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Not my bucket. - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Not my bucket. [Jan. 30th, 2011|08:04 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Under friendslock, one of my friends asked about "bucket lists" or "life lists," and I decided that I should edit my comment to be suitable to repost here: I have deliberately not done that thing, and I intend to keep deliberately not doing it.

I know my own personality and attachment to lists. There are people who could make a list like that and not have it get in the way of them scrapping bits of it to do other fascinating things instead. I am not one of them. What I want to do before I die is continue to cultivate an attitude that allows me to take advantage of the interesting opportunities that come my way, and to continue to create those opportunities from sheer stubbornness if need be.

Most of the best things in my life are not things I could predict in advance. Many of them are predicated on relationships with specific people, and you can't always control all the variables--if I'd been fixated on taking Lillian to a play last spring, I'd have been disappointed, because she wasn't really ready to go when we had tickets to take her and Rob to the Ernie and Bert musical. I think now she is, and we're going to try "Annie" this spring, and in the meantime we had a lovely time with just Rob. Other things are opportunities that come up in unpredictable ways--my parents, for example, would not have put Germany on their "bucket list," but when they had an opportunity to go because of Dad's work, they had a fabulous time and still talk fondly about it among the many trips they've enjoyed. Even in the things we theoretically knew we wanted to do, some of the best moments have been completely unexpected opportunities. When we went to London with the grands, we had no idea they'd be using Buckingham Palace as a screen for projecting pictures in memory and honor of those who served in WWII--but it was really neat that they did, and my grandmother got into a good conversation with an Englishwoman sitting next to us on the kerb watching. The woman talked about her father's WWII service, Grandma talked about her brother who died on the beachhead at Anzio, and they hugged before we parted ways. Grandma would never have written down, "talk about WWII while watching photos on Buckingham Palace" on her bucket list, but it affected her quite strongly.

I occasionally struggle a little with the fact that Grandpa and I didn't get to Alaska together before he died. Going to 49 of the US states together seems worse somehow than only 43, although I would not by any means skip the last six we did, and I remind myself that's what that means--or skipping the London trip, which was wonderful, the one Grandpa listed as his favorite. But if I had not had this damnable vertigo, going to Alaska would have been a good time together, and then if he hadn't gotten that damnable bronchitis and all that followed. And the thing is, I don't want to do that. I want to cultivate an attitude of being glad for the things we did--49 states, for the love of Pete! not to mention the Canadian provinces and more distant foreign countries!--and not sorry for the things we didn't get to do. For some people, the bucket list/life list is a way of remembering their priorities, and I think it's great for people who have the mindset to use it that way--or who need to make that kind of list to get there. For me it would be a source of regret, when I'd rather consider things in terms of opportunity.

I've only said the v-word once here, but it's pretty important. We hope that I can get the vertigo under control and keep it that way from here on out, but I'm also realistic that we don't actually know whether that'll happen. And I would far rather find things that will be wonderful with the abilities I do have than fixate on what I thought would be wonderful at 20, 25, 30, whatever, and spend my time seeing the ways I've been limited instead of the ways I've found ways to enjoy the life I have. Some people find a bucket list a good way to enjoy the lives they have, and that's great. But this is why I don't think it would be that for me.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: finnyb
2011-01-31 02:41 am (UTC)
It would not work for me, either, for many of the same reasons you give.
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[User Picture]From: auriaephiala
2011-01-31 02:47 am (UTC)
I agree for the same basic reasons you give. I don't want to check off experiences -- I want to live them.
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[User Picture]From: miz_hatbox
2011-01-31 04:33 am (UTC)
I'm with you on this one. Though of course there are things I want to do Someday, but I refuse to write them down on a list.

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From: diatryma
2011-01-31 04:55 am (UTC)
I have enough trouble not beating myself up for the mundane to-do list. I do not need to beat myself up for not crossing off enough of a recreational one.
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[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2011-01-31 07:10 am (UTC)
We've talked about this topic before, but I think that one side effect of having lists of this type, ordered or not, is that they tend to impose an artificial sense of scheduling on one's life. Which can lead to not only a sense of falling behind (if you have X things on the list to do and only Y expected years in which to do them), but also to set time-linked goals for yourself and then feel disappointment when life doesn't turn out that way.

For example, when I was in high school, I was sure that I needed to be a published author by 20. 25 at the latest! 30 was clearly *too old*, and would be a sign of abject failure And by some metrics, I've achieved that goal, and by others - notably the ones I was focused on at the time, being fiction and professional comics work - I completely didn't. And you know what? I'm okay with that. Life is too short to hold yourself hostage to what you imagined your life should be like over a decade ago.
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[User Picture]From: roadnotes
2011-01-31 05:25 pm (UTC)
I was going to have a novel published by the time I was forty....

"Life is too short to hold yourself hostage to what you imagined your life should be like over a decade ago."

