What would you do if you learned you only had a year to live?
Fortunately, this hasn’t happened to me (at least not today) but I recently compiled a list of ten things I want to do in my life. I shared my list with a group of about 40 other women who also shared theirs during a monthly women’s social group I attend.
The idea of a “Bucket List” was made popular by the movie of the same name starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The movie is about two terminally ill men (portrayed by Nicholson and Freeman) on a final road trip with a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket.”
I haven’t seen the movie but I would bet that the movie character’s lists don’t veer too far from what I heard from the women in my group. Sure, there were some creative and unusual wishes: “Get the keys to every major museum in the world (and) go in at night and wander around with an art historian,” to “Witness a contact from outer space,” but mostly I was struck by how similar our lists were.
The most common themes included the desire to experience the natural world (animals, landscapes, oceans, parks); travel; grow old to see our children (including nieces and nephews) and grandchildren thrive; be healthy or live healthier (presumably as compared to how we are now); do something creative or adventurous; learn a new skill; contribute to our communities in a meaningful and lasting way; and most, if not all wanted to experience more love in our lives either toward those closest to us, toward those we hope to meet and not surprisingly, toward ourselves.
With the possible exception of growing older in health, it was reassuring to realize that just about all these themes are achievable and for the most part, well within our control.
Yet, sadly, many of us never even get close to living our dreams. Instead we get caught up in the demands of daily life, the burden of keeping up with too much stuff and too much information (seemingly urgent but rarely important) and the false belief that our heart’s desires can only be achieved through some miraculous intervention or enormous compromise.
I am a victim of this belief as much as anyone. So much so that when I tried to imagine how I would achieve my greatest wish – to take a trip on the famed Orient Express from London through, Strasbourg and finally to Paris and back, the only way I could imagine my wish becoming reality was to wait until I was diagnosed with some terminal disease and then cash in my retirement money to pay for it (since I probably would no longer have a need for a “retirement.” )
Here is my “bucket” list if you’re curious:
- Take a week long vacation on the actual Orient Express – London, Strasbourg, Paris, and back.
- Visit a wildlife preserve in Africa
- Vacation in the North Italian coastal region of the Cinque Terre
- Write and have a book published by a major publishing house
- Meet Joni Mitchell
- Be on television, featured for my expertise.
- Learn to speak Spanish
- Go to Esalen at Big Sur and soak in the hot tubs overlooking the Pacific
- Get a dog
- See the Aurora Borealis (aka the “northern lights”)
The absurdity of my realization is the essential dilemma we all face. Do we choose a life of practicality, security and presumed “peace of mind,” or do we throw the dice and risk losing it all (whatever ‘all’ is) to experience our dreams but at the possible expense of our long term survival?
I wish I had an answer to this question. I don’t. All I know is that I only have one life to live (excuse the soap opera reference) and at the end of it I’m not going to wish I’d spent more time regretting what I never did.