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My Unfinished Business http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/ en leekravitz1@me.com Copyright 2011 2011-07-19T14:25:35+00:00 Facebook vs. Face to Face: Why School Reunions Will Endure http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/facebook_vs._face_to_face_why_school_reunions_will_endure2 http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/facebook_vs._face_to_face_why_school_reunions_will_endure2#When:14:25:42Z   p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 24.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 24.0px Helvetica; min-height: 29.0px} span.s1 {color: #010101} span.s2 {color: #ff444c} span.s3 {color: #000000} A perspective from one writer's 40th Mark Silva, the CEO of Great Unions, a reunion-planning company, noted a decline this year in attendance at 10-year high school and college reunions across the country. "There are a lot of people who say Facebook is good enough and they don't want to get together," he told NPR. Mindy Crouchley, 28, is one of them. "Anyone I've been remotely interested in keeping tabs on I have through this medium," she explained in her blog. "There's nothing a reunion could give me that flipping through my high school yearbook doesn't already provide."   I am a huge fan of Facebook. But having just attended my 40th high school reunion, I can say to Mindy and others from the "good enough" crowd that Facebook is a poor substitute for the perspective-enhancing experiences you get at a reunion face to face and across a crowded room. They include: the sound of a once-familiar voice calling out to you; the pleasure that comes with recognizing an old crush or teammate after only a moment's hesitation; character in context; and revelations far too intimate to be shared en masse or on a screen.  It's true, when you're young, that reunions tend to be an arena for networking and one-upmanship. (I remember the pressure I felt to posture at my own.) I can also understand why so many alumni are reluctant to pay to spend time with people they never really liked -- people they would never even think of "friending." But, by your 40th reunion, you realize that there's a therapeutic value in hanging out with the people who may have belittled or intimidated you in high school. You see their bad behavior for what it was: a manifestation of their own self-loathing, or a projection of your own worst fears -- and that realization can be liberating.  Facebook is to a reunion what Mindy's yearbook is to a novel: the level of detail and nuance you get on Facebook can't rival the intricacy of plot and character development you find face to face. For instance, a classmate who had become a sculptor told me about a trip he had taken to see his dying mentor: it taught him the importance of telling people what they mean to you when they -- and you -- are still alive.  A former teammate recalled a no-hitter I had pitched in ninth grade. What struck me most was when he said, "I'll always remember the smile on your dad's face when you got the last batter out." That detail had not been part of my memory of the game. Now it is.  Probably the most touching story came from a classmate I had barely known in high school.  He and his wife were scheduled to fly to Barcelona the next day for the fifth time in five years. Because of a chronic health problem, they had had to cancel their previous four trips I prayed that they would make it this time, and found their Sisyphean hope in the face of adversity inspiring. Had I stayed home and been content to connect with those few classmates who were my friends on Facebook, I never would have seen how the furious networking of our twenties turns into genuine tenderness as we age: All weekend I noticed how much we hugged each other, and how gently. The arm-hitting, back-slapping, high-five physicality of previous reunions was gone.  Of course nearly half of the 70 students in our class didn't make it -- they were either too busy or too ambivalent about their school years to attend.  At the closing dinner, the guard on the football team expressed the sentiment lingering in the back of many of our minds. "Please raise your glass to the three members of the Class of 1971 who have died," he said. "I really miss those guys."  Five and ten years from now, at our next reunions, the list of those to whom we raise a glass will be longer. We may hear about their passing through Facebook. But face to face, in a community of classmates who are part of each other's lives and personal narratives, something deeper happens: you are forced to acknowledge the precious brevity of your life -- of life itself -- which moves you to feel grateful for your blessings and to make the most of what remains.   Click here to read the column Lee wrote before he went to his 40th high school reunion: "To Go or Not to Go: Is Your School Reunion Worth the Worry?" Lee Kravitz is the author of UNFINISHED BUSINESS: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things (Bloomsbury) 2011-07-19T14:25:42+00:00 Hard-wired for Compassion http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/we_are_hard_wired_for_compassion_and_caring http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/we_are_hard_wired_for_compassion_and_caring#When:16:27:22Z Dear Friends:  I am pleased to announce the publication this week of the paperback edition of my book UNFINISHED BUSINESS: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things (Bloomsbury USA).  