Beyond the Bucket List

Do you have a goal? Is there something that you’ve set your sights on that you are working towards, that you intend to get to, come what may? Certainly, there are those Ultra-Achievers out there who succeed because they are always setting goals for themselves. But what about those lesser souls who literally struggle from day to day?

My New Year resolutions have become boring. Too often, they’re the same old thing, year after year – lose weight, read more, write more, stick to an exercise routine. In fact, I reluctantly admit that there are many times I have to re-commit each day! What is it that makes some people more committed, more dedicated, more persevering than others? I’d sure like to know!

This train of thought led me to wondering just what it is I feel in my heart that I must accomplish before I die? What if I were told I had six months to live? What would I do? How would that change what I am doing today?  When Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman starred in the movie The Bucket List, I think they created quite a stir within many people. So often, we go through life worrying about the immediate problems we encounter every day, that we take very little time to find peace and joy and true meaning in what we do. I think that movie caused many of us to wonder what things we wanted to do before we died. I did. In fact, I started a bucket list. It caused me to stop and assess what is truly important to me in my life.

I guess I want to suggest that you consider going one step beyond the bucket list, though. To me, beyond the places I might like to visit, or things I’d like to do, there is another level, a spiritual level if you will indulge me. Is your “house” in order? If not, do you feel a need to put it in order? Is there a greater goal you might have besides running your very first marathon? If you knew that you would be dead in six months, is there something you would change or do differently? Could you say today “I’m ready” with confidence?

I would like to suggest that the goal is not likely to be the same for everyone. For an alcoholic, it might simply be making it through one more day alcohol-free. For someone else, it may be starting a foundation to help African children with AIDS. I’m urging you to set your sights on a goal that is meaningful to you, and to keep moving towards it, whether you reach it or not. Perhaps promising yourself to do one kind thing for another human being every single day is your aim. The very fact that you continue to strive toward that goal – in spite of negative or unreceptive individuals – is what is really important. It is the journey – all of its ups and all of its downs –  and how you deal with those highs and lows that keeps you growing, that makes you a better person, and that takes you to the place where you can finally say, ”I’ve done what I can do. I am ready.” Making a bucket list, however, is a good place to start, and then spending some quiet time just – between you and God.

Grasping the Moment

I’m wasting time. I’m procrastinating. I’m avoiding. I have many things to do, and yet I continue to waste time. What is wrong with me?

There are so many reasons why I should not be behaving this way. Coincidentally perhaps, I am reading a book about a man who is dying of cancer. He knows it, and he is using every available moment to make the greatest impact. I have a friend who is consumed with a cause that has become her life. She, too, uses every available minute in the day. Another friend lives his Christianity every single day as though, for him, there will be no tomorrow.

I’ve begun to realize how short life is and how, all too often, death or illness reroute the lives of those around us. I’ve met prisoners who long for release to start over, and wait impatiently, their chance to begin doing things right. I really do recognize the importance of every single hour in the day.

It isn’t as though I have nothing important to do. I simply cannot seem to focus, to concentrate, or to commit myself to anything. I feel stalled in something like a time warp, and as the clock ticks on, my stress mounts, though the paralysis continues. I’m overwhelmed by all there is to do. I don’t read quickly enough…I can’t type quickly enough…I can’t complete projects that I won’t sit down to focus on!

I’m anxious today and restless. I want to be driven and consumed. I want to make a difference in this life. But I also realize I am comparing myself to others. Long ago I realized that there will always be better, stronger, smarter, more athletic, as well as others with less. I know that kind of thinking is not productive. I must work with what I have.

Well, at least I am writing this. One day, one thing at a time. Some days, I guess, one thing is all that is possible. Perhaps Twelve-Steppers have the right idea. More than one day can, at times, be overwhelming. May we all move forward, one moment at a time.

God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

To Trust or Not to Trust

I took a long weekend to attend a reunion and visit with friends. On the drive home, reflecting on the many conversations, I wondered if there had been any kind of central theme to the weekend.  Distrust and trust are what came to mind.

Several female friends related stories of why they no longer trust men. And of course, there were numerous discussions over our growing cynicism and mistrust of religion and politics. I was able to visit a friend in prison who relayed stories of reasons why he either trusts or distrusts staff. My cynicism over the growing LACK of excellence within the prison system was reconfirmed when I arrived for the start of visiting hours, and finally got in to see my friend an hour and a half later. I recognized in too many anger and hurt and refusal to be hurt again. Sadly, I noticed people who have less joy in life because they hold grudges or spend their time licking wounds they won’t allow to heal.

One friend has been highly dedicated to a particular cause. She is learning to trust and to believe in herself as she forges on with her campaign. I experienced renewed appreciation for having grown up with loving parents. I think, because of that, I have learned to trust people more and to believe more strongly in them as valuable human beings.

Perhaps one of the most striking statements I heard this weekend came from my prisoner friend. He was telling me how some young prisoners have asked him how he has survived for thirty years plus in prison. He told me he replies:  “I have friends…and I have God. “ Perhaps trust would come more easily to the rest of us if we were able to say the same.

Enough of Comfort Zones!

Enough. I never feel that I’m enough. Long ago I realized that there will always be weaker and stronger, mentally challenged and highly intellectual, fearful and bold. I fall somewhere in the middle on every count.

While I no longer feel that I have to prove anything to anyone, I continue to question whether or not I’m living up to my potential. Am I applying my best efforts to all I do? Am I learning? Am I growing? Could I be better than I am?

The answer to the first three questions – from somewhere deep inside – is most often “not enough.” The last question is always answered with a yes.

So, how do I get to be better? I need to learn. I need to grow. I should begin by learning something new each day. I should challenge myself to move beyond my comfort zone. I should read more and write more, and pray more and love more.

Maybe the answer to my dilemma is that none of us is ever enough because there is always room to grow.

Starting now, I resolve to stray from my comfort zone. Beginning today I will challenge myself to do something I haven’t done before – each day. I feel the need to grow, to be better, to do better. How about you? Would you like to join me on this journey?