Reference to “bucket lists,” lists of things a person wants to do before dying, seem to be trending these days, especially for any of us well beyond middle age. They sometimes include things better suited for the young, sky diving, bungee jumping, Appalachian Trail hiking, cross country biking, etc. Those all involve some danger so perhaps the risk is perceived as less when there are fewer years remaining. Or maybe it is just a matter of finally having time for some long desired project.
Some bucket lists contain much less risky items such as seeing the Great Wall of China or learning a new language or even getting a college degree. Maybe a tour with the Peace Corp. It is never too late to learn some new tricks or broaden one’s understanding of the world we live in, especially if one can be of assistance while doing so.
I would be hard pressed to come up with a “bucket list’ and find myself more often thinking of a “trash can list,” activities or interests or equipment that I really need to give up. This doesn’t have much to do with plans for dying but just with common sense. It could be something for which improvement has ceased or boredom has set in, things such as, in my case, snow skiing, golf, home maintenance, running, and maybe, eventually, lifelong loves, boating and fishing.
The first deposit in my personal “trash can” was more than twenty years ago. After a perfect day of amateurish and clumsy snow skiing in the Colorado Mountains, several feet of packed powder on a warmish early spring day, nothing but blue sky above, I said to myself, “That is it. I will never top this day. Twisted joints and broken bones are much more likely.” And I came home and got rid of my skis and boots and associated paraphernalia. I still have my golf clubs, but, having failed ten years ago to move my handicap below 20 to earn a new set, they are in a virtual trash can in the attic awaiting a trip to Habitat ReStore for donation.
Ten years ago when we moved from a country lot on a pond to a townhouse in the city, I thought I was tossing home and yard maintenance and repairs into the trashcan. That was almost true for the yard part, but home repairs and upgrades still seem to require lots of time, always increasing. At least the seven or eight small gasoline powered yard maintenance tools are gone. That was the point at which I began volunteering for Home Works of America and found that repairing the homes of the elderly poor was a lot more satisfying than working on my own.
I was never a jock and never had any athletic skill but started running for exercise, thinking (similar to meditation), and weight control in 1973, starting with short trips of 100 paces running alternated with 100 paces walking, peaking in 1979 with my first and only marathon (3 Hrs., 43 Min) after training 40 miles a week for 52 weeks, and tapering down to little to none by 2012 when average time per mile had increased from 8 minutes to 12. Biking and walking replaced running. Maybe around age 80 the two wheel recumbent bicycle I love and ride about 3000 miles per year will have to be replaced with a three wheel version. By age 90, driver’s license probably gone, I will hopefully still be walking and able to get to the grocery store three blocks from the townhouse. My 95 year old mother gave up driving at 88 and walking at 94.
Fishing and boating have been constants throughout my life, but all the boats, even the last kayak, have gone to the trash can, recently followed by six of twelve fishing rigs cluttering up the garage. But, I did hike into the Congaree Swamp for some fishing a couple of times this month. Caught a few fish too.
I have learned some useful new tricks, some from three retirement years at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, some from volunteering at a social service agency, some from repairing homes in very bad shape, some from the Protestant to Catholic process, and some from managing websites on Google and WordPress, three of them for non-profits at which I volunteer. None of those post retirement activities were on any bucket list. Nor were the blogs, permanentfixes.com and lastofall.net. Whether currently judged good or poor, the writing and thinking have improved some with the seven years of effort resulting in more than 600 blog posts.
I guess if there is anything on my bucket list, it would be general in nature and have to do with finding new opportunities to serve and learn, to be useful in some way.
The worst thing is to have neither bucket list nor trash can but to be stuck in and clinging to the past, watching the crumbling and rot and decay and dust accumulation on all the things we were and did and no longer are or cannot do but remain unwilling to give up. I guess the bottom line is that we all need both buckets and trash cans to be able to deal effectively with change and remain relevant, to continually reinvent ourselves.
One final word: Every bucket list should contain two items: Declutter everything and keep a strong up-to-date will in place. Nobody wants their survivors to have to deal with failure in those two areas. And always be prepared to answer, without hesitation, the question, “What’s on your bucket list?” even if the answer is, “Not a thing!”