I could not be happier with the result. This new edition features a foreword by Gail Sheehy, the author of PASSAGES and other deeply reported books that have changed the way we think about growing older. It also includes a reading group guide, a selection of readers' stories, and a practical, step-by-step guide to tackling your own unfinished business. What I like most about Sheehy's foreword is how she frames my story generationally. "After fifty," she writes, "the passages of our lives are largely unpredictable. They are often precipitated by a life accident -- a blowout in our infrastructure, an unexpected divorce, the sudden death of a parent or a contemporary, or the shock of a full stop in career acceleration."  That's precisely what happened to me at age 54 when I was fired from my job as editor-in-chief of Parade. Sheehy notes how these "life accidents" and "brutal wake-up calls" can be a blessing in disguise, moving our focus from competitiveness and an obsession with outer success to an emphasis on our inner lives and what she calls "a broader sense of compassion."  She cites recent research that validates Darwin's observation that "the strongest instincts in early man were sympathy and compassion" -- not greed and raw self-interest as so many social psychologists have claimed. "Among our hominid predecessors, [Darwin] argued, it was the communities of sympathetic individuals who were more successful in raising healthy offspring to the age when they too could reproduce. That was the surest route to getting these genes to the next generation. . .Recent scientific studies of emotion by social psychologists like Dacher Keltner and the psychology lab at the University of California, Berkeley, are finding evidence that humans are hard-wired for compassion and caring. These are biologically-based emotions rooted deep in the mammalian brain."   In the year since UNFINISHED BUSINESS was published, hundreds of readers have contacted me on my web site, through call-in radio shows, and during my book tour appearances with stories of their own unfinished business. I have included some of the most inspiring of these stories in the paperback edition of the book. You'll meet people who have lost jobs, homes and loved ones. Yet these "life accidents" have led them to re-evaluate their lives and re-order their priorities. And, in the process of reaching out and righting past wrongs, they have found themselves becoming more compassionate and caring, more appreciative and more whole. When you shift focus as I and these readers did, you end up shedding the unfinished business that keeps weighing you down and holding you back. You are better able to move ahead in your life. You become energized by the vibrant human connectedness that enriches your life daily and helps humanity endure. The Unfinished Business Toolkit in the back of the paperback is designed to help readers identify and address their unfinished business. It includes strategies and tips for facing your fears, reaching out to others and making amends. I encourage anyone who goes on a journey to address their unfinished business to reflect on their experiences -- and to share them with others in reading groups, through letters and online.  Meanwhile, I will continue to blog about my unfinished business and yours at http://www.MyUnfinishedBusiness.com and http://www.PsychologyToday.com. Thank you for continuing to share your own stories here -- and for spreading the word about my book to people who might benefit from it. Lee Kravitz is the author of UNFINISHED BUSINESS: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things (Bloomsbury USA).        2011-05-31T16:27:22+00:00 To Go or Not to Go: Is Your School Reunion Worth the Worry? http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/to_go_or_not_to_go_is_your_school_reunion_worth_the_worry http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/to_go_or_not_to_go_is_your_school_reunion_worth_the_worry#When:16:27:51Z   p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 13.0px 0.0px; font: 13.0px Arial} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 13.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Arial} span.s1 {text-decoration: underline ; color: #3100ee} They happen at five-year intervals -- from the time we graduate high school, college, graduate school and professional school until the end of our lives. In many of us they provoke far more anxiety than they should, spurring wistful dreams and anticipatory nightmares. They are fraught with concerns over how we look, who we've married, what we have or haven't achieved over the years and hurts real and imagined. They can be hardest on those who are out of a job, just starting their careers, or not yet settled on who they want to become. At the same time they can lead accomplished professionals, capable managers and respected citizens to become self-doubting Hamlets, debating for weeks and even months, with the help of friends, relatives, colleagues, therapists and anyone who'll listen, one torturous question: To go or not to go? That is the question thousands of graduates of the nation's high schools, colleges and professional schools are facing this very moment as they wrestle with whether to attend their alumni reunions in the weeks ahead. I do not mean to make light of their burden, because it is rooted in some of our oldest and most familiar fears. Fears that. . .  . . .I don't measure up . . .I haven't lived up to my promise . . .I don't look as good as I used to look Fears that. . . . . .everyone who knew me back then will see me for the loser I really am. My wife tells me that women are more prone to have these feelings than men, particularly as they age. But I know, from personal experience, that men aren't any less immune to the competitiveness and sense of being inadequate that reunions can bring, and that we're just as liable to turn this quinquennial chance to reconnect with old classmates into a referendum on our lives. In truth, if you have the time, means and inclination to go, your high school or college reunion can provide a rare opportunity to gain perspective on your life and enable you to attend to some of your unfinished emotional business. In two weeks, as inconceivable as it once seemed, I'll be going to my 40th high school reunion. My fifth and tenth reunions -- at ages 23 and 28 -- were dispiriting. My fellow alums and I circled each other like tigers, telling made-up stories designed to make us look more important, successful and glamorous than everyone else.  My 15th and 20th reunions were even more discouraging. Because I had yet to settle on a job or mate, I found myself a decade behind the majority of my classmates, who were married and already well along in their careers. I felt happier in my life -- with a wife, kids and a job I loved -- at my 25th, 30th and 35th reunions, and hence much more interested in hearing about the course that my classmates' lives had taken. I also found myself reminiscing more comfortably with them, remembering moments and emotions from high school that could help me better understand my own children, who were proceeding inexorably toward adolescence.  Now, at the 40th reunion, I'm looking forward to having even deeper conversations with my classmates -- not about who we were and what we did back then, in high school, but about how we are dealing with the challenge of making the most out of our lives now and in the years ahead. I intend to report on these conversations in a future post. Lee Kravitz is the author of UNFINISHED BUSINESS: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things (Bloomsbury USA). The paperback, out this month, includes a new foreword by PASSAGES author Gail Sheehy, a chapter of reader stories, and a practical guide for addressing your own unfinished business.  To learn more about Lee and the book, go to www.MyUnfinishedBusiness.com 2011-05-12T16:27:51+00:00 “I Loved Him, Too” http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/i_loved_him_too http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/i_loved_him_too#When:15:03:47Z In response to an article I wrote for USA Weekend magazine about how it's never too late to make amends, Hugs and Cuddles wrote: "Thirty-nine years ago, my fiancé drowned. I'd been very close to his parents, especially his mother. The minister had told them to take a vacation away from home, and I thought it strange that they didn't talk to me before leaving. I was told they no longer wanted to see me, that my presence, at church and in their home, would be too painful for them. I was also told I wasn't good enough for their son, which is why God took him away! Not wanting to cause them more pain than losing their son, I moved away without another word to them. "At 58, I made a trip back to my hometown this past summer for a class reunion and decided to relocate there. My dead fiance's mother is now in a care center. Once I worked up the courage to do so, I visited her. The immediate response of hugs and tears proved to me that she never told me to stay away! Her love, gentleness, kindness and acceptance of me, all these years later, have healed so many old wounds!"   Have you ever avoided seeing someone because you were afraid that your presence would spark painful memories in them? I did. After my Aunt Fern was institutionalized with schizophrenia in 1995, my entire family avoided seeing her for nearly 14 years because her doctor had allegedly said that our visits could deepen her depression.  In light of Hug and Cuddle's story and the joy that accompanied my reunion with Fern (see "A Place for Me to Visit Her"), would you reconsider your fears about hurting that someone in your life? Why or why not? Your Unfinished Business Stories, 2011-01-21T15:03:47+00:00 A Book Club with a Mission http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/a_book_club_with_a_mission http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/a_book_club_with_a_mission#When:20:43:24Z   UNFINISHED BUSINESS, my recently published memoir, was just named the first-ever selection of 1 World 1 Book, a new global book club. 1 World 1 Book brings its members together online to read and discuss "one exceptional book" every two months. UNFINISHED BUSINESS, about the year I spent reaching out to friends and relatives and making amends, will be the club's featured selection for November and December.  