Monday, October 24, 2011

My Bucket List

This post is inspired by Leroy Sievers and his beautiful post, “Everybody has their own list” that I referred to here in 2008.
1. 1999 Beijing, 2. Arches 2004, 3. B&D 1991 Mackinac Island, 4. Rain in Yellowstone 1995

As a child, I was fascinated by the Bucket List idea: what would you do if you knew you had limited time? My fascination was fueled by a sappy movie called "Six Weeks" with Mary Tyler Moore as a mother whose daughter is terminally ill and they run around the world crossing things off her list.

In 8th grade I plagiarized the movie for a story I wrote. Only in my version, the girl had a younger sister who was being ignored while the family focused on the dying sister's list, and, of course, the youngest gets hit by a bus unexpectedly and everyone feels terrible.

Can you tell I was a middle child?

I see some wisdom though in my tortured version. Here’s the thing: we all already know that we're going to die. We know we have limited time. We don’t need to wait for bad news to make changes. During our last year in Oregon, we lost two friends to cancer. I will always feel in debt to Richard and James because they gave us the push we needed to make changes. Within that same year Brian and I both left jobs and friends we had loved and made the leap to Utah, which at the time seemed the equivalent of moving to Mars.

Loss enhances one's own sense of mortality, and that sense didn't push us to cross things off a bucket list, but to make our daily lives more consistent with our deepest desires.

1. Deirdre and Pat skydiving 1991, 2. Deirdre Skydiving 1991, 3. 1995, Selikhino, Russia, 4. Maui 10th anniversary, 5. sea kayaking in cave islands Thailand 97, 6. turf digging Ireland 1980

For a girl who’s never had a lot of money & is a homebody at heart, I’ve had a lot of adventures: traveling in Ireland as a young girl, jumping out of a perfectly good airplane at 21, riding the Trans-Siberian railway, hiking the Great Wall of China, sea kayaking in Thailand, watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon,  horseback riding in Yellowstone, hitchhiking in Siberia, and gazing at St Basil’s in Red Square.

Reading others' bucket lists has made me realize that there is plenty I've never done, most of which I'll likely never do, and a surprising number I've done without them having been on any list of mine. Here's an odd list of things I have done that I read on others' bucket lists:

I've milked a cow, watched a mother whale and her calf off the coast of Maui; sung Karaoke in a bar (“Copacabana" Forever, Robert!), learned a foreign language, ridden around Mackinac Island on a tandem bike, seen the Cubs win at Wrigley Field, enjoyed high tea in Victoria on Vancouver Island, and taken teens to see their first Shakespeare play in Ashland, Oregon. I got to shake hands with Oprah, twice. Thanks to Mary Alice, I've been to a movie premiere and was in the audience for a taping of “Mad About You.” Thanks to Brian, I've been to more than a dozen National Parks, and spent one summer on top of Mt Graham and another in Park City.

Some of the most common listed bucket items I have no desire to do:
Swim with dolphins. Run a marathon. Repel down a mountain.

Someday I’d love to visit Kenya, to eat my way through Italy, rent a caravan in Australia or live in Ireland for a year. I’d like to give back to the world in bigger ways than we are able to now. I’d love to see a Broadway play, or get a piano in this house. Learn to sew, boogie board, and improve my photography.  Visit the Smithsonian & the Louvre. Maybe we will someday. But I’m okay if we don’t.

At 39 I wrote a 40 Before 40 list, but it was more of a to-do list. I listed things that might never get done because they were a priority only to me. This list is different. My bucket list, the 15 things I really want to stick around for---the unfinished business, the joys I’d miss, and the work I’m drawn to:
  1. Visit my sons at college and wherever they make their homes.
  2. Hold Brian’s hand as we watch our children marry.
  3. Dance with my grandchildren.
  4. Host my godchildren in our home as adults.
  5. Listen to live music we love at Red Rocks.
  6. Write a book.
  7. Learn to play “Closer to Fine” on the guitar
  8. Know exactly where everything is in my house. (i.e. minimize and organize)
  9. Create and maintain a meditation habit.
  10. Send three responsible and compassionate men out into the world with a strong sense that they are loved.
  11. Build a vacation cottage/cabin somewhere that my children relish returning to.
  12. Spend a weekend away with all my sisters.
  13. Run a 10K (i.e. conquer some demons)
  14. Be a good dog owner.
  15. Die knowing I loved Brian & our boys well, took my time, & paid attention along the way.
Ideally, if you ever receive bad news from a doctor, you wouldn't want to spend your final days that differently than you do now. If the news would spur you into action, consider this your notice. I hate to break it to you, but you’re terminal---our time here is limited.

This is my entry in the Just Ask Bucket List Getaway Giveaway. Just Ask offers a breast and ovarian cancer screening and is encouraging people to share 15 things that I want to enjoy in my lifetime as a reminder to be aware of my health. Want to enter? Head over to to get the details.

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