Some years back, I was introduced to a wonderful poem by Robert Gilbert titled “Life is Always Unfinished Business”. I have a wrinkled copy of it tacked up to the bulletin board in my office still. The top is full of thumbtack holes from multiple moves, between homes, between jobs, between offices.
The full text reads as follows:
In the midst of the whirling day,
In the hectic rush to be doing,
In the frantic pace of life,
Pause here for a moment.
Catch your breath;
Relax your body;
Loosen your grip on life.
Consider that our lives are always unfinished business;
Imagine that the picture of our being is never complete;
Allow yourself to be a work in progress.
Do not hurry to mold the masterpiece;
Do not rush to finish the picture;
Do not be impatient to complete the drawing.
From beckoning birth to dawning death we are in process,
And always there is more to be done.
Do not let the incompleteness weigh on your spirit;
Do not despair that imperfection marks your every day;
Do not fear that we are still in the making.
Let us instead be grateful that the world is still to be created;
Let us give thanks that we can be more than we are;
Let us celebrate the power of the incomplete;
For life is always unfinished business.
Like most, my life is a series of unfinished business. From the baskets of laundry, to the endless pile of documents awaiting review, to the grass that grows as we speak – my to do list seems to grow with each passing day. By the time one list is finished, another one just as long has been added and it begins again.
There is a deeper list of unfinished business as well, the one that never seems to be touched at all. Healing old hurts, forgiving the shortcomings of myself and others, pursuing the dreams, learning new skills, loving and living more fully.
For the past few months, it seems as if our family life has been a series of major events. Resolution seems just beyond reach, like the proverbial carrot. We can see it, dangling in front of us, and yet we don’t seem to be getting any closer. With each reach and stretch, it disappears for a minute, only to reappear again.
I am acutely aware that we have been living far from the moment. I have uttered many times that “If we could just settle ………, then we could relax a little.” The uncertainty has weighted us, pulling us under so that we lose sight of what is already real in the present.
This past week, through sheer mental exhaustion, I took a minute to just sit in the backyard and breathe. Where there was only gray stillness 6 weeks ago, there was now abundant life. An oriole tentatively pecked at an orange on the table, robins bobbed for worms in the unplanted garden beds, pink cherry blossoms exploded against the blue sky.
I realized in that moment that life is always unfinished. I can’t control job situations or house sales any more than I can make the sun shine or the daffodils bloom. More importantly, the more I try, the greater the frustration and the less I can appreciate the thunderstorm that makes it all grow.
For now, I am resolved to turning my face to the sun while it shines, and sitting in gratitude for the rest that the rain brings. I know that in the incomplete, there are gifts more than I can imagine.