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June 15, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

…unfinished business…

For years now, I have spent much of my time contemplating the concept of balance. What is the balance between work, and other parts of our lives that would lead us to optimum health and happiness?

At this point in our history, I think that work is taking up far too much of our lives. Our fast-paced, busy world leaves so many without time for reflection, contemplation, personal care, and time with the people and activities that we love.

And yet, I have to ask myself if regaining our focus on the things that are really important, might be the most important step in finding that balance.

I am quite certain after reading Unfinished Business, that Lee Kravitz would agree with me.

Lee Kravitz’s Unfinished Business is a moving memoir with a message that we would all do well to pay attention to.

After years of leading a life that was dominated by work, Lee Kravitz suddenly lost his job. He then decided to take a year off to tend to his life by reaching out to those he had left behind. His goal was to make amends, re-connect, settle old debts.

Following along with Lee on this very personal journey was as rewarding as it was thought-provoking.

Lee’s journey took him from an institution where he re-connected with a long-lost aunt who suffered from mental illness, to paying off a decades-old loan made by a friend, to working towards re-uniting his estranged father and uncle with many stops in-between.

A trip to Canada to meet with a long-lost room-mate, and a stay in a monastery with an old friend from high-school to mention a few.

It led him to connect more deeply not just with those left behind, but also those closest to him. His wife and his children.

What he discovered is something that has been very much on my mind of late: That human connectedness is really the most important thing that we have in our lives.

And still, there is so much pressure to perform, to be the best, strive for excellence and define yourself by what you accomplish.

What is interesting is that the drive that we have to succeed, all too often prevents us from finding and maintaining those connections.

One question pops up in my mind quite often, and that is, “What would I want people to say about me after I die?”

Well, I wouldn’t want people talking about how much money I made, what I did at work, what kind of house I lived in or the car that I drove. Nor would I want them to talk about what I looked like nor the clothes that I wore.

And yet, so often, people seem to define themselves in terms of money and accomplishments.

It is wonderful to accomplish, and we certainly need money to live. There is nothing in-and-of itself that is wrong with wanting stability, and nice possessions…but at what cost?

And, since you can’t take any things with you when you go, I have been pretty serious (though sadly not always successful) in my efforts not to spend all of my time trying to acquire them.

What would I want people to say?

That I was kind, that I gave, inspired, made people laugh. In a nutshell, (if there was only time for a few words) that I LOVED!

This is a question that I think we should all ask ourselves, not just once, but throughout our lives as we grow and learn. The answers might evolve as we do, but we would certainly benefit from taking our time to focus on what is important to us.

Nearly a year after losing his job, re-connecting with a high-school teacher who had inspired him when he was a student, Lee Kravitz asked himself the very same question:

A year ago, I would have had absolutely no time to consider the question Tony posed to his students at the start of each school year. “What would you like people to say about you after you die?” I would have said, “I’ve got no clue.”

Now I do. My answer would be something like: “In the end, he worked hardest at love.” Those would be excellent words to live by. And if I did let them guide my life, the epitaph on my grave would have a good chance of being: “He completed his unfinished business and lived his life to its fullest.”

Unfinished Business was for me both surprising and delightful. Lee Kravitz reflects on his life and writes with such honesty, that I felt my own courage grow as I read. His incredibly brave journey was so clearly a successful quest that changed him forever. It reminded me, that honesty and courage rarely result in the negative outcomes that we all tend to fear. Instead, they are the ultimate opportunity to grow within ourselves and in doing so, finding a happier and more peaceful way to be in the world.

A self-described work-aholic, what Lee discovered about himself and life was nothing short of beautiful.

There are more than a few pages in this book that required post-it flags to mark passages that struck me because they are, I believe, such vitally important concepts.

 Here’s what I do know: In the hurly-burly life we lead, with its constant barrage of distractions, it is important to take our soul’s measure in a quiet place, and frequently.

If we remembered how we could be separated from our loved ones at any moment, we would accumulate a lot less unfinished business. We would be quicker to forgive each other, and be more kind. We would eulogize each other now, instead of waiting for death.

