Monday 7 August 2017

It's the Timing

When I see that someone has a bucket list, my heart sinks.

It isn't that I don’t think a bucket list is a great idea, a positive goal, a healthy outlook, a wholesome, exciting way to spend time, and money, even. No, it's because nine times out of ten, the person who's written the bucket list has been given a horrendous medical diagnosis and my heart goes out to them.

The bucket list is great, it's the diagnosis I have a problem with.

So I say, go ahead, absolutely, have a bucket list! Fill it with things you'd like to do ranging from reading a book a week, to crossing Niagara Falls on a zip wire, if that's an ambition. No combinations of zip wires and waterfalls for me, by the way, I like to keep a foot or a wheel in contact with the ground at all times, don't care for pursuits which are too heavily dependent on the peaks and troughs of the environment. This might sound a little narrow minded but it is based on the experience of too many hospitals in too many countries, not to mention a few, but memorable, excursions over tiny ridges in howling gales when, I'm pleased to say, we've survived, only for my husband to say, 'When you look back though, it was a great buzz wasn't it?' And for me to smile sweetly and say, 'No, it wasn't.' Anyway, that's me, I digress. Bucket lists are about our own personal dreams and goals and my only problem with them is this.

It's the timing.

It's human nature. I get it. But all these things people say are true - we really don’t know what's around the corner. Disease is mostly indiscriminate. We've seen it in the news. From the most celebrated celebrities to our mum or our neighbour or our best friend, people get poorly. We could all get poorly at any time. One day you're at work, next day your meeting with your GP or the consultant to be told the results. And then it starts: the rest of your life. A different life. It doesn't have to be any less rich, truly. But it may be shorter than you had dared to hope it might be.

So why, at this point, do we strangely complicated species we call human beings, why only now do we first write the bucket list of things we need to do before we die? When time is shortened, when ill health may cut our income, when our weeks are punctuated with hospital visits and, let's be honest, the side effects of the treatments might not always make us inclined to climb Kilimanjaro, rather watch a day of films instead – which, by the way, if I had a bucket list, would be right up the top. I've never done it. I'd like to do it once.

I think we wait because we're generally selfless beings. We grow up with this admirable notion that we shouldn't put ourselves first. Everyone and everything (including cleaning the bathroom, paying the bills, watering the garden and that pesky thing called work… and that's before we even begin to consider our commitments to our loved ones) should be prioritised above our own wishes. We hope that one day we'll have more time, and then we'll have the luxury of putting ourselves first.

Being selfless is a wonderful trait. I'll go further and say that I'm not drawn to selfish people. Even a hefty dose of hedonism I struggle with a little, when family and friends are left at home, missing out to provide for the hedonist among them.

But since when is doing something you enjoy actually selfish? So long as it doesn't negatively impact on anyone else, I say it's nothing more than living a fulfilling life and rejoicing that you have life. I'd even go so far as to say that far from being selfish, living our lives to the full is being grateful for the gift of life and not taking it for granted. It would be rude not to…

So have a bucket list! Keep it with you, prioritise it, tick things off and add new items to it. Make it personal. Make it full of the things you want to do, not the things you feel you should do. But do it now!

Because none of us know what's around the corner.

I'm Going to be Here

I'm looking forward to being involved in Feva, the Knaresborough Arts Festival 2017, in its 21st year, on Tuesday 15th August at 7pm. Please join us for a Q&A and book signing, or rather, a big chat with a spot of wine. 
I sincerely love meeting and chatting with readers so do please come and say hello if you live anywhere in or close to these northern climes. 

And I had a great time here...
Many thanks to the multi-talented computer fixer, dad extraordinaire, all round funny guy, chef and photographer, Stuart Lawrence, for the photos from Newark Lit Fest in July. I had a giggle chatting with Cathy Bramley and Eve Makis to the lovely Tina Bettison and a lively, engaged and very knowledgeable audience. Thanks so much to all who attended.