A Bucket List.
Do you have one? Is it something we all should have? Do you even know why they call it a Bucket List? I recently found out that the wonderful list we all aspire to, that list of the things we want to do before we die, is actually called a bucket list because we are supposed to complete the list before we “kick the bucket!” Maybe that is obvious to everyone else, but for some reason, hearing the term “kick the bucket” became way scarier to say than just the things I want to do before I die! I do not want to be kicking any bucket ANY time soon.
Do you talk about the D word?
It is something I don’t think we talk about enough. You know, the fact that none of us are going to get out of this world alive. The fact that we are all going to die one day. It seems like something we shouldn’t talk about. And I wonder, is it because we are scared to die? Is it because we don’t want to offend anyone? To tell our kids the truth? Or we don’t want to be insensitive to those who have either recently lost someone or one of their loved ones is currently very ill. No matter what our reasons are, I believe we need to face the fear of it and talk about death. Not to depress ourselves, but to inspire ourselves. To make us see how great this life is that we are living right now.
Life is happening now.
We need to talk about the “D” word because we need to make sure we are living. Every. Single. Day. We need to connect with others, discuss our fears, come up with a plan for our end so our loved ones aren’t searching through random boxes of old pictures and journals and trying to decide what to keep and what to toss. We should plan our own funerals for how we want it to go and figure out how we can make it as easy as possible for those who survive us. We need to talk about it because some of those we love very much may be closer to the end than we want to admit and they need to talk about it. They need to talk about their hopes, their dreams, their fears, and about what they need. And we are the ones who can help them get there.
Moms will always protect us.
I remember asking my mom near the end of her life if she was scared to die. She convinced me she wasn’t. I mean made me believe with my whole heart that she was not scared. She reassured me that she had lived a great life and that she couldn’t be happier to see the adults my brother and I had turned into. She told me how proud she was and that the circle of life was happening just as it should. You see, my partner at the time had just delivered the baby we both so badly wanted the day before my mom died. My mom only got to see a picture of her, but I knew it put her at peace. She described the circle of life as “just when one life is leaving this world, another is entering it. And that’s exactly how it should be.” I tear up just thinking about it because she had to be scared, sad, and in pain. She had to want to be here for that grandchild and all who would follow. But she didn’t show it. And sometimes I wish she would have.
We are social creatures.
Have you ever seen the movie “I Am?” If you haven’t, you should, and if you have, you know we are driven by love. I’ve talked about it in our LIVEfor..Podcast and Ethan Zohn reminds us all the time, if you need a reason to live, live for someone else. Do something to help and support someone you care about. Love breeds love. If we start being the rock for someone else, we can eventually be our own rock. If we don’t talk about these things, we just go on living within our own minds. Creating our own stories without really knowing someone else’s. We can talk about the weather, and kids, and our partners and our jobs all day long. But why? We need to be talking about our fears as well as our dreams so we can give people the opportunity to be there for us and allow them to experience the joy of giving by simply being there for us. Just as we will be there for them.
Maybe this way of thinking isn’t what a therapist would recommend, but I’m not a therapist. I am just a person living life the best way I know how, and I know being there for others I love is what makes me get out of bed in the morning. Right now especially...because my very best friend in the whole world was recently diagnosed with Cancer. It is a word that I know too well. A word that has been the reason why so many of my loved ones are in Heaven. A word that makes me angry. A word that makes thousands of people face death way too early every year. I hate cancer. I have seen people beat cancer forever. I have seen them beat it once, twice, even three times and then ultimately cancer won. It sucks no matter what. So when I was talking to her about this horrible disease and being there with her to beat it, she started talking about her bucket list...and I got excited for her!
Have you seen the shift?
I got excited for what the Bucket List brings. I remember making my mom create one the year she was diagnosed with Cancer. The Bucket List brings joy in the face of disease and sadness and fear. It brings hope when hope can be lost. The Bucket List makes people remember to live. People who actually make one and actually start working on it every single day of their lives, become happier. Sincerely happier. You can almost see the shift right before your eyes. If you’ve never experienced this shift, let me tell you. It goes something like this. You're having coffee talking about this shitty life, complaining about your partner, your health, the stress of your kids, and all of a sudden someone says, “hey, let’s make a bucket list!” The person they are talking to, the one who just complained or cried for a while, all of a sudden seems to wake up. You see their eyes light up and nearly glow as they grab pen and paper and start writing down all the things they ever wanted to do in their life. One idea of skydiving leads to another of seeing the 7 Wonders of the World, until they finally arrive at “I just want to be more patient with my kids. I just want to soak up all the time I have loving my family and making sure to tell them and show them everyday.” The big bucket list items start getting smaller. Start getting more real. More actionable and more meaningful.
You don’t have to do much of anything.
As the person keeps writing and keeps thinking without a filter, they start feeling more. Start smiling more and you see the shift go from “this life sucks” to “I don’t want this life to end.” They get excited and they start to see the wonderful things life can bring. And they realize they have the ability to change it all. They can do anything and everything. When I used to ask my 6th grade teacher if I “had to” do something, he would reply “the only thing you have to do in life is pay taxes and die. You get to decide everything else.” I never got it at the time, but I get it now.
We get to choose.
So many of us get caught up in what we “have” to do. None of what we do is because we have to, it’s because we choose to. We choose the work we do, how hard we work, where we spend our time, who we spend our time with, how we earn, spend and save our money. Anything can be changed if you’re willing to accept the lifestyle change it may bring. So what is it that you want to do? What are you going to put on your bucket list or your bucket system to start living today? Or what have you been doing to ensure you are living your best life right now? In the face of so many changes and unknown situations, life is still happening if you are reading this. There is still time. Go make the most of it!
Kathryn Kraft, MPT
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