Since I was a youngster, I’ve always wanted to paint something. I loved watching Bob Ross create happy little trees with a brush on Saturday afternoons. It looked like so much fun.
But I’ve never been very artistic. The idea of making my own painting was intimidating. I didn’t get up the nerve to try until two weeks ago, when friends invited me to join them for a painting class.
After the final brush stroke, I thought: This was SO MUCH FUN! I really want to do this again.
I’d just crossed something off my bucket list.
Until recently, I didn’t have a bucket list. Not one that was actually written down anywhere. Seeing the movie gave me the motivation.
In case you‘re unfamiliar with it, “The Bucket List” is about two men — Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson — who have inoperable diseases and only months to live. They think about what they each want to do before they kick the bucket, and set out to experience those things together.
My motivation didn’t come from a fatal disease. I don’t have one — not that I know of, anyway. But you know how that goes. You wake up feeling great, get in the shower, notice a lump somewhere, and everything changes.
Instead, my motivation came from realizing, as I watched the movie, that I’ve spent much of my life living by other people’s lists. I’m guessing we all do, to various degrees. And I thought it was time to start living by my own a little more.
First, I had to make one. And it wouldn’t be my first list.
When I was young, I had a To-Do List in my head: Start a career, get married, raise a family, become financially secure … and on and on.
That list eventually began sharing space with a Don’t-Do List: Don’t let things stress me out so much, don’t obsess quite so much over what I can’t control, don’t be so afraid to fail … and on and on. (There are times every day when I feel like I‘ve barely made a dent in that list.)
Only in the last few years has it started to sink in with me that each of us gets only so many days and maybe I should start paying closer attention or something. Maybe do a better job of putting myself into it.
Hence, my bucket list, which has a very important footnote.
If I knew I had only one year to live, I’d do a whole lot of things differently. Quit my job? You betcha. Let the bills pile up? Leave this sub-zero weather and go walk on a beach somewhere right now?
What time does the flight leave for Siesta Key?
Of course, we don’t really know how much time is left before our expiration date arrives. So we can‘t just walk out of work and get on a plane for someplace warmer. Instead, we hang up our coat and head off to another meeting.
Our lives can take on a feeling of everydayness. And that’s OK.
See, the bucket list isn’t about totally changing everything in our lives. It’s about gradually changing the attitudes with which we live our lives.
The point of a bucket list — for me, anyway — is about trying to get beyond the fear and the worry and the doubt and whatever else prevents me from doing what makes me feel more fully alive, more fully me.
It’s about living instead of just getting through life.
So, I’ve made my list. The 17 items include things I would have never imagined myself doing. Things I’ve really wanted to do but haven’t had the courage. Things I’ve always wanted to do with others.
When one of the items gets crossed off, I’m going to replace it with another. The list will be a work in progress. When I do finally kick the bucket, I want to leave behind a number of things undone.
After all, we’re never really done, are we?
What about you? What’s on your list?
It’s your life. What do you want it to be about? Who do you want to become? What do you want to do? Who do you want to love?
And what’s holding you back from doing any and all of it? Fear of what others will think? Fear of failure? Fear of the unknown? Fear of losing control? Fear of something else?
Our bucket lists challenge us to move past all of that — a little bit, anyway. To take some risks and follow our hearts. To be more adventurous. To laugh more often.
To love a little bit more deeply. To celebrate a little more giddily. To be a little more at peace today with who we are and how we choose to live, no matter what anyone else might think.
To throw open our arms and embrace life. And the giver of life, too.
And to do it not with cautious, narrow lines, but with bold, colorful strokes.