Unfinished business. It sounds so clandestine. It’s almost something you’d expect to hear from a Mafioso. There is an unmistakeable element of revenge. But to my mind it’s just getting things behind me, out of the way, done. I abhor loose ends, trails of tangled threads. Like any other business when it comes to unfinished business there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. One can’t abruptly end what one was doing. No, no, it requires application and thought, the standard way of concluding a matter. It has to be brought to fruition not merely shut down or abandoned.
Sometimes the unfinished business is solely a product of delay. Yet as uncontroversial as that may sound, anyone who pleases himself to push things along to elicit what is lacking runs the very real risk of appearing impatient. Impatience in business is off-putting as it identifies someone’s procrastination or forgetfulness. People don’t like to be reminded of their inadequacies. It sends a blunt message. Frequently successive jabs are required to conclude this type of unfinished business. It’s repetitive prodding of a reluctant participate, oddly enough often for mutual benefit though of course the promoter suffers the label of being restive.
The reason for the delay may as I say be other than mere postponement; it may signal a complete ignorance of the matter at hand. Whenever I am told – especially if repeatedly – that someone has never received my initial email or that the emails got “lost” during his recent holiday for example, I am inclined to think I am only hearing excuses, excuses I do not believe. In such instances it makes sense to become peevish because otherwise the matter is likely forever lost or buried. The outcome in these circumstances is normally a sudden spark of activity. Once the delinquent agent is reminded that the obligation is not going away, he usually addresses it albeit it after unforgivable tardiness. I consider that people in this sphere are ultimately doomed by their own poor performance. Apart from getting the unfinished business accomplished I seldom have any interest in embarrassing the other party or watching him squirm at the instance of a superior. I fully suspect that it is only a matter of time before several complaints accumulate to condemn the bad actor. It is just too preposterous to imagine that inappropriate behaviour will carry the day.
The unfinished business may be a modest combination of delay and forgetfulness, what people normally prefer to excuse by saying, “I’ve just been so busy lately!” In other words there is no intention to lie about the reason for the delay, just mollify it. This of course I can tolerate but it usually means I have to get on someone’s tail. In these cases I am particularly reluctant because I know there is a very good chance that I’ll contaminate my occupation with the semblance of obsessiveness, a person who has nothing better in life to do (which admittedly is quite possible), one of those prattling busy-bodies whose life is dedicated to rattling the cage of people who purportedly have many other more important things to do than worry about my little concern. Of course I’m being totally facetious! I could care less how important they are or how trivial I am. Instead I fasten myself to the thesis that stuff needs to get done. Any pretence to the contrary merely delays the inevitable as far as I am concerned. Once again the push in the right direction normally brings about a conclusion, one which is happily taken off the table.
You may have noticed that to this point the finger I have pointed regarding unfinished business is one pointed at others, either because of purposive or neglectful delay. There is however a realm of unfinished business over which I have sole dominion. That is the unfinished business of personal relationships. And that is the unfinished business for which I have no one other than myself to thank. In my defence it is not for lack of trying. I can for example spend months ruminating upon a subject trying to bring it to a conclusion but always running into an obstruction. There really is no stock answer to the resolution of personal relationships. Every relationship is different, each complicated by the personality of the two participants and the objective is seldom as clear as most matters of business. But relationships are nonetheless business and I equally dislike the unfinished business of personal relationships.
There is no question that the strength of the relationship will complicate its resolution. That is, family, lovers, friends and acquaintances have varying and often descending intensity. While this may dilute the fervency of the relationship it does mean indifference. The objective to complete the unfinished business of any relationship is equally compelling though perhaps less acute. But like a hang-nail or a paper-cut, the unfinished business of even a tenuous relationship demands attention. I have discovered that the characterization of the relationship is part of the problem, an exercise akin to identifying the question before seeking the answer. I am guided by instinct as I am in any other unfinished business. Though the instinct for relationships may not be as simple as getting something done, it is nonetheless similar to settling the frayed edges of a situation to provide a manageable format. I know I am beginning to sound absurd. The indicia of concluding unfinished business for family and friends, for example, are seldom the same. The measure of what one seeks to do in different relationships is naturally wildly different. But any relationship requires an assessment of its nature and the extent to which it satisfies the customary objectives. If there is a sense that those objectives have not been met (and that they are not reasonably likely to be met), then that conclusion identifies the unfinished business at hand. At this point the unfinished business is like any other, simply something that has to be done. If two parties face the issue squarely there is no reason the unfinished business cannot be addressed. By merely avoiding the same pitfalls which characterize the unfinished business in the first place – namely, delay and neglect – things can be wound up.
Although I have a passion for boundaries and limits and definition generally, I know in my heart that one should never close the door on change. But I cannot let the matter of attending to unfinished business take a back seat to possibilities. At worst, the conclusion of one matter may afford the springboard for another. I consider that a better alternative to intransigence and immobility. Even pyramids were built on blocks.