It’s hard to argue against the merits of creating a “Bucket List”, a compilation, most often, of adventurous activities to try, exotic locales to visit, and famous people to meet before death comes calling. Even if a person’s Bucket List is long on long shots, holding tight to once-in-a-lifetime dream experiences, and striving to realize them, no matter the end results, can be enriching. As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”
Michelangelo, who boasts two “must sees” on many Bucket Lists, his sculpture the David and his painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, adds, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss, but that it is too low and we reach it.”
So there is much to gain by shooting for the stars, including actually hitting them. But I’m here to give voice to those who might feel, as I do, daunted by the idea of having a Bucket List, who perceive Michelangelo’s message as more an indictment on contentment than an inspiration to push the proverbial envelope. Not that I don’t want to live life to the fullest, but as the birthdays mount my happiest moments are more chill than thrill, more small than tall, more bland than grand.
If that sounds like I’m settling, and according to the increasing snap, crackle and pop of my bones and joints, I probably am, I say I am revising: changing my criteria on what is fun and worthwhile, exciting and meaningful, what defines a defining experience, what I want, and what I need, to feel fulfilled.
Basically, I’m finding more pleasure in the mundane, or perhaps it’s that I’m growing more grateful; appreciating to a greater extent what I have, and what I don’t have, a middle-age perfect storm, so to speak, where I am able to maximize joy in the miniature. Which is why, despite the many benefits of having a Bucket List, I will never make one, feeling it’s akin to setting out hurdles on a running track when I can get to the finish line easier by jogging.
And while challenges have the potential to help us focus, grow stronger, and discover hidden strengths, they also have the potential to cause stress, shred confidence, and reveal weakness.
I’m not advocating for apathy, or encouraging a “no mas” attitude (i.e. Roberto Duran, not Taco Bell) toward life, or even channeling comedian Steven Wright, who reasoned that “Hermits have no peer pressure.” I’m merely suggesting that, at least for me, less is best, be it monthly bills, fast-food burgers, or extreme bungee-jumping (I have no doubt I would snap in two should I ever leap from any height higher than a footstool with a cord around my ankle.) As such, I am working on an anti-Bucket List, identifying activities I will never try, places I will never see, and people I will never meet.
Bear in mind, what is going on my list does not spring from animosity or a long-held aversion to such experiences. It’s more like I’m “taking things off the table,” a technique often used by negotiators to remove obstacles to making a deal. By doing so, I feel like I am clearing space so I can better focus on the present and not the future; to just be in the moment without distraction, whether that means lying on the couch during an epic Netflix binge, or staring into a bowl of ice cream, waiting for it to melt to the perfect consistency before sending in my spoon.
Below is the first 10 items in my anti-Bucket List. You might agree, or disagree, with my choices, and my attitude, but one thing I think we can all claim as common ground: ice cream tastes better mushy than hard.
John’s Anti-Bucket List (in progress)
Skydive, Hanglide, Bungee-Jump (or any extreme sport that propels me through the air at speeds that will cause my cheeks to flap)
Attend a Royal Wedding
Drive a Racecar (or park it)
Catch a foul ball or a home run at a Major League Baseball Game
Go to the Superbowl
Beat Bobby Flay in a cook-off
Dance, on stage or in the aisle, at a Broadway show
Hunt for Bigfoot
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