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Artist’s Voice: Complete

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

We may strive to improve ourselves, but we are still whole.

By Natalie Strong

Sometimes (a lot of the time) I find myself falling into mental sinkholes, and lately I’ve been inspecting the geography of this one: What if I never finish knitting this sweater? This blanket? This Christmas tree skirt? This sock? And all of the other works in progress? Does it make me NOT a knitter?

It does not. I finish other things, but there are a handful of projects that have been hanging around for a very long time. They are my works in progress, or WiPs. I would love to see them all finished eventually, and I intend to keep picking them up and moving them forward until they are finished…which may take me until the end of my days. Possibly. And other WiPs will join them along the way. Certainly.

I’m okay with that, because, despite the unfinished projects, plenty of knitting happens. Knitting that I enjoy. WiPs that become Finished. And those that remain unfinished are not a reflection on my character.

There is one WiP that I have felt DOES reflect on my character, though—me. When asked by a friend, “How are you?” I’ve been known to say, “I’m a work in progress.” You may have said it yourself. It always felt like a quippy, keep-it-light way to say that I’m generally okay but that I am not satisfied with myself. Not circumstances, not the state of the world, but specifically me. It felt like a hopeful thing to say, but then I realized that what it’s really saying is, “I still plan to fix all of the things that you’ve probably noticed are wrong with me, and, in case you’ve noticed them yourself, I just wanted you to know that I know they are there and I don’t like them either.”

So mean! How can I talk about myself that way?! True, it sounds like I’m only saying I’m working on myself, which, of course, I always am… there’s always room to learn, grow, expand horizons. Nothing wrong with that. It’s the fact that considering myself a WiP means I’m not a whole person yet. Just as I might someday consider this sweater I’m knitting a whole sweater, I might someday consider myself a whole person. Until then, I’m what? A partial person? A hemless, one-armed-sweater of a person? To be hidden away in a basket under the coffee table until I’m someday complete and presentable?!

I reject that! I am a whole person: wonderful, warm, and complete. If I were missing an arm (or a hem?), I’d still be a whole person. While I’ve been thinking that calling myself a WiP is just being realistic about my flaws, I’ve completely forgotten that I’m a person NOW. I’ve been a person all along. I’m not some project I started on a whim one day because I was cold and had the right materials on hand. I was born a completed project. Out of the basket! Out from under the coffee table!

I don’t know about you, but January gets me down, and it’s because the world is geared towards reminding me of my flaws. Every year I commit to fixing those flaws so that next year I’ll be finished and ready to live. By February, I’m in a pretty low place. Not this year! I’m ready to live and won’t wait until I get to the January when I won’t have to make resolutions. That day may never come. Because I’m flawed. I was born that way. I’m flawed and I’m fluid and I can evolve, but I’m whole. It’s time to live like a finished project.

Natalie Strong is an artist and writer living in El Segundo. In this photo she wears an unfinished sweater she has been knitting.

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