Reverse Bucket List

Recently, my friend mentioned a book or a podcast she had listened to that introduced the notion of a “reverse bucket list.” My ears perked up because a bucket list was never on my agenda, but this sounded interesting. So, I went looking.

I didn’t find exactly what she heard, but I did find a great little article on this idea from Angela Labonte, who wrote a post in the Hebrew Senior Life Blog. And I learned more about Hebrew Senior Life, the only senior care organization affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Moreover, it is where they conduct influential research and train more than 1000 students each year.

My curiosity was piqued, and I had to keep reading. Honestly, I was blown away by the variety of living communities and the diversity of incomes that they accept. But I digress. I really want to write about the reverse bucket list. Yikes!

Let’s start with the definition:

A “reverse bucket list” starts with the gratitude we find in examining our previous accomplishments and fulfilling experiences. “ As opposed to a bucket list that is full of “aspirational experiences you hope to accomplish in your lifetime. There is nothing wrong with bucket lists; many people have them, and I, too have things I would love to do.

A reverse bucket list is a different idea. Rather, like Oliver Burkeman suggests, we keep a done list rather than a to-do list. I like that too. Both of these, paradoxically, can remind us of our important purposes in day-to-day life.

When I asked my mother what her best birthday was on her 80th birthday, she unhesitatingly said, “This one.”

“Why,” I asked.

“It’s all been so much better than I could have imagined,” she replied.

And that is one of the benefits of looking back at things you have done and accomplished and seeing them with fresh eyes. Imagine all that we got to do up to this very moment – this or this or this… gratitude bubbles up, along with those memories.

Simon Sinek, a well-known author, speaker, and thought leader, has a short video I just discovered on a reverse bucket list, and for him, it is the gratitude aspect that makes the difference.

Reverse Bucket List

To write a reverse bucket list, we might need a little reflection time to recall important events, milestones, people, moments, travel, volunteering, and accomplishments we are proud of and that we like.  But I decided to jump in right now with you.  Whatever comes to my mind in these next few minutes, I will write it down.

  1. I took an unannounced 45-mile (72 Km) bike trip when I was 13/14. I was in big trouble with my parents, but still look back on it with pride and pleasure.
  2. I received the entire collection of Carolyn Keene mystery books at Christmas when I was 10. I was over the moon.
  3. I am lucky to have had the sweetest and best teacher on earth, a nun, Mother St Janet Marie.
  4. Being introduced to poetry by my mother at a very young age and having one teacher after another who watered and nurtured my predisposition towards poetry, which continues to be a source of significant inspiration and solace today.
  5. I fell asleep in the car while my father drove long distances on holidays. I recall loving the sensation of drifting off.
  6. I loved being old enough to walk to midnight Mass at Christmas with my family on a cold, crisp winter night.
  7. My medical team, when I was diagnosed with cancer and was lucky enough to know a significant number of things that would help me go through it.
  8. Learning to fly a plane – imagine – ( a Cessna 152, and I did my solo.)
  9. I cycled the 300 km Cabot Trail two years after my last treatment. I could challenge myself at 65 in an unlikely way, yet I did it. And it was significant.
  10. I moved to Ottawa to be part of the everyday life of my youngest grandchildren. I could never have predicted it, and I will always be grateful that I did this.
  11. Walking the Nakasendo Way in Japan with friends. Hard to imagine.
  12. Meeting Dr. Itami and Japanese friends in Asia and on this continent. Thanks to whom I have my life’s work. Unimaginable what had to come together for that to happen.
  13. Getting to see the sunrise on Haleakala.
  14. I saw the sunrise on Gabriola Island for my son’s birthday last July.
  15. Getting to live where I live is a miracle.
  16. Flying to Vancouver last Dec to bake cookies for my son and daughter-in-law. How lucky that I got to do that.
  17. Seeing the full moon from my bedroom window and the red cardinal through the window in my study.
  18. Most days I have owned my Toyota – 5475 days, it starts when I turn the key. Recently, it didn’t because I left my flashers on for two full days. But that was an operator error.
  19. And friends and family peppered across the world. People I cherish and I am in touch with. People I love, and they love me. What it has taken for me to know all these precious humans?
  20. I saw and held my twin great granddaughters in Calgary last month while I watched my grandson and his wife as parents. Mind-blowingingly wonderful.

You can see there is no end to this, both big and small. I won the Mother lottery the kid and grandkid lottery. I am still breathing, standing, walking, thinking, writing, teaching, laughing, getting to participate and contribute in life, and meeting people I could not have imagined in advance. All this beauty and wonder and significance. I meet amazing people in my workshops and programs and through this blog. I could write for days and fill tablets with everything I have seen and done. It is unbelievable. And this is just a first look.

