The Alternative Bucket List

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What are the must-do things of life?

Have you made a Bucket List? It’s a list of all the things you want to do, see and achieve before you, er, kick the bucket. Are these the things that really give life its spice? Or is there another way to live life to the max?

Kick the bucket. Not the nicest expression for shuffling off this mortal coil, cashing your chips in, turning up daisies. You’ve got to pity second-language English speakers. How many ways of avoiding saying ‘die’ can we come up with?

Even if you haven’t gone to the bother of writing it down yet, you’ve probably got a few things chalked up in the back of your mind that you’d like to do before your time’s up.

I’ve swum with dolphins, so I can cross that off the list.
Have a couple of babies. Check.
Write a book. Working on that one.
I guess I really ought to go to the opera at some point.
I’d really like to see penguins in their natural environment.
I’d like to visit Japan.
Learn to speak Russian.
Learn the piano and to horse-ride. (Not at the same time).

Those are a few thoughts off the top of my head. You’ll notice there’s no abseiling, skydiving, or mountaineering on my list. Perhaps I should add ‘get over a fear of heights’.

What are the things that you believe would make your life feel more complete? Things you’d love to do? Fly helicopters? Lead crusades in Africa? Walk to the North Pole?

It seems rather unfortunate that fulfilling the common Bucket List ideas usually requires at least one of two things: time and money. For most of us at least one, if not both, of these are in short supply.

I’ve swum right under a killer whale, walked on a tightrope over the Niagara falls and eaten the world’s hottest curry. Wow, what a night.

And here’s another thing. Are these the events or achievements that truly decorate the tapestry of our lives? Do they make our lives any richer? Or are quite a lot of them simply for the bragging rights?

Go ahead, plan to live big, go everywhere and eat every weird thing under the sun. Travel broadens the mind, I give it the big thumbs up. (And I’ve flown EasyJet too).

But I suspect there’s a rather more vital Bucket List that comes with no bragging rights whatsoever. Just a rather lovely twinkle in the eye.

When you meet someone for the first time, you might possibly be impressed that they discovered the tomb of Timetickenhamun, they’ve just taken their family Butchers business global or that they’ve lived with an obscure tribe from the North of England who only speak Mancunian for many years, weaving baskets out of excess beard hair. But what you’re really looking for is hidden in their eyes, and not on their résumé. Well, at least I hope so. Mind you, I’m the first person to be impressed by decorative beard baskets.

Here’s my question:

What’s really important to accomplish in life? What’s truly impressive in another human being?

Perhaps my Alternative Bucket List might look something like this:

Alternative Bucket List

- Learn how to hang onto my good mood when a loved one is in a vile mood and taking it out on me. (Bah.)
- How to say “No” when I mean no, without feeling guilty and without being unkind. (Eek.)
- Drive in one-lane traffic behind the world’s slowest driver without ranting. Even a bit.
- Be as good a friend to friends who are a bit rubbish really, as I am to those who treat me really well.
- Make as big a deal of it when my kids are playing nicely as I do when they are kicking off.
- Do something impressive and not feel the need to mention it.
- Be able to watch someone making a mess of something I could do much better, and cheer them on without getting irritated.
- Stop trying to control everything.
- To have kind eyes and wrinkles that show I’ve smiled more than I’ve frowned.
- Stop complaining about people’s faults and love them as they are without needing them to change. (Kill me now.)
- Prioritize important things at the expense of urgent things, instead of the other way round. (But the urgent things are so screamy and in-your-face and the important things so restrained and patient.)

Scaling the mountains of small things

They all sound quite small don’t they? Not exactly scaling Everest or raising a million pounds for charity.

But I guess this is where the rubber hits the road in relationships. It’s in these petty issues of everyday life. In the knee-jerk reactions. In the thousand paper cuts. That’s how we learn how to love.

If I want to have kind eyes and wrinkles that show I’ve smiled more than I’ve frowned. If I want to really love, it means a nerve-wracking, sweaty, daily abseil down the dizzying heights of my pride and ego into, ha, death to self.

Oh I see. With the Alternative Bucket List you die every day, and that’s where you find life. Youch.

You don’t need money for the Alternative Bucket List. And you’ve got plenty of time in the everyday moments of life at the kitchen sink, Sunday morning church services and bedtimes that go on and on. You’ll never win an award for success with this kind of list but I daresay you’ll always have friends.

I’ll leave you with some wise words from the apostle Paul and Huey Lewis.

First Paul:
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3 NIV)

And then Huey Lewis:
“You don't need money, don't take fame
Don't need no credit card to ride this train
It's strong and it's sudden and it's cruel sometimes
But it might just save your life
That's the power of love.”

Here’s to us each of us finding the true meaning of life before we kick the bucket. I salute you friends.

Right, I’m off to rollerskate to South America… just keep those slow drivers out of my way.