Your masterpiece: The big “to-do” that’s never done

There was one day in my life when I felt a strange feeling: I was ready to die. That was the day that my first book was done.

As I hit publish on my announcement blog post — officially marking the beginning of my launch—I felt a wave of peace wash over me. I descended the stairs from my third-floor apartment, through the courtyard of the brick building, and out onto Fullerton Parkway.

I remembered the thick layer of snow that had covered the road. I remembered watching a snowmobile pass by my window as I writhed in agony over my keyboard. I remembered seeing abandoned cars piled up on Lake Shore Drive, scattered like white sprinkles on a frosted donut.

That was all over. Winter was gone. So was that gnawing feeling in my stomach.

I had felt that feeling all of my life: Like I had something to offer the world. I think we all have that feeling. We all do have something to offer.

But for most of us, it gets drowned out by daily demands. It remains a dull din of dissatisfaction that colors our mood as we sit in traffic or wait in line.

It manifests as a constant impatience. Each delay, each unmet preference, just another obstacle between us and our true destiny. The destiny, we tell ourselves, that we would be seeking, if only we had the time, if only we had the space, if only we had been gifted with the talent.

We feel a sense of relief when we get something done. We renewed our driver’s license, or we got our dental checkup. Maybe we just took out the trash. It’s a tiny clearing of space. It’s a tiny boost in energy.

But none of that compares, I now realize, to finding what is inside you, and bringing it out into the world. No, it wasn’t the cure for cancer. It wasn’t the great American novel. It wasn’t a marble statue. But it was still a masterpiece. It was my masterpiece, anyway. Nothing else mattered.

Slowly, the gnawing feeling returned. I figured that it would. This, I’ve learned, is my way of life. If I don’t create something, it’s a day wasted.

It’s more unmade art sitting inside of me. I have to get it out before I die. I have to get it out, or I don’t feel like I deserved the day.

We feel relief when we get something done, because the loop has been closed. It was on our minds, whether we were conscious of it or not. It interfered with our concentration. It contributed to our dissatisfaction. It may have made us honk a little louder, or get annoyed by a panhandler.

But there is one to-do that is the biggest of all. It’s an unclosed loop that encompasses our entire being. Not just our body, but our entire existence, from birth to this moment in time. It’s our masterpiece. We each have one inside us. We’ll never feel right until it’s done. And once it is, we have until the day we die to make the next one.

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