something, something something. But you can eat Japanese knotweed. And so I am preparing pots and pots of stewed knotweed mixed with a little bit of coconut sugar, like rhubarb for toppings.

I've read that you can also eat it like asparagus, but I haven't tried that. It has high levels of oxalic acid. Sometimes living in concert with the environment means knowing when to leave well enough alone.

But the lushness is there and there's another kind of lushness that I indulged in today. My partner- one of my partners- calls it retail therapy. When she does it. Goes on a buying binge. But the truth is that most of the time, none of us are buying things we don't need. It's that this list of needs builds up in our heads or on paper, all these different things that we need to spend money on in order to keep our life moving forward. And every so often, the presence of cash and the opportunity, and the energy, and the focus, and the impatience, all build up and spill over. And so there's a small shopping spree as things get checked off the list.

Today, it was some irrigation equipment, some flowers to attract pollinators to make the rest of the garden productive. And to make the yard pretty. And then it was polyfill for a dress form project that I started over a year ago. Buttons and fabric to finish a pair of overalls I started a little bit ago. A few other things for a few other projects. A quick run through Home Depot, which was fruitless as usual. But at least I confirmed a few details that will allow me to do better online shopping later.

There's something about the release- about the relief- of checking off list items. Of moving projects forward. Of approaching completion, especially- especially for those of us who are intensives.

Because the thing about us is that an open project is an open loop, an open door. It's scratchy, itchy, uncomfortable, awkward. Gotta sit with your back to the wall and face the door and keep your attention on the door until the door is closed. Until the loop is complete. Which, the longer it lasts, the worse it feels.

So having a moment where the executive function and the cash line up feels incredibly luxurious. The opportunity to say yes, I will close this loop and I will close this loop and I will close this loop and suddenly, five or six things get checked off the to do list. Five or six things get finished and, satisfyingly so.

In my case, often I'm building something or making something and then it can move from the "under construction" pile to the "being used" pile. To the "in use" pile. To the "I did what I intended to do and it's satisfying pile." I also got online and ordered some thread and ordered some elastic. And pretty soon the ridiculous candy striped pants that I made, in a fit of desperation for some dopamine a few weeks ago, will have their elastic waistband. And they too will be usable.

Every little bit of it helps. And it's important to indulge in this lushness when it's available. Because as intensives we make promises to ourselves all the time. Promises that we'll finish a project. It's not a formal promise, but it feels like a commitment. It hangs out in our head, we say we're going to do something and then we want to do it. We do we like integrity. It's one of our top values. And so it hangs out. And it stalks us. And it stares at us and it hovers over us.

And if we have enough of those, they become a cloud of witnesses to our inability to complete things. And then- and then it becomes about shame. And it becomes about unreliability. And it becomes about losing trust in ourselves. And then everything starts to come apart at the seams. And so when we indulge in this lushness, when we allow ourselves to go and get the things and do the things- and I do mean very concretely, although it's not always- we begin to trust ourselves again. And we go from little things, like that ridiculous pair of candy striped pants that I made from start to finish in one day, except for the elastic.

The candy striped pants were a dopamine trigger, they were a trust trigger. They allowed me to believe that I was capable of completion again. And from there, I was able to move on to several projects that I've had in the works for months, or years. And then from there, I'm now able to take up projects that hadn't been started yet. Like making a desktop that I hadn't known I was going to need to make. But then I was able to get the base but not the top. And so I went and got wood, and then I got stuck. Because I still didn't trust myself.

Little by little one completion begets another completion. Rebuilding trust, rebuilding hope, rebuilding possibility, rebuilding dreams, rebuilding imagination. It's amazing how fast those things can disintegrate in the face of unceasing obstacles. And it's amazing how fast those things can be restored. But we forget that the restoration is possible. And then something happens and we remember.

But we don't have to wait for it to happen by accident. We don't have to wait for the day when we accidentally cook a whole meal. We don't have to wait for the day when we accidentally install a whole thing or build a whole thing, or write a whole thing. Start to finish. Neat, tidy, complete. And that {breath}- click, that sigh of completion.

We don't have to wait. We can create them for ourselves.

The tiniest little things at first. Something fun and ridiculous. With no high-stakes. Just, if I can do this, won't that be cool? And then, and then again, and again, if I can do this one, that'd be cool. If I can do that, well, that'd be cool. If I could- maybe I just can't- maybe it'll be Okay. Maybe we'll try this and see if it works. Maybe we'll try that and see if it works. Maybe. Maybe a little here and a little there. Maybe it's okay to make this desktop out of three quarter inch thick wood. Because inch-thick wood is very difficult to come by right now. Maybe if I can't, I'll just add a quarter-inch piece of plywood. We'll find out.

We'll find out. But I've never glued a panel before. So let's get that part moving. Let me see if I can get a hold of the clamps. Let me see if I can buy the wood. Let me see if I can get all the pieces assembled. Let me see if I can make a little progress. Let me see if I can do something all the way to the end.

Maybe I'll just sit down to write that card that I've been meaning to write for weeks or months. Maybe I'll just sit down and write a card. On this desk here. Rickety though it is. It's not the perfect desk. We're working on the perfect desk. But this is not that, this is not the perfect desk. This is the imperfect desk. And this is my imperfect handwriting. With my beloved fountain pen, the one that I bought myself. The one that I bought because it was small enough to fit nicely in my hand. That writes smoothly.

Maybe I'll write imperfect words on this card and make sure it goes in the box. Maybe I'll mail that thing that's been finished and just waiting and waiting and waiting. Maybe I'll send that text to that person. Maybe I will imperfectly make an invitation. Maybe I will set aside time to make the invitation over and over and over. Because sometimes you have to ask more than once.

Maybe I will eat a single, ripe, peach. Anything. Anything to completion.

Anything that I said I was going to do and then I did it. Maybe I'll trust myself again. Maybe that's where it begins.

Thanks for tuning in. I'll talk to you soon.