Nicely phrased.
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[User Picture]From: dichroic
2011-01-31 11:51 am (UTC)
I function best when I have something to look forward to, but I think actual plans, even vague ones, work better than a 'someday' list for me for that. There are a couple of ideas we've been batting around that I will be very sad if they don't work out. On the other hand, if I'd put "live in another country for a while" on a list (and I would have) I'd have considered that a blue-sky dream that would probably never have happened, and having it there might have made me feel worse rather than better. Until the chance did come up, five years ago, and we seized it.
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[User Picture]From: matociquala
2011-01-31 12:56 pm (UTC)
I was reminded (by the radio of all things) that our compassion for others is incomplete if it does not include compassion for ourselves.

So good on you, and <3
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-01-31 01:39 pm (UTC)
This is so true.

Last week I asked someone on my friendslist if she would say the same thing to me she was saying to herself, because that is one of the best ways I know of cutting short lack of compassion for myself: I put one of my friends in the spot I'm in and see if I'm still rolling my eyes at them, haranguing them to do everything all at once, etc.
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[User Picture]From: matociquala
2011-01-31 01:57 pm (UTC)
Heh. coffeeem said the same thing to me once, that I'd never treat any of my friends the way I treat myself.

It's a very useful thing to hold on to.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-01-31 02:04 pm (UTC)
When that one doesn't get through to me, the big guns for me are my godson. "If Rob was grown-up and all upset with himself over something like this, how would it make me feel?"

Because, y'know. I can imagine Rob being upset with himself over things his godmother thought were worth being upset with oneself over; I don't believe that the child is now or ever will be perfect. So I know this kind of self-check doesn't result in lack of standards. It just results in standards for kindness.
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[User Picture]From: matociquala
2011-01-31 02:08 pm (UTC)
Amen.
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[User Picture]From: careswen
2011-01-31 05:29 pm (UTC)
I tell a version of this to my clients sometimes: If you had someone following you around, saying to you all the mean/unloving things you say to yourself, how would you feel about that person? What would you want to tell them? Would you let them talk to you that way?
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[User Picture]From: matociquala
2011-01-31 05:40 pm (UTC)
Ooo. Good point. Or even better, how would you feel about it if somebody did it to somebody you loved?

Because some of us have had that person following us around, and might have a somewhat conflicted reaction to it.
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[User Picture]From: careswen
2011-01-31 05:43 pm (UTC)
You're right, sometimes that works better. People can be so much more protective of their loved ones than of themselves.
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[User Picture]From: freelikebeer
2011-01-31 03:52 pm (UTC)

Well, then ...

funny pictures of cats with captions
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[User Picture]From: reveritas
2011-01-31 05:50 pm (UTC)
I hear you. I don't really do these either, but I do have a "places to go" list. But it's not so much "before I die." It's "in the next ten years"-ish. If that's before I die or after, well, that's good. (I am badgering JD to get moving already on planning the South of France trip. I'm tired of not having been, but it's so I can go, not so I can check it off a list.)

And I am a list-making fool. They are where I keep my brain. But virtually all my lists are short-term, anyway.
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[User Picture]From: wshaffer
2011-01-31 06:11 pm (UTC)
I made a "bucket list" a year or so back, when an employee enrichment seminar on goal setting invaded the space where I was eating lunch at work, and I stuck around to see if I could learn anything.

The one nice thing about it was that there were a few things on the list that jumped out at me as things that I could do, or at least take concrete steps towards achieving, almost right away. I've done a few of them, and am actively planning or working towards a couple of others, and that's been good.

On the other hand, there's another twenty-odd things on the list that are just sitting there, being things I haven't done yet. In retrospect, it might have been better to make the list, pick off the five things that I could actually take concrete action on right away, and then throw the rest out.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-01-31 06:47 pm (UTC)
That's probably how I'd do it, if I was going to do anything like that at all. And then do it again when I felt the need.
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[User Picture]From: athenais
2011-01-31 06:12 pm (UTC)
For similar reasons, for years I've made a practice of leaving at least one "must do" thing undone wherever I visit. Then I don't think, "Oh, I've done everything there, why go back?" Leaving the door open to possibility is much more important to me than ticking off a list.
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[User Picture]From: redbird
2011-01-31 06:18 pm (UTC)
I like that. I think I've been doing it more or less by chance, either because there's more stuff that would go on that list than I have time for, or because I forget things, or because they're added later. On my way home from Paris, I realized I'd missed a major museum I'd meant to go to. But I had a variety of good meals, a good conversation or two (despite my abysmal French), and visited a museum of "French prehistory." Stone points and Irish elk (and French paleontological terms aren't much different from English ones). That was also the day I discovered I like mayonnaise, actual fresh mayonnaise, the sort a random food shop in a French suburb puts on your sandwich without asking. [I will stop reminiscing here, but I am now thinking again about going back.]
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[User Picture]From: athenais
2011-02-02 06:32 pm (UTC)
I am also thinking about going back, after years of saying, "Ehhh, Paris isn't that interesting compared to the rest of France." But I have never been to the 18th Arrondissement and suddenly I really want to.
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