The “Bucket List”

Think what you will, I have never been interested in making a Bucket List. So many that I’ve heard about are so off my charts that I can’t relate to them. (Don’t @ me, puleez!!) I know that it’s all about living fully and bravely and with great intention, even bravado. Make the list, do them, check ’em off.

I have not yearned to climb Machu Pichu. Nor to parachute out of an airplane. I do not long to cruise around the world. Bravo to those who do yearn for Big Things and who do them. My “bucket list,” if I had one, would be incredibly modest.

I still will have lived a “full life” when my life is done.

I tend to let life flow a bit more. Paying attention, yes, to the passing of time and taking that seriously. More often, though, I’ve let it come to me and shine the light of my best life on the path. It’s worked quite well.

Today, I wait for warmer weather so that I can make my way to the Mississippi River and sit by its banks for the day.

I recently came across the book, “Tuesdays with Morrie,” by Mitch Albom. Morrie Schwartz figured out how to live well while he was dying of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is among the worst ways to die – or to live. But Morrie had a vivid spirit and a joy of life that made his incredibly hard journey a profound victory. I don’t know that Bucket Lists were in vogue yet, but Morrie knew how to live a “best life” to the end of his life.

It fascinated me. And it challenged me.

Perhaps the most vivid Morrie quote from Albom’s book was this: “When you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

That sounds a little creepy, I know. None of us really wants to spend the precious length of our life learning how to die. We have a monumental enough work learning how to live in the first place! I wonder how many books, t.v. shows, documentaries, experts, clever new phrases have been invented, telling us how to live our best life.

By the time you’ve reach the august age of almost-80, you know yourself pretty well. Well enough to know if mountains or people are your “main thing” to revel in in your shortening years. Or if travel or hunkering down in your favorite place on earth is your happiest thought. Or if now is the time for writing that long-delayed book. Perhaps learning how to paint or being part of a group that fills up your spirit is pulling at you hard.

You know a lot about how you feel about the end of your life. Whether you dread it with every bone in your body, or whether you are coming to accept its reality.

A few years ago I learned about a research study called “The Happiness Curve,” published in 2018.

Still in my 70’s, I learned that the 70’s are the second happiest years of most people’s lives. I liked that, maybe because my later 70’s did indeed become very happy years. And the 80’s – wait for it – are the happiest! Go figure!

And why is that? Because by the time we are in our 80’s, many of us have pretty much come to terms with the reality that we are not going to live forever. And that tends to lead to a deepening of our love of life.

So the bucket list starts to include things like repairing any broken or strained relationships that still hang unresolved. It begins or continues a process of forgiving ourselves for the broken parts of our own lives and embracing the ways in which we have also been part of the beauty of them.

The bucket list becomes a receptacle of attention to the world around us. The blue sky becomes more blue. The dozens of greens of the natural world become miraculous. The waves of lake and sea waters brush up against our memories and the sound of them now soothes the spirit. There is so much yet to love deeply.

Tenderness and acceptance show up even more often and in even more places.

I had a 50% chance of dying from my recent bout with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I made my peace with my eventual demise in the process. I also had a 50% chance of living. I am supremely aware of what that can mean now. I’m making my peace with that as well. And letting that “light” shine on what can lie ahead.

“When you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

Morrie

I’ve touched the hem of dying, and it is changing how I look now at my living. I’ve just begun, but I know that there is a new path that has arrived because of the one I just completed. I intend to pay close attention. But I’ll just carry my life bucket lightly and see what I find to put into it.

Yes. But there’s a better approach. To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That’s better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living.” – Morrie Schwartz

I’m working on it, Morrie. I suspect that’s easier now in my 80’s than it would have been in earlier decades, but now –

I’m okay with that.