Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Quitting Time?

mikesween via Pixabay

 A couple of years ago, frustrated by my ever-growing pile of partially read books, I set a goal to finish two books a month. I could read them or listen to them. I could start them from the first page, or pick up wherever I'd left off months (or more) before. I could recognize that I'd gone as far as I wanted to with one (or more) of the books in the pile and donate it (or them) to the library.

The goal was to finish the books, or let them go.

In addition to making my selections from the pile of books I'd already begun, I started (and abandoned) a number of additional contenders. This wasn't a new development; I decided long ago that there are far too many books I want to read for me to spend time reading those that are barely keeping my interest. 

I also started tracking the books I'd finished, eventually creating a book journal where I could keep track and capture bits of books I wanted to remember. I embarked on Sunday Sampling, where I spent a part of my day going through the various ebook samples I'd downloaded, determining what to keep and what to delete and, later, doing the same thing with the physical books on my bookshelf.

Most of the time, all of this works quite well. In addition to achieving my book completion goal, I also re-established a long-dormant reading-for-fun habit. 

But, sometimes, I don't know when to quit.

My first completed book for this month (an audiobook which shall remain nameless) is a good example. I'd enjoyed the beginning of it, gotten a bit bogged down in the middle, and lost enthusiasm before the end. 

But I finished it. I was so close, I didn't want to stop listening and miss a chance to meet (or surpass) my goal. It wasn't a slog through to the end, but it also wasn't the book I wanted to jump to when I got into the car and turned on my Audible app. And, after the first few chapters, it wasn't a book I wanted to keep listening to after I got out of the car either -- both sure signs that there might be something better out there.

But I persisted. I finished it.

Could my goal be backfiring? Could there, perhaps, be factors at work beyond time constraints and motivation? Would I have been better off letting the book slip to the bottom of the queue, spending my time on something else instead?

What got me thinking about all of this is my latest jigsaw puzzle. Now that we have our sunroom, and I have a place to chip away at puzzles without taking up the dining room table, I've really been enjoying working on them. 

I'm on my second go-'round with my latest puzzle. When I started it more than a year ago (it might even have been pre-pandemic), I wasn't successful in making progress on it. Eventually, reclaiming the dining room table became more important than finishing the puzzle and so, with a twinge of regret, I took it apart and put it away.

When I re-started it in the sunroom a few weeks ago, I was enthusiastic. But now, although I chip away at it, I don't get absorbed in it as I did with the others. It's a challenge, and not one I'm completely enjoying.

Is it quitting time?

I think the answer will reveal itself in time, as it does with most of the books I read (or don't) but, in the meantime, the more I think about my puzzle conundrum, the more I realize how universal this question is. 

Should I quit or keep pressing forward? Stay or go? Salvage this relationship or walk away? 

And what does it mean if I do?

In the case of my puzzle conundrum (or a mediocre book), it means nothing -- or close to it. It's a puzzle (or a book) and deciding I'd rather spend my time on something else is hardly a character flaw. In fact, it's probably a sign of decent self-awareness and/or a recognition that the joy we garner from some activities is lifelong, while for others, there's a season.

So why is it so hard for me to pick up the pieces, let a recording fall to the bottom of a queue, walk away and leave something unfinished?

GDJ via Pixabay

Why indeed. 

I want to have rules and guidelines, something that promises to make the choice simple and leave me with no lingering regret. 

Or maybe I don't. Maybe I don't want to give up my wiggle room. I'm not big on being told what to do, after all.

In the end, the choice is mine, and the choice I make means only what I let it mean. Nothing more, nothing less.

Sometimes, an unfinished book or puzzle is just that -- not a habit or a character flaw or a commentary on my value as a person.

Usually, it simply means there are far too many things I want to do for me to spend time in pursuits that are barely keeping my interest.

And, in that case, knowing when to walk away is a wise decision.

1 comment:

  1. I got 73% in to a library ebook earlier this week, and then I decided it was time to dump it. Normally if I've made it that far, I push through and finish. But I just couldn't do it. And I don't feel as if I've missed anything.