Sunday, March 2, 2014

My Life List

When I was 22 and hanging out in the hot tub with a group of people, my mom described a Dear Abby or Dear Ann Landers question that she’d read. The question was, “What have you always wanted to do and are now too old to do?” My mom asked her friends at work what fell into that category for them, and skydiving was one of the responses. It kicked off a conversation among us about what experiences we would like to have before we get too old to do them. When my mom asked if I would ever sky dive I immediately responded, “In a heartbeat!” Being the amazing person my mom was, soon after she gave me a static-line parachute lesson as an early birthday present. That parachute jump was a scary, thrilling and amazing experience. Over twenty years later, I still grin thinking about how much fun I had and how jumping from an airplane made me feel like I could do anything.

Building a Life List, Prioritizing and Completing Goals
Do you have a bucket list?  I loved the movie, and I think it’s a good idea for me to think about what I would like to accomplish before I kick the bucket. The one aspect of a bucket list that bugged me was the half glass empty feeling it gives me.  It occurred to me to build a Life List that includes things I've already done.  Yes, it’s exactly like writing something down on my To Do list so that I can cross it off. But I do that too, and it doesn't bother me a bit.  I added parachute jump to my Life List and said, “Yep! Done that and glad I did!”

And the more I think about it, the more I think we need to give ourselves credit for what we've already done. This exercise helped me appreciate and put into perspective all that I've already done, the things I haven’t yet done, and the things I may never do. Plus it helps me prioritize my list differently given the experiences I've loved and would like to do again, those I’d like to build on, or those that are completely new.

It’s not all happy: I add unhappy life events to my Life List since they are experiences that helped shape me.  Please note I am not proactive about adding these! This isn't to celebrate them, it’s to appreciate how hard they were and that I made it through.  When I was 23 my mother died unexpectedly, and I experienced the most profound loss of my life to this day. She named me executrix, meaning I had to quickly make funeral arrangements and figure out how to wrap up a full life cut short. Burying your parents is a natural and necessary event for most people. Luckily most people get to have that experience at an older age, and they don’t all have to deal with the financial and legal issues surrounding death. I learned a lot, and I have a huge amount of empathy for others experiencing this life event at any age.

Building on experiences: I would love to travel more and feel I haven’t much in my adult life. I had an internal belief that I haven’t traveled since I haven’t gone overseas. Once I created my Life List, I realized that belief isn't really accurate given my family moved a lot when I was young.  I've lived in Illinois twice, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ontario, Colorado and Washington. My mom made sure we experienced as many museums, historic sites and cities as we could in each state. It wasn't traveling, it was better since it was tourism and immersion in each region’s culture. It’s fun to watch movies, recognize places, and to know, “I've been there!”

Living in the Pacific Northwest, I've spent some weekends in British Columbia and broke in my passport in a short trip to Victoria.  There are a lot of places in the US I’d still like to see or experience as an adult, but looking at my Life List encourages me to focus on traveling abroad sooner than later.

Step by step: Some of the things on my list require a lot of steps to get to the point where I could possibly achieve them.  Writing these goals down helps me identify the steps, see if I’m willing to undertake them, and decide if I want to keep them on my Life List.  I also like patting myself on the back for the steps I've already accomplished that will help me get there.

New Inspiration: Groupon and Living Social are a fun source of ideas for a bucket list experience. I hadn't thought about doing trapeze until I saw a Groupon for a lesson. Bam! Then I really wanted to do it and sought out friends to do this with me.  We had fun, and I added going back and advancing my trapeze skills over ten more sessions to my Life List.  So far I've gone six times and loved it each time. Check out my post on trapeze.

Purging the list: I always thought I would run a marathon some day.  It’s athletic, it’s not an easy thing to do, and it takes a lot of preparation and dedication to complete. Hats off to all of the people that have done it! I used to jog for exercise and I ran a local 12K for six years.  At my peak I finished in just over an hour. The next year I trained hard and hoped to finish in under an hour. A week prior to the race my body started doing wonky things. I pushed myself hard to run while experiencing a lot of fatigue and a body numb from the bra-line down. I was disappointed with my race time at five minutes longer that the previous year. This eventually led to my Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, and now I’m pretty proud of myself for doing so well given my body limitations. Over the years, I kept trying to run and would get frustrated each time I injured myself due to a slightly uneven gait or experienced an MS exacerbation from pushing myself too hard.

This experience pushed me to rethink my goals and let running a marathon go. And I have no regret or disappointment for not having done it. With so many other goals I want to experience, I will never run out of things to fill the list.

Going through phases: I like trying new things, focusing on learning them well over a period of time, and then moving on to a new project. I don’t think of this approach as giving up or having not liked them enough. I just get what I needed or wanted at the time from the experience, and I then can use my free time for learning something new. On to the next Life List goal…