Brian Vaszily, the founder of 1 World 1 Book, believes that certain books possess the power to transform both the individuals who read them and the world: "They prompt important questions, greater empathy, positive social action and global unity," he says. To underscore that belief, he features a different charity with each book. For example, when members order UNFINISHED BUSINESS through links on 1World1Book.com, 100% of the club's commissions (plus a percentage of my author proceeds) will go to J/P HRO Haitian Relief Organization, the charity that actor Sean Penn founded in January in response to Haiti's devastating earthquake. I have long believed that our fulfillment as individuals is linked to our efforts to reduce suffering and make the world a kinder, more compassionate place. That's why I'm so excited for UNFINISHED BUSINESS to be part of the launch of this humanitarian new book club. To find out more about becoming a member of "1 World 1 Book" (membership is free) or hosting your own book club, click here. To find out how to get your own book considered as a "1 World 1 Book" selection, click here. To read the review of UNFINISHED BUSINESS on 1World1Book.com, click here.   Lee Kravitz is the author of UNFINISHED BUSINESS: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things (Bloomsbury).  This post first appeared in Unfinished Business, his blog for Psychology Today.   2010-11-24T20:43:24+00:00 The Music Man http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/the_music_man http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/the_music_man#When:21:17:46Z     Unfinished business isn't simply about rectifying your wrongs; it's about rediscovering parts of yourself you may have neglected over the years. In a recent post I asked: "Is there a passion you once had that could add a dimension now to your life?" Brent Clanton, a long-time radio executive and host of CBS Radio's Talk650/KIKK-AM in Houston, shared the following story of how he recently fulfilled a boyhood dream. It's a wonderful story -- and winner of Part II of the "Where in the World was Lee?" contest. My father was a music educator. A Band Director at Spring Branch High School and Memorial High School in the '50's and 60's. In 1967, he forsook the Band Hall for the Administrative Principal's desk at Memorial, and finally retired as an educator performing administrative duties. I wanted to be like my Dad. As a young child, I accompanied him to band contests, marching competitions, and the inevitable series of weekend football games each autumn, perched on the first row in the bleachers, in front of 150 band students, blowing, honking, beating, and crashing their horns and drums. It was mesmerizing. In the spring, Dad would conduct symphonic bands, and there I'd be, on the front row, feet tapping to the beat, and ears absorbing the rich textures of sound.  I loved to hang out in the Band Hall with my dad as he rehearsed brass or woodwind sections, and relished the chance to listen at the front of the room as he worked the entire ensemble through concert pieces ahead of some performance competition. I loved the smell of cork grease and slide oil, of musty woolen uniforms, and the tangy dankness of brassy horn bells. When I entered Junior High, there was no question I would be in The Band. I chose percussion because my first pick, saxophone, was already taken by about 15 other Boots Randolph wannabe's. I sailed through Junior and Senior High in the top performing concert bands and marched for four years with cymbals, snares and bass drums strapped to my slight frame. I loved it all.  In college there was no time for Band, but I joined the University of Houston Chorus, and traveled to performances around the state with that august group. I loved it. I wanted to be a Band Director, but Dad talked me out of it, telling me I'd starve (as he was afraid that we had during his band leader years.) So I chose Radio...and starved for the first ten years of that career. A career that brought me full-circle to the University of Houston's Texas Music Festival summer program, and a competition to conduct the TMF Orchestra. My dream come true!  I worked the Facebook connections like a fiend, pimping and prodding and cajoling my peeps to vote for me to be a Guest Conductor for the TMF Orchestra. And I won. Two days before the performance this summer, I arrived at the Moores Opera House to rehearse with the ensemble our performance of The National Anthem. They didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what to expect. Most of us in this country--all who were raised here--know the words and music of our National Anthem by heart. It's played at ballgames, PTA meetings, and on all patriotic occasions. The TMF Orchestra was comprised of a fair percentage of musicians NOT from America--less than half the group knew the music. So I explained the significance of the piece, and we added a drum roll at the beginning that would allow the audience of several hundred to rise to their feet and sing along with us.  