Do you have a Bucket List? Or know someone who does? You know, the concept made popular by the 2007 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. The premise of the movie showcased two terminally ill men who threw caution to the wind, left their cancer treatment facility with a list of things they wanted to accomplish before they kicked the proverbial bucket.

The notion of a having a Bucket List struck a chord with many and one doesn’t have to go far to find someone who references their list. The power a movie can exert on the masses is impressive.

                                            Many decades ago Benjamin Franklin wrote,
                                       ‘A man dies at age 25 but isn’t buried until age 75’.
The notion of a Bucket List is so popular and accepted that I frequently hear my friends say, “It’s on my list”…the word bucket, now common language, is assumed. Frequently when I hear these references my mind summons’ Ben Franklin’s words. I often wonder what he would have thought of a Bucket List given his understanding that many people don’t actually live, they exist. In today’s culture we fill our space and schedules in order to stay busy – I suspect many people would feel less important if they weren’t busy (a.k.a. distracted). If he were alive today, I think Franklin may say something along the lines of, ‘a man works hard to stay busy and the result is he is too distracted to live’.

Am I anti-Bucket List? Perhaps. But not for the reasons one may think. I understand the concept and for the most part I like it. Having a Bucket List provides us with a sense of purpose and motivation. It gets us to think, to strive, to try and to become – it has the potential to transport us outside our comfort zone – the only place we learn and grow. These are all things I applaud and support. I think it’s fantastic that someone can write a list of things he or she wants to accomplish and one by one, check them off the list.

                                           Walk the Great Wall of China.
                Learn to scuba dive.
See the Aurora Borealis.

Yet, it is easy to become defined, (dare I say limited), by the very list intended to set us free. We begin to compare our list to someone else’s. Rather than staying present and enjoying the actual moment of accomplishment it is easy to fall prey to the checking it off part or adding the next big ticket item. Rather than growth resulting from the list, it often becomes a chase.  A Bucket List isn’t a competition yet it can certainly disguise itself as such and it has the potential to lend itself to toxic, self-defeating language of, ‘Once I’ve’.

Once I’ve walked along the Great Wall of China, I’ll be happyOnce I’ve learned to rock climb I’ll feel good about myselfOnce I’ve completed a triathlon, my father will be proud of me. Bucket Lists feed our need to feel worthy yet it can be short-lived; too often we create lists that leave us wanting more and position us in the repetitive, ‘Once I’ve’ soundtrack.

                                     That which doesn’t appear on most Bucket Lists is concerning.

If you are living a fear-based, anxiety-driven existence and spend two weeks trekking through Nepal because it was on your list only to return to your existence of habitual fear and anxiety, what have you actually accomplished? You’ve checked off an amazing experience yet your day-to-day quality of life hasn’t improved. If you travel to India to see the Taj Mahal and never venture beyond the comforts and safety of tour groups, 5-star hotels and gourmet food – have you actually experienced India? Would it be worth considering spending a few days volunteering with people struggling to survive poverty or visiting with young girls who were abandoned by their families because they were born female instead of male?

If we’re going to have a Bucket List, it needs to be well-balanced and kept in proper context. A list is simply a list; it doesn’t define who we are, our level of success or happiness. If a Bucket List is simply another form of distraction it does more harm than good.

                     It’s great to have a list of things we want to strive to attain for ourselves,
it’s even greater to have a list of things we want to strive to help others attain.  

Everything we need we already have and it isn’t necessary to check things off a list to feel a sense of accomplishment. Perhaps what needs to be on every Bucket List is a journey inward to unveil the protected, vulnerable place we all have within us. If we are brave enough to travel to that destination, to feel our fear and pain we can connect with our self and others on a deeper level. We will ultimately stop searching and find that our increasing need to stay distracted will diminish. It requires courage, not a list.                                        I think Ben Franklin would concur, after all he once wrote,
‘Don’t confuse motion with action’.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

Source: New feed

                          …the moment I jumped off was the moment I touched down…

Lyrics from music continue to speak to me and the line above is one by Alanis Morisette who sings about being thankful for things we’re not typically thankful for: pain, terror and fear. She writes and sings about understanding the value in challenges such as death and difficult times.

2014 was my second year of feeding my Gratitude Jar and the second year I’ve written of my joy in opening it up and reading the entries.  In some ways Year One seems like a lifetime ago; in some ways it was. The gratitude and joy I felt then was very real yet after my second year of writing something I’m grateful for and putting it in the jar every day, I’ve realized that something has shifted. Year Two gratitude is deeper and richer.

The past year was full of many things, experiences and people to be grateful for and all are represented in the jar. My dear friends in Maine, new friends everywhere from Thailand to Austin, travel and moving experiences, family, love, the unconditional trust and love of my pets and two amazingly competent, compassionate vets, a new lifestyle, job, and the joy of new experiences along with the familiarity of all those things that have remained or resurfaced…cycling, tennis, horses, writing, music, volunteering, my faith, humor and curiosity…all things that I am grateful for and keenly aware of.

But the difference between this past year and the one prior is I named those things and people in detail last year and this year the gratitude has delved deeper – it’s become a part of me. This year I am not as inclined to be so specific because being grateful for Joe or Granddaddy’s Van is something I am aware of and feel every day…this is about feeling gratitude for all the experiences including loss, sadness, heartbreak and discomfort. As I sat on my living room floor today reading each entry and literally surrounding myself in tiny slips of paper filled with written expressions of gratitude it occurred to me that I’ve become grateful for the ‘bad’ experiences just as much as the ‘good’.As I continued to read and reflect, I realized that perhaps the line between good experiences and bad is actually very close. I wrote of my gratitude for all the good things that I experienced as Thomas lay sick and dying. Distraught and vulnerable I wrote of my gratitude for my friends, family and vets who were there to offer comfort and support. I wrote of a moment just before Thomas died…even then I was feeling gratitude. At the time it felt as though his death broke my heart but in fact, I think it opened my heart which made it stronger.

Consider this:  If we don’t experience the darkness how can we appreciate the light? And doesn’t the light give us the opportunity to appreciate the dark? When our lives seem most burdened with shadows and darkness, perhaps that’s the time to be the most grateful for that’s when we see how strong and resilient we are. Perhaps that is the time when we learn who we are and what we really want our life to be about.

The habit of writing one thing I am grateful for and dropping it in a jar each day has become a daily ritual. After two years and well over 700 entries, I realize that gratitude is much more accessible to me, it’s not something I have to consciously consider…it’s just there. When I initially began this exercise I never anticipated I would begin to develop an appreciation for all experiences. I labeled things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘happy’ or ‘sad’. I still do that, it is part of the human condition, but there has been a shift in my perspective and I’m not sure I fully noticed it until today as I sat surrounded in those little slips of paper.Alanis Morisette sings, ‘thank you silence’’thank you disillusionment’’thank you clarity’ and those words hold more meaning to me now. Silence and disillusionment often precede clarity; it doesn’t typically arrive on it’s own. It is easy to get caught up in wanting ‘good’ experiences and avoiding ‘bad’ experiences; but perhaps the secret in that jar is the discovery that experiences are simply experiences and labeling them ‘good’ or ‘bad’ isn’t as beneficial as seeing them as opportunities to learn, to grow and to feel appreciation.

That empty jar, which I’ve filled for two years has magically delivered more than I ever put into it. And for that, I am grateful.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

Source: New feed