It was inevitable. Bound to happen. I’d reach a certain age and life stage. Then bam. Smack. Thump. I’d start thinking about unfinished business.
Well here I am. Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Right on track.
On the one hand I think, ‘Yay for me. Look at all I’ve done. Little Miss Smarty Pants.’ Then the grim reality sets in. The ugly truth. The road ahead is shorter than the road behind. Then I think, ‘I’m just getting started. I haven’t done anything yet. Shit.’
Age and stage notwithstanding, two things over the past year triggered this obsessive unfinished thinking. E’s cancer diagnosis. And a painting of Ma’s that I pulled out of storage.
Dealing with E’s cancer has brought me to my knees on more than one occasion. I’ve felt a rainbow of emotions. From fear to anger to sadness to joy. And now gratitude. This experience has reminded me of the fragile and fleeting nature of life. How quick it all passes. The cliche is true. Time flies. Especially the older you get. I can barely catch my breath on some days. I just want to scream, ‘slow down!’ I want to freeze frame the good stuff. Fortunately, the older I get the more I realize it’s all good stuff. Regardless of how it may appear on the surface. I want to hold on tight. Squeeze the life out of every last thing.
I’m overwhelmed at times by the immensity of this thing called life. The fact that we’re here at all is utterly astonishing when you think about it. Big bangs and creation debates aside, it’s mind blowing.
Then there’s the insignificance of my little life in the grand scheme of things. My humble place in this mysterious cosmic eternal universe. We are all less than a blip on the radar of time. Practically nothing. Or perhaps not? Why are we here anyway? I don’t know. But I want to know. This, and the answers to about a million other philosophical and spiritual questions. I’m a seeker.
I’m pretty sure that this pursuit will be the biggest business I’ll leave unfinished.
Then there’s Ma’s painting. The unfinished one. I found it in the attic at 204 after she died. Vibrant yellow and orange color streaks across the canvas with ethereal wisps and airy brushstrokes. From a distance it looks finished. A bit abstract for Ma’s typical style, but done. It’s only when you get up close that you see that it isn’t finished at all. Not by a long stretch. You can see that the yellow and orange were just the beginning. The first few layers. The background for the real painting. Up close you can see the pencil marks where she had sketched in the foreground images. The Sleeping Giant on the horizon. Sail boats reflected in the water. I don’t know for sure. I only know that this painting was intended to be so much more than what was left behind.
Over the past year, I have spent time contemplating this painting. I have struggled with the desire to finish it. Complete this one little piece of her work here on earth. But I won’t. This is her unfinished business. Not mine. And quite frankly, none of my business.
But this painting is a gentle reminder of all the things that are my business to finish. Truth is, I know I will go to my grave with tons of things left undone. Not sure I’m okay with that.
Ironically, I love lists but I’m not a bucket list person. At least not in the formal sense, with an actual physical list. Like the one I make at work every day. I think I’m too lazy to sit down and compile such a thing. Or maybe mine would be too long. Endless. From here to eternity. It would take me forever. When people talk about checking something off their bucket list, I’m perplexed. Where do they find the time to both make the list and do all that shit on it?
Having said all that, I do have things I still want to do. I also have things I wish I had done when I was younger. These are the things that require a much more youthful body and brain. C’est la vie.
So I focus on what I can still do.
Instead of attempting to accomplish, achieve, attain or actualize, I focus on what really matters.
When do I start? Here. This place. This present moment. As much as possible, I try to stay in the now.
What can I do right this minute to have a more meaningful life? It doesn’t matter. Meaning can be found in anything. And everything. Doing the laundry. Mowing the lawn. Climbing a rock. Soaring from the top of a mountain. Lying on my back gazing at the sky. Kissing my love goodnight. Holding the hand of the broken-hearted. Eating spaghetti. Writing a song. Running barefoot through the grass. Standing still. The list is endless. And very personal. That’s the supreme beauty of it.
Who can I surround myself with? Who are my people? My tribe? My dear ones? They’re already here. Every last one of them. And more will come. Some will leave when our business together is done.
Where do I need to be to make a difference in the world? Make it a better place than when I arrived? Improve someone’s life, even in the smallest way? Everywhere. Anywhere. People need help all over the place. In my own home. At work. Down the road. Across the street. The country. The ocean. The earth.
How do I get it done? One baby step at a time. Occasional giant leaps. Little tiptoes. One foot in front of the other. Maybe I’ll strap on a cape or sprout a pair of wings. I don’t know. I just know I’m going to die trying.
Why bother with all of this hullabaloo? Why not? Just because. That’s all I got.
I’ll take a crack at some dreams. Hatch a few more schemes. Make a new plan or two. Write another story. Wish upon a star. Cause a ruckus. Blow out a few more candles on the cake. And keep going down the road. For as long as I’ve got.
Will I die with some business left unfinished? Most undoubtedly so. I am a work in progress, after all.
Just like Ma’s painting.