The night of the performance, I was introduced, walked across the stage to the podium, and lifted the baton to start the group. The baton was my father's...the one he'd used countless times on stage with his high school concert bands. And with the first down beat, the drums roaring at the rear of the stage, I knew I'd reached that childhood goal of being "the leader of the band," if only for a moment, if only for a single piece. I loved it all. After I read Brent's story, I wondered whether Brent's father had ever regretted leaving his job as band director -- and if he'd been at the opera house that night to see his son lead the TMF Orchestra. Brrent wrote back: "Being a High School Band Director was (and is) a very time-consuming occupation with very little financial incentive to offset the additional hours: marching practice every afternoon, bus trips every Friday or Saturday night during the football season. At the time he made the job switch, he had four kids, aged 12 and under." Brent's father had loved the time he spent leading the band, but he never looked back. And although he wasn't able to travel to Houston for Brent's performance, he was there in far more than spirit. "While my father is not outwardly emotive, he does have a deep sense of history and family pride," Brent explained. "His grandfather's fiddle has been restored and mounted in a shadow box that sits on the mantle above his fireplace, complete with the snake rattles the old timers used to put inside their fiddles. The instrument still plays. So, in the weeks before the performance, when I asked him if I could use his baton, Dad got up from his chair without a word and fetched it from some nook in the corner of his cluttered office and said 'have a good time.'" This is a story of how a son rediscovered a passion and paid homage to his Dad. But it's also a story of how a father created a legacy with his grandfather's fiddle and passed a baton to his son so that his son could fulfill his dreams. I had one more question for Brent. "Were any of your kids in the audience when you led the band?"  "My daughter and son-in-law were there," he said. "And they gave the performance the thumbs' up!"   Lee Kravitz is the author of UNFINISHED BUSINESS: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things (Bloomsbury). Click here to share a story with the author. The best reader stories will be inclouded in the paperback edition of the book, which is coming out in May 2011.  This post was first published in the author's weekly blog for Psychology Today.     2010-11-02T21:17:46+00:00 Facebook vs. Face to Face: Why School Reunions Will Endure http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/facebook_vs._face_to_face_why_school_reunions_will_endure1 http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/facebook_vs._face_to_face_why_school_reunions_will_endure1#When:14:25:35Z   p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 24.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 24.0px Helvetica; min-height: 29.0px} span.s1 {color: #010101} span.s2 {color: #ff444c} span.s3 {color: #000000} A perspective from one writer's 40th Mark Silva, the CEO of Great Unions, a reunion-planning company, noted a decline this year in attendance at 10-year high school and college reunions across the country. "There are a lot of people who say Facebook is good enough and they don't want to get together," he told NPR. Mindy Crouchley, 28, is one of them. "Anyone I've been remotely interested in keeping tabs on I have through this medium," she explained in her blog. "There's nothing a reunion could give me that flipping through my high school yearbook doesn't already provide."   I am a huge fan of Facebook. But having just attended my 40th high school reunion, I can say to Mindy and others from the "good enough" crowd that Facebook is a poor substitute for the perspective-enhancing experiences you get at a reunion face to face and across a crowded room. They include: the sound of a once-familiar voice calling out to you; the pleasure that comes with recognizing an old crush or teammate after only a moment's hesitation; character in context; and revelations far too intimate to be shared en masse or on a screen.  It's true, when you're young, that reunions tend to be an arena for networking and one-upmanship. (I remember the pressure I felt to posture at my own.) I can also understand why so many alumni are reluctant to pay to spend time with people they never really liked -- people they would never even think of "friending." But, by your 40th reunion, you realize that there's a therapeutic value in hanging out with the people who may have belittled or intimidated you in high school. You see their bad behavior for what it was: a manifestation of their own self-loathing, or a projection of your own worst fears -- and that realization can be liberating.  