It generally takes a nano-second for something from a movie to grab the worlds attention and even less than that for it become the newest craze, faze, must-have or gotta-do. That is certainly the case when it came to the whole idea of people having a bucket list – before I could say “huh” everyone had created their own personal bucket list filled with all sorts of, well, I guess stuff they wished they would have done when young along with stuff they want to do before drawing their last breath.
No, I don’t have a bucket list and, no, I don’t plan on creating one either. Oh, it’s not that I’m wanting to be contrary and I’m certainly not wanting to belittle the concept behind the bucket list. It’s just that it has an all too familiar sound of something I have been carrying around throughout my life … untapped goals and regrets. I do think the whole idea of having a bucket list sounds more simplistic and positive – it gives one the impression of being in full control of their life and all that is needed is to tick off each item on the list as it gets fulfilled.
That can be especially tantalizing when living smack in the middle of a life-altering situation that has wrested all sense of control from our hands. Suddenly all the “things-we-wanted-to-do-but-didn’t” take on new meaning to where it becomes important to experience them before, well, as the saying goes, “kicking the bucket.”
I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something here. Well, other then a few screws. But seriously, we all have unfulfilled dreams, goals, plans, and/or ideas to some extent. And it seems tragedy or some sort of life changing situation moves us to focus on those untapped or unfulfilled life moments. Suddenly we see our life in a whole new light … and it isn’t a very flattering – or realistic – light. It makes our life look less-than-what-it-should-have-been and somewhat emptier and duller.
In movie land, for the person facing the ending of his life, the bucket list is the panacea for all those missed life moments – you know, all those goals, dreams or hopes that once lay ahead of their life and were, for whatever reasons, never realized. Of course the ending is always done in movie land style as well. We get the feel-good-ending of completed lists, lessons learned, relationships deepened and everybody lives happily ever after … well, everybody minus one.
The problem is life isn’t like what we see in movie land. Energy, resources and time are precious commodities to the person dealing with serious illness – and most have very little to nothing in reserve to expend on reliving past unfulfilled moments. I guess I just don’t “get it” because I feel it is more important to be able to see the beauty, the positives, the accomplishments we can experience in life each and every day.
I have regrets in my life, there are missed opportunities I wish I would have grabbed when placed within my grasp. But, the fact of the matter is, I am not that person anymore. There are so many things I placed an importance on or put meaning into that no longer matter. I’d like to think it’s due to a consistent rate of emotional growth through the years – okay, some call it maturity however when slinking around the middle age years that term sounds so, oh, I don’t know, o.l.d. But it was having my life hit with illness that forced me to rethink the way I looked at my life … and myself.
That is when I learned slumbering through all the “should have, could have’s” and revisiting all missed moments could be counter-productive and even destructive. Shortly after my diagnosis with ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, I remember thinking I didn’t want to let sadness, anger, regrets or any other negative emotion consume my thoughts – I didn’t want the illness to define my life.
To do that I need to focus on life as it is right in front of me. I don’t have the energy to reach back in my past for things that had more to do with who I was at a particular time and age. And though I have to admit to times of immense grief over the way my life is ending up, I have to say, for the most part, I feel an inner happiness and contentment with life. I have amazing family and friends who have shared their love, support, interest, concern, and laughter.
It’s just as I said – a bucket list is not what it’s cracked up to be.