My Pitiful Poor Empty Bucket List

Among my friends we’ve been talking about our bucket lists and I’m always embarrassed to admit that my current bucket list is empty.  In case you don’t know about the concept, it’s anything you want to do before you kick the bucket.  Many of my friends have a number of places they want to visit before they pass on, but I just don’t feel that way about travel.  I have eight weeks of unused vacation and enough money to fly anywhere in the world, but I just don’t have the desire to go anywhere.  Nor do I want to go skydiving or swim with dolphins or see the pyramids.  I’m not dying to do anything, and I wonder if I’m pitiful because of that.

I have to wonder if the fullness of people’s bucket lists are related to their age.  When you are young you feel desperate to do and see everything.  Because I don’t have much energy anymore, and I’ve got a lot of aches and pains, I just want to relax and kick back when the world is not being demanding.  The idea of flying to Paris sounds painful to me, even though I’d love to go there.  And I certainly wouldn’t want any more aches and pains by doing something foolish like sky diving.

No, at this time and condition in my life, I need to reevaluate the whole bucket list concept.  My wife tells me I’m too young to feel old, but I do.  Both mentally and physically.  I’m approaching my 59th birthday, which makes me think about the big six oh.  I really don’t believe 60 is the new 30.

Be that as it may, I do want to find things for my bucket list.  Even I would think I’d be too pathetic if it was empty.  But my current desires don’t really feel like bucket list items.  For about thirty years now I’ve wanted to lose weight.  I don’t need to be my skinny 27 year old self, when I weighed 155, but being under 200 would be a dream come true.  On the other hand I need to be careful what I wished for, because many conditions leading to kicking the bucket would bring on such weight loss.

There are destinations I could add to my bucket list, but they aren’t practical, like going to Mars, or time traveling back in time to June 16, 1967 to see the Monterey Pop Festival.  I do have one desire that’s semi-realistic.  I’ve always wanted to write a novel that got published.  Maybe I should alter that some, and put in my bucket list the desire to have a short story published.  Okay, I will.  That’s one item in my bucket list.

That’s the trouble with my desires, they all involved being accomplished at some skill.  I’ve never wanted anything involving plunking down some cash and just having it.  And many of my desires from youth were downright foolish, like wanting to play the guitar.  I have absolutely no musical talent.  I can’t hum a melody, I can’t even recite the lines to any of my favorite songs, so why wish to play the guitar?  Because I love hearing music.  Even now I have the urge to make number two on my bucket list to be able to play seven songs on the guitar well enough to be recognizable.

Like that will happen!  But what if it could?  Okay, number two on the bucket list is knowing my limitations and truly understanding them.

I’m not sure if the whole concept of the bucket list doesn’t belong to a certain kind of person, the thrill seeker.  When I was young I did a lot of things that could have gotten me killed or jailed, and I was lucky to keep my brain and body as intact as it is.  I have a lot of regrets, but they aren’t about places and activities I missed.  If I ended up on my deathbed tonight, the regrets I’d have about running out of time would be over my failure to be a better person.  And those details are not ones I’m ready to confess now.  There’s no place on the globe I can visit than can make me a better person.

But that’s another failure.  I’m too contemplative.  I can’t be a better person by thinking, only by doing.  Nor do I wish to imply I want to be a good person, that’s another trap like seeking thrills.

I’m not sure if life is about the cards in your hand, but how you play them.

JWH – 8/31/10

4 thoughts on “My Pitiful Poor Empty Bucket List”

  1. You might be right to some degree about the bucket list concept and thrill seekers, at least in the sense that I believe a lot of people who might do a bucket list would put adventurous things on their, like sky diving, etc.

    I don’t consider myself anti-adventure, but I certainly have no desire to sky dive, bungie jump, surf, learn to fly a plane, etc. It isn’t that I think those things wouldn’t be fun, heck, they’d be great and I may find myself doing those things some day were the opportunity to present itself, but it would not be because I have some desire to check that ‘adventure’ off a list of dreams.

    I do want to travel, but my traveling is almost entirely centered around the desire to see or experience places I’ve read about it books, seen in films, or associate with a story. And were I to visit those places: England, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, I would not want to do anything “touristy”. I’d want to hike on paths in nature, visit interesting pubs, sample local cuisine, find beautiful places to just sit and read and converse with my wife and just experience the atmosphere of the place. I wouldn’t want to try to cram all kinds of bus tours into it nor would I have much desire to visit the well traveled tourist sites.

    If I had a bucket list it would be filled with things like:

    Visit Uncle Monty’s books in Minneapolis

    Attend San Diego ComicCon

    Go to Star Wars Celebration

    I’d have some ‘adventurous’ stuff on there. I would love to scuba dive in some secluded place on a private tour. I’d love to spend a couple weeks in Hawaii, again, spending hours every day just snorkeling.

    Its funny, but I see most of my strong desires involving chances for me to relax, to read, to explore nature and to get my geek on!

  2. James, go after those dreams! You just made your list then scratched most of the items off for no good reason. You may not be able to play guitar like Santana after a few lessons, but anyone with arms and hands can certainly learn to play the guitar well enough to produce music. Want to lose weight? What millions of people have done you can do, through making a plan of diet and exercise and sticking to it. Short story or novel, get to work!

    You seem to be a smart, articulate guy and I believe you’re capable of these far from impossible feats.

    I keep refilling my bucket list, from getting a PhD and a faculty job as an astronomer, to living in a foreign country and learning a different language, publishing stories and novels, running a marathon, etc. I put a lot of effort into all of those things, and most of them were totally worth it.

    You obviously have things you want to do, they’re just different from those of your friends. Pick one to prioritize and get started.

    1. Mike, great to hear from you. I was just checking out your site yesterday. Thanks for the encouragement. I haven’t given up yet, and I have endless to-do lists. This essay was a total failure at conveying what I was thinking. I even thought of deleting it. I was trying to react to the movie, The Bucket List, which suggests to make life worth living you have to do a lot of glamorous things. My more mundane interests look pitiful in comparison. I actually got the movie and watched it after writing that essay to think about what they were saying. It’s a good movie with a lot of heart, but it’s sensationalized by Hollywood.

      What if Morgan Freeman character Carter hadn’t had the rich Edward to help him – what would his poor stay at home bucket list have been? And why wait until death is knocking on the door to start doing the things you want? I think what I objected to the most about the concept of the bucket list is the thought we must be doing really big things to make our life worth living. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see the pyramids, but right now if I knew I was going to die, I’d worry about finishing all the episodes of Friday Night Lights I have left to watch than wanting to fly off and see the world. And I guess that sounds pitiful, but actually that’s what I like doing now, and I’d want to finish it.

      Every evening after work I have about six hours of free time. I come home and try to do exactly what I want. The thing is, what I want to do is just not glamorous. I think my initial reaction from The Bucket List, is a kind of resentment, that I was trying to express but failed. I just don’t like the concept of “you haven’t lived if you haven’t done big exciting things.

  3. Well, I really liked the movie but then I like any movie with Jack in it. My main complaint was”” how do you do a bucket list when everything you think of does cost money or time and traveling. I might have the time, after all I’m nearly 75. But the money, no way. Oh wait, Uncle Monty’s Book Store. Been there, done that. (I live maybe 35 mi. from Mpls.) Guess I will have to settle for bugging you old guys on the internet.

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