I sat at a departure gate at Newark airport, watching a woman struggle with more bags than she could possibly take onto the plane. She looked around and the only open seat in the waiting area was directly across from me. She sat and immediately began to unpack and repack the contents of four bags, trying to rearrange her belongings to meet the airline’s carry-on limit of two. Within a few minutes, this woman seemed frantic. We would soon be directed to board the plane and many of her things were still strewn on the floor. I could almost feel her desperation as she shoved items back into her bags.
Weeks later, I am still thinking about her but now in a different way, realizing that I AM that women. No, I’ve never entered an airport with more than the acceptable number of carry-on bags, but every day I lug around invisible baggage that weighs me down, bags full of my “unfinished business.” I unknowingly unpack and repack those bags just as my frenzied counterpart did that day at Newark airport, not getting rid of the contents but hoping to rearrange them so they do not interfere with my life. It’s simply not possible.
Unfinished business is a distraction in our lives, a thief that slowly and silently steals away our energy, time, and creativity. It weighs on us because it chains us to the past and prevents us from investing all of our energy in the present moment. We know that eventually we have to deal with the nagging loose ends in our lives, but the actions required seem too burdensome or unpleasant to begin. So we pack them all away, unfinished, hoping they will sit quietly in the back of our mind or, better yet, magically disappear. We know this is not a likely outcome, but we can always hope.
There are many categories of unfinished business, but with a nod to brevity I believe that these are the top three:
– Unresolved Conflicts with People We Love – This category can be a wellspring of unfinished business. We often avoid resolving conflicts or disagreements with those we love, sweeping big issues under the rug rather than having the “real” and predictably difficult conversations required to address them. And because these issues remain unresolved, they weigh us down. Sometimes we are aware of this weight, sometimes not, but we must never doubt that it is there.
– Unresolved Conflicts with Other People in Our Life – For many of us, this can be a long, long list that includes people in all aspects of our lives. Take a moment to think about the many people in your life. If you feel any tension when a name comes to mind, you probably have unfinished business with that person. Right? You may choose not to do anything about these unresolved issues, but being aware will help when you assess the weight of this baggage.
– Unresolved Internal Conflicts – Yes, I have saved the biggest bag for last. We weigh ourselves down by carrying around all of the old disappointments, anger, pain and frustration that we have not yet chosen to resolve or heal. The circumstances that have triggered these feelings may go back many, many years. Some of these are still in our awareness, while others are deeply buried away so we can avoid looking at them. In either case, they hold us back from fully loving and being at peace with ourselves.
Recognizing that we carry our unfinished business with us each and every day is a good beginning, and choosing to do something about is even better. I’m off to begin unpacking now.