What this short exercise does for me is show me, with just a sprinkling of my life moments, how amazing it has been.  And it reminds me that I want more of this. The desire for life is strong. And it goes fast. I don’t want to waste it doing the things that aren’t meant for me to do.

And yes, there are things that I would love to do,  but if they don’t happen for reasons out of my control, it will be ok. I get to enjoy, now,  thinking about the possibilities. And I get to see how so many unexpected and unremarkable tiny events brought me to where I am right now, exactly where I want to be.

Now that I have done a dry run, I will do this a few times. It was a lovely exercise in remembering and a reminder that I still want to do things while I am still breathing. And that I can do them right where I am.

Maybe some of you will try it? It is a heartwarming thing to do. Even the little I did with you has inspired me – how I want to spend my time.

Notes:

1:) Simon Sinek short video

2:) “Everybody is Talented, Original, and Has Something Important to Say” Brenda Ueland

3:) “We’re just humans: flawed and beautiful and longing for love. ” Susan Cain, from her book Bittersweet

4:) The photos are from a recent stroll in my neighbourhood. The more unusual one with grays and blacks caught my attention because it looks like the outline of a woman with a hat and a gown. It was part reflection in the remaining water in the canal after they drained most of it, coupled with the discolouration of the canal walls. It intrigued me.

5:) Thank you a thousand times for stopping by. It is a gift to me. May you all have moments of joy, meaning and love.  Warmly, Trudy

 

Trust in Life and do our part

Trust in Life

I have a great trust in life against all odds, even though I see that life isn’t always fair – sometimes not in my favour and many times in my favour. Furthurmore, I don’t believe for a second that things always turn out for the best. Even though, like my Mother, I think there is a high probability that something better is around the corner. It seems to me that our will has serious limitations. On occasion, like the Greeks, I am convinced that destiny has a very big hand in my life. Every so often, we are stretched beyond our capacity and don’t always learn from our mistakes. Still, I unequivocally trust life. Whatever that means.

It is not just a sense, but it is my experience. I am trying to say that for every challenge, even if I am not up to it, someone or something is there to accompany me along that narrow, rocky ledge. I rediscover and strengthen my resilience and perseverance through the company of others. Frequently, those others are not anyone that I have met. Yet, through their writing, I find something that resonates and inspires.  Furthurmore, in 77 years, I know from experience that this is true for me. Especially when I get it all wrong, I can still keep walking, one foot in front of the other.

Anything can happen

Life is messy, complex and unpredictable. Anything can happen at any time to anyone. So, my wish has always been to have the strength, courage,  adaptability, and kindness to respond to the needs of the situation.  Sometimes I am up for it, and sometimes I am not. That, too, is part of the human condition. We never ignore the inevitable problems of being alive but understand at a fundamental level that learning to meet the problems as they are and change what can be changed is good mental and physical health. Also, to recognize our great good fortune to have people to love who love us back, meaningful things to do, and the awareness to spot joy and beauty wherever we are. Even better,  to cast our net wide and scatter moments of joy through our smiles and small courtesies to others.

This past week, I have experienced beautiful moments that caused my heart to flutter. They are here in my photos. Yet, an important thing to recognize is that they may not resonate with you at all, even though my heart skips a beat when I spy these moments through my lens. Each of us is attracted to beauty in our own way. And we get to discover what that is by noticing what grabs our attention.

Notes

1:) Musicians that those of you in my webinars and programs already heard this month, but having fallen in love with this family, I want you all to meet them. The Kanneh-Mason siblings. All seven of them are brilliant and classically trained musicians from the UK. Here is a Bob Marley piece they arranged called Redemption.

2:) A tiny poem by yung pueblo from his book Clarity and Connection

“know your sources of rejuvenation

the amount of solitude you need to feel fresh again

the activities that strengthen your creativity

the people who light up your spirit.”

3:) I appreciate each and everyone of you soooooooooo much. Thank you for showing up here and recommending me to others. I have the loveliest readers to be found anywhere. Best wishes to you all. As always, Trudy

PS: Thanks to my poet friend Jan Falls, I found a new quote.

In difficult times, carry something beautiful in your heart.–Blaise Pascal

 

Stopping to Notice

On Sunday, I took a long walk on a glorious day. I went out looking for beauty, particularly the last hurrah of the ginkgo trees. I had no destination in mind, just moodling along. Thus, I wandered along the Rideau Canal through the farmer’s market and past the bare branches of the ginkgos. I unhurriedly chased the light, and when I spotted these shore birds, I took the stairs down to Colonel By Drive to get a closer look.  These ordinary gulls are nothing special, yet I found them interesting and stopped to watch how the light caught their feathers and produced reflections, which gave me pause to stop, stare and admire.