Out of fear of leading those reading to think that this is a book about contemplating death, be assured that it isn’t. Lee Kravitz’s Unfinished Business is most certainly about life.  And if you have a life, I don’t imagine that you could be disappointed by this beautiful book.

Have you ever failed to follow through on something, a promise that you made, a difficult conversation that you avoided, or let go of an old friendship due to lack of contact? I can’t imagine that there are many, if any at all who don’t have some sort of Unfinished Business in our lives.

What would it feel like to spend a year focused on completing all of the Unfinished Business in our own lives?

I also highly recommend http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/ . The author’s website, which is beautifully designed, complete with excellent tools for attending to your own Unfinished Business, readers guides, a blog, an opportunity to tell your own story and be inspired by others.

Thank you Lee Kravitz and TLC Book tours.

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12 Comments

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  1. Patricia / Jun 15 2011 9:57 pm

    this is a lovely write up for a delightful book – you captured so much of the connections being made through Kravitz intentional year.

    I called the book a Baby Boomers Instruction Manual, as I think it is part of a new genre of books about what to do when you are laid off or retire. I did get a bit jealous that he got such a lovely severance package with his let go – guess the bit time folks get those, and those of us hardworking but not so high ranking just get told goodbye.

    Maybe he can research and explore another book about all those who were doing the connections/loving work full time and with full effort and were laid off – how they recovered or found health insurance?

    It is a beautiful book and lovely stories. I wrote to him that I lived in Cleveland when in High School and I may have worked on Saturdays with Tony with the poor and mentoring students in need and cleaning apartments of the elderly…that just popped out at me in the reading – I have not heard back.

    Thanks for you good thoughts about his story

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jun 16 2011 10:44 pm

      Hello Patricia!
      Thank you for your kind words!
      Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could afford to take a year off and fly around the country? I imagine that we still could take care of things with whatever means we have. The idea is not to let it pile up I guess?
      I am almost jealous that you think you may have met Tony! While I was reading that part, I kept thinking about how I’d love to meet him!

  2. Patricia / Jun 15 2011 9:58 pm

    “big time” not bit time – sorry

  3. Viv / Jun 16 2011 2:25 am

    This is an excllent post, Jenny.
    I find it hard to fathom how people can live with unfinished business, especially that where they have let someone else down and walked away leaving a mess and causing serious hurt (someone did this to me recently)
    I often think about what people might say about me after I’ve gone. I hope(I pray) it will be along those lines.
    xx

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jun 16 2011 10:47 pm

      Thank you Viv!
      I suspect that when people walk away from things like that it is guilt and shame that they’re running away from their own pain.
      I hope you read the book Viv! It really is very lovely!

      • Viv / Jun 17 2011 2:10 am

        I think you are right. You can never make a full success of a new life if you have failed to integrate and deal with the past; a healthy psyche cannot just draw a line and start afresh, unless you have ECT or something.
        I know that for some the temptation to disappear can be massive but the fact is, the past will always catch up with you because you carry it within you.
        I may see if it’s available on Kindle. Thanks again.
        xx

  4. Viv / Jun 16 2011 4:20 am

    I am going to share this on FB as I think it’s a super review.

  5. Heather J. @ TLC / Jun 16 2011 9:25 am

    Thank you for such a thoughtful review. This does sound like an inspiring book, one that many more people need to read.

    I appreciate you being a part of the tour. I’ll be featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today.

  6. Ollin / Jun 21 2011 7:26 pm

    Thank you Jenny. This review made me think a lot. Which is a good thing. I’ll have to mull it over for a bit. But it’s a positive thing. I tend to agree with you, but sometimes there’s so much pressure to just go the work-aholic route, because everyone around me is that way.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jun 22 2011 8:34 pm

      Hi Ollin,
      I sure do hear you about taking the work-aholic route. I sometimes wonder that it is the only way to be able to earn a living at all never mind get ahead! That said, I regret how much of my life I have lost to working too much. Time is something you never get back.
      Connection truly is the most important thing we have and I think we all have to stand up for making time for those we love…

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