Remember that movie, “The Bucket List”? Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman played two terminally ill patients who became friends and go on a life bender – doing all the things they wish they had done before they died.
It’s a sobering concept, but these two actors know how to play serious with a side of funny. The creators of films like these want not only to entertain us, but to teach us a lesson. The moral of the story is obviously to do your living before you run out of time.
When you’re young, you count the months until Christmas, or the days until the next weekend. Summertime lazily rounds the calendar as late as possible, while September looms all too quickly. We later start counting the years until we reach those magic birthdays:
- Double digits – 10 – mean you’re no longer a “baby”
- Thirteen (13)- means you’re a TEENAGER. Which practically means you’re an adult or something like that.
- For the young ladies – 16 is a big deal (for young Latina women, the magic age is “15”). For Americans of all genders, it means you can take your driver’s license exam!
- Eighteen. Okay, that one really makes you feel like you’re an adult. You can vote, you can join the armed forces. Many people go off to college around this time.
- The last number that we look forward to is 21. It’s a number that some people have faked for years. It means that you can now legally get plotzed.
After that, the numbers aren’t really that important. Of course, when I was still getting carded at 35, it started to irritate me, but now that I’m over 40, I feel like I’ve earned my candles. This is the age at which I’m supposed to look back over my life and count my successes and plan for retirement.
While I have had some achievements, I don’t think I’ve had a particularly successful life, at least not by typical American culture.
- I “retired” about 10 years ago due to my health. I’ve been a service manager for an appliance store, a newspaper reporter, a copy writer for an ad agency, and a project manager and business analyst with a huge internet company. I could have really made something of myself had I been able to keep working. That thought pops up often when there is something that I want to do that we cannot yet afford, or when I am feeling particularly unproductive.
- I never had the 2.4 kids. I will never know the true agony and joy of carrying a child inside me and giving birth. I’ve dreamed about it a lot lately, where I have a positive pregnancy test, that I actually feel the baby moving inside of me. The sensations feel so real, and in my dream, I tell myself how amazing it feels and that it’s something that I never thought I would be able to experience.
- My car is 10 years old, but it’s the biggest thing that I bought *on my own*. I adore my Jeep. It runs well despite having had a few problems with the air conditioning, it makes me feel safe because I can see over the hood of the car, and it has these amazing seat warmers which help when I have stomach or back pain.
- I don’t really have a social life. It’s my fault. I have only a short amount of energy that I can use on any given day, so making plans is a huge challenge. I do have a few close friends but of course, the ones who understand me most also live further away. For the others, I think that having a friend like me who is sick all the time can be a pain and rather a bummer to have around.
Every one of us have a finite life on this earth. What happens after our hearts stop pumping, one can only guess.
The recent death of my Grandmother renewed my belief that this is not the end for us, that we move on after we stop walking this earth. But to be ready for that part of our lives, we need to make sure that we did everything on earth that we were meant to do.
We can speculate what the future will bring, and spent inordinate amounts of time twisting our minds in regret, but how much time do we spend simply living in the present?
First, let me admit that I am wildly curious about the afterlife. I hope, and believe, that there is something after this, that my consciousness does follow process of “dust to dust”. Modern and ancient people have spent centuries trying to understand what death means. Most discussion is rhetoric, because there is not a single person on this earth that truly knows. Both my faith and my own personal experiences with loved ones lead me to believe – despite not seeing or having any physical proof – that there is an afterlife, that we will be reunited with our loved ones, and that life does not end when we draw our last corporeal breaths.
Scientists and theologians alike have tried to unlock the secrets of life since the beginning of recorded time. It’s often theorized that the two are mutually exclusive. The questions leave most people somewhere in the middle – the laws are science are practically irrefutable, until someone else comes along and “proves” to us that we were wrong all along. Don’t forget, that astronomer/physicist/mathematician/philosopher Gallileo was arrested for his claims that the Earth moved around the sun. That was only four hundred years ago.
Indeed, the unanswered questions still plague us in modern times. It seems that there is a renewed public interest in life after death and the paranormal (which literally means “above normal”). Science still cannot explain everything, yet so many people still have a strong personal faith in such things. Faith is the belief in that which we cannot see.
Magician and skeptic James Randi – who spends most of his time both “performing magic” and conducting scientific experiments – has offered a cool million to anyone who can prove, without a shred of doubt, under specific scientific protocol, that they possess a supernatural ability.
I’m guessing that he’s torn. A professed skeptic, he probably delights in knowing that, despite the public popularity in “Ghost Hunting” groups and television shows and the scores of films depicting every paranormal horror the Hollywood writers could muster, people’s interests continue to grow.
I wonder if Randi would actually be pleased if something was proven. As much as we like to “think” things away, there’s a certain excitement that goes along with “the unknown.” We’re thrill seekers. The closer we come to perceived danger, the more excited we get. It’s why perfectly sane people get on these roller coasters and throw their arms in the air. It’s why treasure-hunting movies and stories such as the “Indiana Jones” series have become so popular among several generations. The idea that we might find something that we’ve heard about or believed in for our entire lives, that something that we’ve had faith in, actually existed and we could touch it, see it…who wouldn’t want to do that?
How many of us watch the Ghost Hunting television shows, on the edge of our seats, flinching if something unexpected happens? I’ll admit that I do.
Thinking about ghosts or the paranormal make us wonder – what are our origins? What is our future? Looking at the past and the present is futile unless you plan to make changes in your life. It’s hard to change who we really are at the core – shy versus outgoing, grounded versus risk-taking, content versus adventurous.
So what does all of this have to do with a Bucket List?
I think that if a person creates such a list, it’s proof that he or she believes that life actually means something – more than just the random happenstance of cells merging together and somehow creating a consciousness.
Creating a bucket list requires us to look at our past, what we want to do but didn’t or couldn’t at the time. It requires us to look at the future – the things that at the end of our life, we would not be satisfied having not completed. And thus, looking at both the past and the future absolutely demands that we look at the present.
We will have to take stock of our abilities, your successes, your resources. Whether we want to apologize to our long-lost brother for a quarrel that neither remember starting, or we hope to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro before we’re 60 years old, it all takes a little planning.
It’s all about YOU – US. Each one of us as a person.
It doesn’t matter to anyone else what we dream about.
I tried mentioning my Bucket List last year on Facebook and a friend wrote me a note asking if I was “okay.” I know that she was trying ask if I was terminally ill – to which I answered no – but that with my disease, I don’t know what is going to happen. Heck, none of us know when anything is going to happen. We could live a long life filled with family and adventures, or we might get called upon sooner to leave this world to move to the next. Either way, don’t you want to move on knowing that you did something – even one thing – to leave your mark, your heart, your soul, your touch on somebody else?
That’s my dream.
What is yours?