I thought about one of my reader’s comments referring to last week’s post where he wrote this – “…I am reminded of the metaphor of using a torch (I think you call them flashlights!) when we go out into darkness. We then see things in the torchlight. Those things we see were always there, but we didn’t see them until we shone the light. We all have a torch – we just don’t remember to turn it on!”

It was with this in mind that I wandered last Sunday. Shining the flashlight of my attention over the landscape and cityscape. I spent about three hours, and when I returned, I felt renewed. While the weather is reasonable, I suggest these kinds of meanderings. Take time to get lost right where you are. See your neighbourhood with new eyes. If we were to take a holiday, we would do just that – playful, restful, carefree wanderings.  So why not right where we are?

Notes:

1:) A little joy with these kids and Playing for Change music video – Celebration

2:) This is a new quote to me about doing things you love. Thanks to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, and his weekly newsletter. “

Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello calls you to find what grips your soul: (some similarities with ikigai)

“You must cultivate activities that you love. You must discover work that you do, not for its utility, but for itself, whether it succeeds or not, whether you are praised for it or not, whether you are loved and rewarded for it or not, whether people know about it and are grateful to you for it or not. How many activities can you count in your life that you engage in simply because they delight you and grip your soul? Find them out, cultivate them, for they are your passport to freedom and to love.”

3:) My little bird is one of many I showed you last year at this time; it is so commonplace, and yet, there is such a beautiful chorus when they are together.

4:) Just a short little visit with you tonight. I hope you are doing well and making memories for yourself and others. Enjoy your days. Thank you for coming by here and sending me encouraging words. How lucky am I!

 

A Shower of Colour

Banner Photo thanks to  Autumn Mott Rodeheaver on Unsplash

Thirty Seconds of Awe

Yesterday, I stepped outside close to 7:00 AM and was gently showered with beautiful leaves swirling down.  I looked up; it was like a translucent cloud, filled with leaves and was now spilling them from the sky. It was an extraordinary and indescribable 20-30 seconds of a leaf-fall, and then it was over. I had never experienced this before, and I was awestruck, and, furthurmore, I was immediately filled with delight. All smiles as I climbed into my cold car.

Before I went outside, I was not feeling much joy; on the contrary, I talked to myself about what I could do to brighten November. And just like that, an unexpected gift changed my day.  Another reason to step outside.

One can’t plan for these experiences. After all, I have lived here for almost 14 years, and this really was a once-in-a-lifetime event for me. However, we increase our chances of witnessing nature’s beauty when we take our bodies outdoors. And something about the morning seems filled with a particular kind of wonderfulness –  light, air quality, fewer cars.

“For most of us, knowledge of our world comes largely through sight, yet we look about with such unseeing eyes that we are partially blind. One way to open your eyes to unnoticed beauty is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”
Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Awesomeness of Our Fellow Humans

Since I seem to be writing about awe, I have to say that even beyond nature’s magnificence is the unequivocal awesomeness of our fellow humans. I know it is easy to miss when the news is filled with the horror and corruption of our fellow humans, but we must remind ourselves that kindness is rampant in the world. When I look at my direct experience,  I am repeatedly awestruck by the consistent kindness of people in my/our lives.

Dachner Keltner, the author of the book Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life, learned this in his research –  “What most commonly led people around the world to feel awe? Nature? Spiritual practice? Listening to music? In fact, it was other people’s courage, kindness, strength, or overcoming.”
In November, which is a challenging month for me, as I adapt to the dark and the cold, I have invited myself to shine the light of my attention on the unnoticed beauty of these days and catch people doing kind things. Consequently, I hope to be able to say thanks more often and make specific notes every day in my journal on the beauty of the world around me and the beauty of the people who populate my life.

Notes

1:) The red mittens arrived yesterday; they’re a gift from my sister. I immediately wore them inside to warm up my cold hands; it was another unexpected gift at exactly the right moment. They are made from recycled wool clothing and are as cozy as they look. Thank you Gabriole.

2:) I confess to using lots of light in November – electrical and especially candlelight. Warm, colourful mittens and wool sweaters. All things bright and cozy.

3:) When we are living in difficult times, personally and worldly, it can be a challenge to find moments of joy. I love these words from Barbara Kingsolver –

“Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job or a limb or a loved one, a graduation, bringing a new baby home: it’s impossible to think at first how this all will be possible. Eventually, what moves it all forward is the subterranean ebb and flow of being alive among the living.

In my own worst seasons I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing:  a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.”

4:) Thank you for stopping by to read these musings. May those waiting for answers receive them, and may all of you spot those moments that bring you joy. Warmest wishes, Trudy

PS Problems with AWeber tonight, so if you didn’t receive this on Wed night, that is the reason. Hopefully, all will be back in order shortly after they open in the morning.

