I like lists.
Store: skim, yogurt, veg.
Get eggs @ Margie’s
Clean up brush
Family bike ride?
Chase a naked Milo
I'm waiting for Chub Scout Retrieval to become an Olympic event.
This is just a sample. I write these almost every morning, or in the evening for the next day. When I’m really tired and/or lazy, they are extraordinarily short or include things like brew coffee (which, is actually done by the coffee maker - check, check!) and eat lunch, and only sometimes include showering.
My good friend Jenn, besides being a phenomenal corn chip eater and artistic wondergirl is a listmaker, like me. But beyond the daily cataloguing, Jenn is a bucket list girl. She makes annual bucket lists, and also makes them when she moves a new place or perhaps even visits somewhere. Her bucket list might include writing 365 letters in a year, eating at every Thai joint in Boston or, more likely, reading a number of phenomenal books and hiking mountains. I think she’s brilliant.
Why do I think Jenn and I like lists so much? In my opinion, it's because we are filled with a desire for purpose. And in a tangible way, purpose means getting stuff done, amiright? But - and this is a big but - accomplishing my daily checklist is not the pinnacle of living.
The lack of adrenaline rush after crossing out Do the dishes is a dead giveaway.
If my life is composed of list after list after list, with 365 each year for an ambitious 60 more years, that’s 21,900 lists, not including each leap year. I might like lists, but that sounds… completely terrible. It is essentially repetitive, it makes my soul feel heavy, and it is – correct me if I’m wrong – totally anticlimactic.
Here’s my dilemma. I am not a girl with huge aspirations – perhaps I’m hard to inspire, but I think probably I’m simply too indecisive, passive and easily satisfied, which are a secret Keebler recipe for generally mundane things, showcased by the list I posted above. So why am I knocking on lists like that, and yet I’m praising the likes of Jenn’s big, bad bucket lists?
First off, despite their monotony, your daily tasks are not qualitatively bad. Without them, my world might stop turning - certainly the laundry cycle would. That, said, it's easy to get lost in the rhythm of these familiar, sometimes automatic behaviors. The problem is, I need help. I won't remember to go get the eggs without a note, and so I certainly doubt that I'll really go travel the world without a reminder to book the first flight. I need the benefit of my ink lettering staring me in the face, like a glowing neon light, to beckon me to go get after it.
I am however, suggesting something a little less explosive.
This is why Jenn’s bucket lists are such an inspiration, and why I need to write a few of my own. If I finally get down on paper that I want to hike Mount Washington before next winter, and I have to stare at it - stare at it, stare at it, stare at it - every day… you know what? I might actually get that sucker done. And what makes those bucket lists so special is that the true success is not simply the accomplishment in checking the items off. It’s part of the ploy, yes, because we are human and sometimes need a carrot to chase after, but unlike the old illustration, somehow grabbing hold of that carrot – checking off that thing - is not actually the prize. We don’t feel the reward when we scribble through learn to swim the butterfly or cross out join a traveling carnival. We feel it while we are chasing after the carnival. While we are powerfully fluttering our way across the pool. While we are huffing our reluctant body up toward the Washington Observatory. The chase is our reward.
The prize is the thing itself.
So don’t quit making your lists. I’m certainly going to keep it up, or I promise you that you’ll never come over to our place for breakfast, because I will
to get those eggs.
But beyond the daily grind, let’s do two things together. First, let’s sprinkle some bucket inspiration onto our daily notepad, so that we remember to Paint a masterpiece with the Chub Scout or Take over the world in Risk later that day. Second, let’s get cracking on this year’s bucket list. There are incredible things in store for 2015 – adventure and adrenaline and hilarity and mountaintops – even for a lazy Susan like me. So here, as a gesture of goodwill, is the beginning of mine:
1. Hike Mt. Washington
2. Overnight camp with Milo
3. Grill a really good steak
If you want to post a couple of your bucket items here, that would be a pretty great encouragement to me. And when the time comes that you accomplish them, don't flaunt the fact that you checked them off. Flaunt the story. Tell it to me, and to your friends, and to your family. Because that's the prize. And maybe, just maybe if you can get after it, so can we.