Facebook is to a reunion what Mindy's yearbook is to a novel: the level of detail and nuance you get on Facebook can't rival the intricacy of plot and character development you find face to face. For instance, a classmate who had become a sculptor told me about a trip he had taken to see his dying mentor: it taught him the importance of telling people what they mean to you when they -- and you -- are still alive.  A former teammate recalled a no-hitter I had pitched in ninth grade. What struck me most was when he said, "I'll always remember the smile on your dad's face when you got the last batter out." That detail had not been part of my memory of the game. Now it is.  Probably the most touching story came from a classmate I had barely known in high school.  He and his wife were scheduled to fly to Barcelona the next day for the fifth time in five years. Because of a chronic health problem, they had had to cancel their previous four trips I prayed that they would make it this time, and found their Sisyphean hope in the face of adversity inspiring. Had I stayed home and been content to connect with those few classmates who were my friends on Facebook, I never would have seen how the furious networking of our twenties turns into genuine tenderness as we age: All weekend I noticed how much we hugged each other, and how gently. The arm-hitting, back-slapping, high-five physicality of previous reunions was gone.  Of course nearly half of the 70 students in our class didn't make it -- they were either too busy or too ambivalent about their school years to attend.  At the closing dinner, the guard on the football team expressed the sentiment lingering in the back of many of our minds. "Please raise your glass to the three members of the Class of 1971 who have died," he said. "I really miss those guys."  Five and ten years from now, at our next reunions, the list of those to whom we raise a glass will be longer. We may hear about their passing through Facebook. But face to face, in a community of classmates who are part of each other's lives and personal narratives, something deeper happens: you are forced to acknowledge the precious brevity of your life -- of life itself -- which moves you to feel grateful for your blessings and to make the most of what remains.   Click here to read the column Lee wrote before he went to his 40th high school reunion: "To Go or Not to Go: Is Your School Reunion Worth the Worry?" Lee Kravitz is the author of UNFINISHED BUSINESS: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things (Bloomsbury) 2011-07-19T14:25:35+00:00 Facebook vs. Face to Face: Why School Reunions Will Endure http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/facebook_vs._face_to_face_why_school_reunions_will_endure http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/facebook_vs._face_to_face_why_school_reunions_will_endure#When:14:25:22Z   p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 24.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 24.0px Helvetica; min-height: 29.0px} span.s1 {color: #010101} span.s2 {color: #ff444c} span.s3 {color: #000000} A perspective from one writer's 40th Mark Silva, the CEO of Great Unions, a reunion-planning company, noted a decline this year in attendance at 10-year high school and college reunions across the country. "There are a lot of people who say Facebook is good enough and they don't want to get together," he told NPR. Mindy Crouchley, 28, is one of them. "Anyone I've been remotely interested in keeping tabs on I have through this medium," she explained in her blog. "There's nothing a reunion could give me that flipping through my high school yearbook doesn't already provide."   I am a huge fan of Facebook. But having just attended my 40th high school reunion, I can say to Mindy and others from the "good enough" crowd that Facebook is a poor substitute for the perspective-enhancing experiences you get at a reunion face to face and across a crowded room. They include: the sound of a once-familiar voice calling out to you; the pleasure that comes with recognizing an old crush or teammate after only a moment's hesitation; character in context; and revelations far too intimate to be shared en masse or on a screen.  It's true, when you're young, that reunions tend to be an arena for networking and one-upmanship. (I remember the pressure I felt to posture at my own.) I can also understand why so many alumni are reluctant to pay to spend time with people they never really liked -- people they would never even think of "friending." But, by your 40th reunion, you realize that there's a therapeutic value in hanging out with the people who may have belittled or intimidated you in high school. You see their bad behavior for what it was: a manifestation of their own self-loathing, or a projection of your own worst fears -- and that realization can be liberating.  Facebook is to a reunion what Mindy's yearbook is to a novel: the level of detail and nuance you get on Facebook can't rival the intricacy of plot and character development you find face to face. For instance, a classmate who had become a sculptor told me about a trip he had taken to see his dying mentor: it taught him the importance of telling people what they mean to you when they -- and you -- are still alive.  