The Uncertainty of Not Knowing

Waiting for bad news

Getting bad news about our health can be devastating. Waiting to get the news from tests,  probes, and puzzled experts is fraught with anxiety and stress. Also, and especially when all we hear is “inconclusive – let’s just wait and see.”

In the meantime, the rash is now all over your body. The pain is worse. You can’t sleep. And you wonder if you will see your next Birthday. It is not only stressful and fearful; it gets to be embarrassing. The numerous calls to the Doctor, the visits to the emergency, and the tears falling unbidden are part and parcel of living with this kind of uncertainty. There is not much worse than waiting and waiting and waiting to see how bad the bad news is.

As bad as it feels at the time, it is part of the human experience. We were built for this, too. As nervous as it makes us, we can survive the waiting and the not knowing. But here’s the important thing. We don’t just sit by passively, hoping for the phone to ring. We do our investigation.

I know all the useless, if not harmful, information on the web. Nevertheless, that’s not all there is. I often will check out something on MD Anderson, the Mayo Clinic or other trusted sites. They have useful patient information that doesn’t scare you to death but can shed some light on a certain group of symptoms. We can also be the annoying patient once in a while and go see our Dr. yet again.

Playing an active role:

Learning to be proactive with our own health needs is not being a hypochondriac. Sometimes, we must keep knocking on doors to get to the bottom of the mystery. More importantly, while we play an active role and find different ways to sit and move and rest to minimize the pain and the fear, we can ask for the company of another human who we like. It’s great when that person is close at hand. But that is not always possible. Sometimes, we rely on words of comfort delivered by phone or text.

The relief of knowing:

Finally, the day comes when the bad news you were sure was coming arrives. The difference is that we now go into structured action. More tests get set up, additional appointments with specialists, and a course of treatment, if you are one of the fortunate ones, gets presented.

For some, no active treatment will be available. But there are still ways to improve the quality of life. The relief, even with the bad news, is this. “At least now I know what I’m up against.” How many times have I heard those words uttered through tears and fear? I think about those waiting to hear. My heart goes out to them.

If you are one of those people, there are so many suggestions I could offer while you wait. But I wouldn’t dream of writing them here as though “at least” you could do this. We honestly don’t know what it is like for person X  to live with this kind of uncertainty.

No advice giving

Well, maybe two exceptions. Play an active role. Turn over all the stones. Make the calls. Perhaps a second opinion is in order. Ask for company and/or help when you go to appointments. Even if you live alone, you don’t need to go through the whole thing by yourself.

OK. There is a second thing I want to say. Above all, when someone is waiting to hear, it isn’t helpful to say to them, “I’m sure it will all be okay. Don’t worry.” It is better to say something like –  “You must be very worried. I hope you get some answers. Can I do something to be helpful?” Or do something. A bouquet of sunflowers can help.

I know several people waiting for answers. I’m thinking of you and you and you. It’s amazing what we humans can sustain. How resilient our bodies are. How strong and resourceful we are. How our bodies want to help us get back to equilibrium.  And sometimes, we need to let the tears fall for a few minutes or a few days.

I have a poem written by Rosemerry Trommer where she writes about the waiting…

I can tell that she has been there, and that she is fully aware of what is not in her control.

Waiting the Diagnosis

I bow to the ache of it,
the deep inner eating
away at itself, I bow
to the shivers, the gooseflesh,
the waves of nausea and pain.
I bow to the unnamed,
to question, to dark.
And I bow to the fear
that swells in small spaces
and the vast quiet
that dissipates the fear.
I bow to every other human
who hurts and I bow
to the yellow flowers tonight
blooming in the muck
where the river used to be.
I bow to the ache, goddammit,
I bow to it, and I bow
to the reluctance to bow to it,
bow to the longing to shove
it all away, and I bow,
hush now, just bow.

 I leave you now with a small, gentle poem from a little-known poet whom I like.

In this time of waiting

and not knowing

how things will unfold,

may you find a pool of calm,

a place of peace and rest

deep within your soul.

by Nancy Gibbs Richards from A Small Steadying Sail of Love

Notes:

1:) Take heart.  And always be kind to yourself.

2:) A big shout out to those earth angels that always appear just in the nick of time to be the light and the strength for someone in need. You are the best, and you are everywhere.

3:) I wrote about this four years ago and wanted to re-use some of it today. Thinking of all of you waiting for answers. May they come soon. With kind thoughts and all my best wishes, Trudy (the banner photo is one I took this morning from my bedroom window. So beautiful.)

PS I forgot to mention last week that I am teaching a program during November at the ToDo Institute. For furthur information you are welcome to click here.

PPS Thanks always and forever for stopping by here. I appreciate you one and all. And last but not least, another shout out to all the wonderful people I spent time with in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer. You could not have been more welcoming, kind, or filled with encouraging words. A warm and deep bow to all.