Sometimes We Should Leave It At That
“Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes, work never begun.” — Christina Rossetti
I’m on the train trying to solve a crossword puzzle and the man behind me is reading the paper. I do my best to focus while he sighs and grunts. Apparently he’s none too pleased with the news.
There are two words I can’t figure out. I set the crossword aside for a while and something occurs to me. What if I don’t solve this puzzle?
I mean, there are plenty of people out there who’ve already solved it. How would it benefit anyone except me if I did? Is this what I really want to spend my time doing?
I came to the conclusion that I would stop trying right then and there. It felt like such a relief to decide to leave the “work” unfinished.
My mind instead wandered to what I wanted to write about the following week. So I took out my notebook and started writing down and sketching on ideas.
This piece is one of those ideas.
I’m not saying that solving crosswords, sudoku, or reading the paper is a waste of time. But looking back I see that I didn’t have a plan for what I wanted to do during my commute. So, I defaulted into a behavior that didn’t really do much for me.
There was a time when leaving that crossword unsolved would’ve bothered me. Deeply.
Today I have some perspective. Not a single person would’ve benefited from me solving that puzzle. But maybe the fact that I set it aside to write what would become the jumble of words you’re reading now, might help someone.
In some way I actually do have the crossword to thank for this idea. So, thank you for a good waste of time, I guess.
What I’m getting at is that it’s easy to lose focus on what you want and take whatever is handed to you. But you can put it down anytime you like.
It’s OK to leave it unfinished and start working on what you want.