A former teammate recalled a no-hitter I had pitched in ninth grade. What struck me most was when he said, "I'll always remember the smile on your dad's face when you got the last batter out." That detail had not been part of my memory of the game. Now it is.  Probably the most touching story came from a classmate I had barely known in high school.  He and his wife were scheduled to fly to Barcelona the next day for the fifth time in five years. Because of a chronic health problem, they had had to cancel their previous four trips I prayed that they would make it this time, and found their Sisyphean hope in the face of adversity inspiring. Had I stayed home and been content to connect with those few classmates who were my friends on Facebook, I never would have seen how the furious networking of our twenties turns into genuine tenderness as we age: All weekend I noticed how much we hugged each other, and how gently. The arm-hitting, back-slapping, high-five physicality of previous reunions was gone.  Of course nearly half of the 70 students in our class didn't make it -- they were either too busy or too ambivalent about their school years to attend.  At the closing dinner, the guard on the football team expressed the sentiment lingering in the back of many of our minds. "Please raise your glass to the three members of the Class of 1971 who have died," he said. "I really miss those guys."  Five and ten years from now, at our next reunions, the list of those to whom we raise a glass will be longer. We may hear about their passing through Facebook. But face to face, in a community of classmates who are part of each other's lives and personal narratives, something deeper happens: you are forced to acknowledge the precious brevity of your life -- of life itself -- which moves you to feel grateful for your blessings and to make the most of what remains.   Click here to read the column Lee wrote before he went to his 40th high school reunion: "To Go or Not to Go: Is Your School Reunion Worth the Worry?" Lee Kravitz is the author of UNFINISHED BUSINESS: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things (Bloomsbury) 2011-07-19T14:25:22+00:00 One Step at a Time http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/one_step_at_a_time http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/one_step_at_a_time#When:20:04:18Z A recovering alcoholic tells how she's been able to ease her burdens. Czarmommy wrote: "After years of alcoholism and drug abuse, I turned my life over to a 12-step program. I am 19 years, 10 months, 28 days clean and sober. I started small: calling a local car dealer 'Mr.' despite his insistence I call him Pat. I'd abused so many people, it was now my privilege to show them the respect they deserved. I went on to bigger things like returning items I'd 'borrowed' only never returned, then to money. My older brother had lent me $3000 at one time. I never paid it back, and it was the elephant in the room for me. At 13 years sober I did so (with interest). No more elephants! Going through some old picture albums, I found pictures of my ex-husband and his family, looked him up, and sent them to him, 30 years later, with a note wishing his life has been well. Now, I'm searching for an ex-boyfriend to right a wrong, lifting another burden, setting me free." Recovering alcoholics often find themselves with numerous amends to make. By starting small, Czarmommy was able to succeed at taking on bigger challenges. Would her system work for you -- or would you be more likely to start with the biggest challenges first? Your Unfinished Business Stories, 2011-03-31T20:04:18+00:00 I just put them on my prayer list… http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/i_just_put_them_on_my_prayer_list http://www.myunfinishedbusiness.com/index.php/blog/comments/i_just_put_them_on_my_prayer_list#When:20:03:08Z How do you respond to people who won't forgive you? This one woman, the victim of an abusive marriage, had a novel solution. SpringSnow wrote: "I had no idea how deeply a 16-year-long abusive marriage had affected my life and relationships, even long after I left it. My unaddressed PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) exacerbated years after the fact, and I realized how many people I'd hurt for years with my defensiveness and fear. I called former co-workers, bosses, acquaintances, and relatives, apologizing for what I'd put them through and opening up about my illness. Nearly all of them had an 'aha' moment of understanding when I spoke of the PTSD. Most were understanding and forgiving. A couple of people were unable to let go of their anger toward me, and I decided to just put them on my prayer list. But, by far the most poignant encounter was with a former co-worker who'd just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. While she heartily agreed I'd been insufferable, it was humbling to have reached out to her in time and heal some of the hurt I'd caused." Has someone ever rejected your attempt to make amends? How did that make you feel? How did you choose to respond? Your Unfinished Business Stories, 2011-03-31T20:03:08+00:00