Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kicking the Bucket

Defying Gravity

The other day, someone asked me if writing a novel is on my Bucket List. I laughed and replied, "I don't have a bucket list. Bucket lists are for "someday"... I'm living my life now." And it's true. This is how I feel. Now, I have no problem with anyone having a bucket list. If that's what works for you... groovy. I just can't, and won't, do it.

I like to think my life is open to anything. By creating a list, I feel I'm limiting myself. Do I want to write a novel? Sure. Hell yes! But I don't want to work toward that accomplishment to the exclusion of everything else. If I say, "I'm going to finish my novel before I'm 50," then I'm spending the next 6 months doing little but writing. What will I miss in the process? What if a friend offers me the opportunity to travel to Machu Picchu for a couple of weeks? That's also one of my dreams. Do I go for it and push the novel aside for when I'm 51? Or do I say sorry, but I'm busy?

Yes, I want to write a novel - I probably want to write three or four novels. Yes, I am writing, and will be writing a novel. But, it will come as it comes. It won't be a forced race to some imaginary finish line. Because ultimately, everything I do is about the journey, not about arriving.

I could create a list a mile long, but in making that list, I'm wasting time that could be spent taking a walk on a brilliantly sunny spring day. And if I die tomorrow, I'd rather think that my last moments were spent in action, not merely thinking about "well maybe someday."

And what happens when I die a quarter of the way through the list? Does that mean I'll have regrets? That I'll feel I've somehow failed my own life? That it didn't measure up? That I won't feel I've accomplished everything I want to? Do I look at what remains on that list at the end of my life and just give it a passive shrug and a complacent, "Oh well..."?

Ultimately, I believe in being ready for my dreams to come true, but I don't believe in planning those dreams, I don't believe in putting them in neat little columns and rows and keeping a constant account of them. I don't believe that we can be truly prepared for anything in life... at best we can be ready when it comes.

I don't want my dreams-becoming-reality to be forced events. Prime example... I think it would be all kinds of hot, sexy, and romantic to make love on the side of a mountain in a field of wildflowers. I could plan that, sure. There are plenty of secluded places in the mountains here. I could pack a picnic and a blanket and plan a day for us to go. But for me, that would take the spontaneity out of it, that would ruin the actual moment. The expectation of it happening would make it somehow... less than.

Sometimes dreams come true after we've given up on them, after they've become nothing more than a faded wish. Sometimes we get what we don't even know we want until we have it. You can't plan for any of that. You can't add the intangible and ethereal to a list.

John Lennon nailed it, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." And, brothers n' sisters, it happens fast. I won't say that I'd given up on love when I met Steve, but I sure wasn't looking for it. Hell, I wasn't even in the mood for it. So, when he asked to see me, my feeling was pretty much a half-hearted, "Yeah. Fine. Let's have some fun." And I proceeded to be blown out of my socks by something that I didn't see coming, by something greater than what I could have imagined or wished for, by something I certainly couldn't have ever planned for. A month later, dizzyingly head over heals, I moved in with him.

Make the bucket list if you must, people, but do yourselves a favor and keep it short and don't give it too much control. Life is for living right now. Life is for getting into the moment and riding it for all its worth.

Leave behind memories, not a list of what might have been.

My new theme song, and the song that inspired the above painting...


  1. I agree with every word & the painting is beautiful.

  2. Love, love, love.....I have things that I would *like* to do, but not a bucket list per se. I'm a firm believer in letting things happen naturally so I'm not going to lock myself into doing things by a certain age/date.

    The only thing at this point that is a definite goal/priority is getting my kids back to PA this summer to see my parents - but that's because I know I'm running out of time to do that one, so it's important. :)

  3. AMEN!!! You nailed it, hun! I believe so many of the things you said here. Like you, I do not (and will not) have a bucket list. When people ask me what I want to do in the future, I reply simply "whatever happens, happens". I live for the now, because that's all I am guaranteed! :)

    Thank you so much for this post!

  4. Your words are so good for my soul, Barb! As a planner all my life I am trying so hard to stop planning and just let life happen...I continually repeat to myself, "Just let things BE. Just let things unfold." And I have come to discover that the most meaningful experiences are the ones that I DON'T plan, the ones that come unexpectedly.

    I love what you said about how you could make a list a mile long about what you want to accomplish or you could instead use that time to take a walk in the sunshine. Those words are gonna stick with me. Oh yes, there are. And I am grateful for them.

  5. Thanks everyone!

    @Amy - there's nothing wrong with having goals and plans. I have those too. It's just when we draw lines to define them that we leave ourselves in danger of being boxed in by them.


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