On a variety of posts here, readers sometimes leave a comment about their bucket list.
The phrase – made popular with the 2007 movie of that title about two terminally ill cancer patients who take off on a road trip to fulfill their wish lists before they kick the bucket - is one of those rare, felicitous expressions that defines itself; no explanation necessary.
(Alvin Toffler's 1970 book, Future Shock is another; you need only the title to understand what he's talking about and its significance.)
Bucket list references turn up here frequently enough that it set me wondering about my own. At nearly 70, I figure each day now is a gift, especially in that I am healthy, and my days should not be squandered unthinkingly.
Intent on creating this list, I opened a clean page on my laptop, typed BUCKET LIST at the top in bolded caps and expected to start hitting the keys at speed.
Nothing came to me.
I sat, fingers unmoving. I stared off into space. Minutes passed. Then more minutes. I got up and walked around. I sat down again. I went to the kitchen and made a cup of tea. I went back to the desk. Still nothing.
“Come on,” I said to myself. “Are you so bereft of desire you could die happy today?”
Well, uh, no. But, I deduced, that is more closely aligned with the primal, biological urge to live than with any unfulfilled dreams.
Looking for inspiration, I checked around the web for bucket lists. What commonly turns up are travel (world monuments), adventure (skydiving, swimming with dolphins), finding true love, becoming rich or famous or both, creating world peace and – god help me – being interviewed by Oprah.
I suspect these are lists of the young, people who do not yet know themselves well and for whom time still stretches into infinity. For me, anything on a bucket list needs to be, in addition to desirable, do-able - for what is the point of the list if the goals are not reasonably possible.
Sure, there are places I would like to visit, but travel is expensive and, these days, so irritating, cramped and tiring that it's worth the effort only occasionally. Unless I could travel first class or, better, in a private plane that leaves when I want it to, mostly I'd rather stay home.
The number one thing I most want? To live out my days in Greenwich Village - my natural, comfortable home. I can't afford it, so move on. I don't waste time on what cannot be.
With that blank page still in front of me, I changed the question: what gives me pleasure? Go ahead and laugh, but I was thrilled on Saturday – I even did a private, little happy dance in the kitchen - when, having experimented in the recent past creating a fresh-tomato soup recipe from scratch with only moderate results, I succeeded sensationally. Dee-lish. A keeper.
Fussing around inventing new dishes in the kitchen is one of my big pleasures.
As is this blog. It is the centerpiece of my days. It gives focus to everything I read, see, talk about with others and ponder alone. It forces me to think seriously and clearly about whatever is at hand. Like today's post. I know I wouldn't bother to confront my inability to create a bucket list if it were not fodder for a story.
My interest in the topic of Time Goes By, aging, has not waned in the 15 years since I first began studying it. When I launched TGB, no one cared much about old people. That's changed dramatically since 2003, although most of the public conversation falls into the limited and limiting category, oh-my-god-what-are-we-going-to-do-with-all-these-old-baby-boomers.
To a large degree – 14 million-plus web pages, according to Google – the answer is the limited and limiting category, anti-aging potions.
Even I can do better, much better than that on the topic of aging and I work on it here every day. Although it is becoming an old-fashioned medium, sometimes I think I would like to write a book about “what it's really like to get old” (see subtitle in the banner above).
I could put that on my bucket list. (Is having only one item okay, do you think?) But I know that as long as I write this blog, I'll never have the time. It has been a perpetual mystery to me through the years that many journalists write books while keeping up their day jobs.
That doesn't work for me and I'm not ready to quit this blog any time soon.
So I'm a failure at making a bucket list. Perhaps it's that I'm content. I have a comfortable place to live. I'm healthy. My financial resources are small, but I've learned how to make that work without feeling deprived. I have a “job” right here on this page that gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I have friends, activities and other interests.
I don't need a bucket list - but I didn't know that until I tried.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Aging, One Grey Hair at a Time