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Painting a room is much like writing my everyday life on this sliver of white space; I’m finished only when I’m willing to walk away from it.

Usually it’s because I’m satisfied with the result.  But when not, I’ve learned to leave well enough alone — that is, until I know how to improve upon it.

Downstairs in my living room, I lived with a smudged and streaked ceiling for three years.  After three failed attempts at getting it right, I realized I didn’t possess the skills to make it better.   So I lived with it, looking up at it ever so often, as if wishing upon a star.

A few weeks ago I knew it was time to try again.  I had just finished the dining room and had spent the last seven months painting for others.  So, with my husband’s help, I emptied the room of all its furnishings and spread drops cloths all over the floor.  And painting quickly, with a very wet roller cover, I covered the ceiling with paint and smoothed out the lines, trying not to look back on what I had just finished.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s painting or writing — it’s hard to move forward without a backwards glance, and not get caught up in fine-tuning what’s not ready for finishing touches.  As it dries, a freshly painted ceiling will appear streaky when it’s not; and when I give in to temptation to roll-over those phantom streaks, I end up making streaks where there were none.

When I write, if I don’t continue to dash forward on my thoughts —  instead editing away on what’s all ready there —  I not only get derailed but often eliminate what ultimately could be an important thread.  But it’s hard, so very hard to keep moving across this digital page, to see where my thoughts will take me, to encounter emptiness and white space.

I don’t have white spaces in my house.   Unless one counts woodwork.  Bathroom tile.  And crisply painted white ceilings.