Monday, January 11, 2010

Bucket List - 2010

What are you looking forward to?

Although it is raining outside tonight, the weather in this brand-new year has not been excessively rainy. And the snow has managed to make only the briefest of appearances. Despite the gloom and gray of threatening skies, there must be a reason why this time of year causes me to think about my "bucket list". While it seems a strange and somewhat morbid fascination, or even addiction, I find a growing excitement when contemplating what might be struck from that list in the year ahead.

If you remember the Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman movie (The Bucket List), the 2 main characters recognized their mortality and realized that time was inevitably running out. What does one do when one faces that reality? Some would sigh and bemoan the fact that they cannot do everything they would like before they "kick the bucket". Others would simply ignore the reality of the clock winding down, effectively denying the inevitable, and continue to live life in the same fashion as it had been lived before. But, recognizing the value of the time we have to live, some of us make a "bucket list".

Whatever "kick the bucket" originally meant, and whatever one believes about the afterlife, there is certainly merit in those of us with Parkinson's disease asking the question, "what do I want to do now that I may not be able to do in the future?" In my experience, and I expect and that of others, there are a multitude of rather phenomenal benefits that occur from answering this question and then working on the resulting list.

The first benefit is that one's priorities are committed to writing.  In many cases the real important things in life are not written down. This is what triggers the imagination of the characters in the movie. The really important stuff of living is often subverted to the urgent or obligatory demands that confront us daily. Somehow it seems selfish to answer the question, "What is really important to me?"  But what could be more important than asking and answering that question?

Secondly, making and pursuing a bucket list gives one focus, a sense of priority, something to look forward to.  Rather than simply anticipating the inevitable deterioration of our physical and mental functioning, we can concentrate on living life to the fullest, as may to some extent be defined by our circumstances, but is often most limited by our choices. This exercise gives purpose beyond the daily regime we often fall into, rather than choose.

Thirdly, you can take it from me, and others who have pursued marking items off their own bucket lists, that the enjoyment and sense of achievement is thrilling. It leaves a legacy of stories to tell and encouragement for others to reach beyond their comfort zone into a land of hopes and dreams that can come true. I have found that my list has grown even as I have checked off items each year. And with it my desire to seize the day. Carpe diem! Some of my friends with Parkinson's have grasped this rallying cry, making it their solemn commitment in the fight against the corrosive effects of the disease. Every goal accomplished is a strike against the our opponent.

Fourthly, but not finally as there are too many results to discuss here, by listing the items our hearts desire we can begin to see how very much there is that we can do, instead of focusing on what we cannot do. It is in this way that we can defeat the enemy of hopelessness that so often hides in the shadows of this disease that seeks to take from us the life we had, and thought we would have.

Go around the world. Visit friends or relatives or the home you have not seen since you were a child. Write a book. Skydive or scuba dive. Go to Antarctica. Get a degree. Learn a new art, hobby, skill or language. Climb a mountain (not me!).  What are you really looking forward to this year?


  1. We are REALLY looking forward to your coming round the world to visit us!!

  2. Hi Bob,
    Great topic. This year I signed up for a drawing and painting course. My handwriting is dwindling so the thought of brilliant colours on a canvas seems pretty appealling. Looking forward.....
    Brenda (soon to be) Van Gogh

  3. Bob you are fantastic and this site is everything I wish one of mine was....Keep up the good work and keep in touch love Pokie

  4. Thanks, Pokie. As tomorrow, January 19 is my 4th anniversary of diagnosis, very encouraging.


  5. Bruce Bane who has frontal lobe dementia has a blog and he tackled this same topic. I like his conclusion. You might check out his blog. What a man. Even living in a nursing home he won over 30 ribbons at the fair with his photography and garden produce. He writes poetry and songs, and has impacted my life through his blog tremendously.