It's Time to Shorten Your Bucket List
There’s some theory of physics that states (and I’m not sure why): for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.
That’s the only reason I can come up with as to why, as our days get shorter, our bucket lists grow longer.
For the uninitiated, a bucket list is a culmination of all the experiences you want to have before you die, like learning how to salsa or boldly filling in Sudoku boxes with a black magic marker.
There’s also some crossover between a to-do list and a bucket list.
Gabby Douglas, the superstar of our U.S. Gymnastic Fab Five, recently said that she had always wanted to inspire a nation, and that after her success in London, she was glad to able to cross that off her bucket list.
That surprised me, since the only thing on my bucket list when I was sixteen, besides inspiring the nation of course, was not to be that girl who failed tenth grade math.
So I’m thinking Ms. Douglas may be referring her to-do list, not her bucket list. But semantics…whatever.
All I know is that when I began to see more years behind me than in front of me, my bucket list, along with my anxiety level, careened out of control.
And with life being fragile, and so many of my peak experiences still unaccounted for, I knew I had to find a middle ground between losing ten pounds and climbing Kilimanjaro.
I needed to put me and my Bucket List on a diet, so I could make my life choices count.
I started to shorten my list by crossing out any item that involved a jumbatron, or zip line. There. That was easy.
One hip replacement later, I made peace with the fact that I was never going to ski the Bugaboos.
In fact, I was never going to learn how to ski at all. And seriously, what were the chances I was ever going to jump out of an airplane, or track gorillas in Rwanda?
Truth be told, I find it hard enough to get to the gym.
And then there’s travel. At some point it occurred to me that if it’s really true that there is a thousand places to see before I die, I better get going. Or, do the opposite, and learn to knit or play bridge.
In order to downsize all the places you may be fantasize going to, try this exercise: Think yellow fever, and then settle in with a good book and a glass of Chardonnay.
Or, use this classic travel inhibitor: Imagine a stranger dipping into the waistband of your pants to ensure you’re not concealing an M-16 in your cotton underwear.
Then, meditate on the passenger beside you with a hacking cough and a teething toddler. If you’re still desperate to travel, return to the yellow fever mental exercise and repeat.
Humiliation is a harsh but effective tact. If you ever get the yen, for instance, to build a boat, or write the next Great American Novel, you might try sharing your bucket list with your kids.
I find conversations about the blissful ways I want to spend my end of days (translation: their inheritance) with the next generation generally garners enough of a buzz kill to re-focus me on the less stressful items on my list, such as preparing my Academy Award acceptance speech.
On the other hand, communing with your dog is a good thing. Talking to Benny has helped me put perspective on my bucket list.
The other day when I shared with him my desire to swim the English Channel wearing my new pink bathing cap, he stared into my eyes, and with tremendous longing begged me not to leave him.
Of course, he has the same reaction when I go to get the mail.
But here’s the thing. Benny appreciates the value of my bucket list. Each and every day he says to me:
“You complete me.”
“You are my everything.”
“May I have a chicken treat?”
Trust me, your dog understands the value of maintaining a shorter bucket list.
Time’s a tickin’, and dogs instinctively understand that the opportunity for chicken treats has an expiration date beyond their control.
In full disclosure, for my sixty-second birthday, I threw out my bucket list entirely.
I realized that if I didn’t have one, then I could actually live my life instead of fretting about the life I wasn’t living. Or should be living. Or, may never live.
Which would be alright as along as I didn’t have a bucket list to remind me about everything I thought I wanted to accomplish, but didn’t.
If you’re looking to get to a place where you can peacefully co-exist with your your bucket list, here’s my advice.
Since lists are all about getting us focused on what’s really essential, sharpen that pencil and cross out any experience involving skinny dipping, ballroom dancing or origami.
Instead, aim high. Fall hopelessly and miraculously in love. Serve on a jury. Forgive your frenemies.
If there’s still time, I suppose, you could still go bungee jumping over the Pyrenees...or you could have an equal and opposite reaction.
Nadine Schiff-Rosen is the co-author of three non-fiction books and the producer of several film and television productions. She was a Los Angeles based reporter for the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and the Vice President of Production for Michael Douglas' Stonebridge Entertainment. She is a recent graduate of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Antioch University.