January 12, 2016 – A time comes in most people’s lives – usually around a mid-life birthday, a New Year, or a time when someone close to us dies – when we make a bucket list, things we want to do before we “kick the bucket.”
When I have done this in the past, I have focused largely on new ideas: “What would be fun to do before I go? Visit Machu Pichu? Learn to surf? Build a house off the grid (but close to town)?” But what about looking back?
When I was 16, I watched my mother trying to bring new purpose to her later life, and failing. I made a vow then never to stop growing and never to live my life with regrets. Being human, regrets still slip in from time to time, just to say hello. This last time around, I discovered that the mere act of making a bucket list can be a powerful way to dispel regrets quickly and easily.
Here’s the twist…
In shamanic practice we know that nightmares and recurring dreams can be dispelled by “dreaming a better ending.” We finish in an authentic way what the dream began. The same can be done with a bucket list. Instead of asking, as I did, “What would be cool to do before I die?” we can ask, “What would be cool to do now, that I was unable to do or finish before?”
For example, I carry a whole story with me from my high school chemistry class, way back when, where I missed the opportunity to experiment with breeding tropical fish (and nearly flunked the class) because I was too shy to propose my project to the teacher. I can’t go back to give my teenage self a stronger voice, but I can breed the fish. I can play in that way now, do something I have wanted to try for a long time, and “dream” a better ending to that unfinished piece of my life. I have voice now – that piece is settled – all that’s left is to do the project for the joy of doing it in itself. Who knows what will happen, but one thing is certain – I will have taken an opportunity I failed to take before, as small as it is, and that action somehow turns a story of a life failure into a mere reflection of how I was as a kid and how I have grown into elderhood.
I have had no problem creating a list of items I have wanted to try or take to completion at some point in my life, but never did. They are worthy goals. And as I look through the list with the intention of just playing or exploring each of these paths as I live out my life, the future suddenly looks bright and like one heck of a lot of fun!
No regrets, no failure. Simply learning and growing and taking new opportunities to follow the passions that have been calling to me throughout my life.
Perhaps you have always looked at the bucket list in this way. If so, in spite of my vow, you are likely to be further along the path of living without regrets than I. Congratulations! May each of us find our life well-lived before we kick the bucket.