I’m a list writer. I write kit lists, shopping lists, lists of worries, lists of jobs. I’ve always loved sitting down with my head a muddle of ideas, and then having clarity as I write them all down. Mainly though I love the pleasure of ticking items off the list as I tackle them. It must be the teachers pet inside me, crossing off an item is like giving yourself a big pat on the back! I like to write a list in the morning; writing all of the smaller menial tasks on it too, so I proudly get plenty of ticks. If a job has multiple stages, then every little stage gets a mention on my list, again the more ticks the better! However until recently, strangely I’d never written a list of fun things that I wanted to do. For me, lists were for chores and work and jobs. I’d never thought to prioritise living life, enjoying myself, experiencing what I wanted to. I’d never tried to actively tick off items of fun things. That is, until I got ill.
When I was first ill and my diagnosis was still many months away, I saw a wonderful anxiety therapist, who helped me enormously change my mindset about how I approach life and my illness. It is largely due to him and the strategies he taught me, that I am able to cope with it all today. He was the one who first suggested that I write a bucket list of experiences I wanted to enjoy. I then spent a wonderful few days digging in to my inner self, thinking about my dreams, imagining myself doing different things… until I’d written the start of my bucket list. I approached it by working out where I wanted to be in five years time- what experiences I wanted to have had, what I wanted to have achieved in life, what sort of person I wanted to be. Having loved the experience of writing it, I encouraged some of my family and friends to do theirs too. We then discovered a fab free website that hosts your lists for you, allows your friends to see what you’ve ticked off and what you still need to do… and even allows you to upload photos of you doing your dreams for the rest of the world to see. Looking at my friends’ lists, we have all approached our bucket list in a different way. Some are based on collecting memories, some are based on achieving mini goals to get to where they want to be in life.
And so my official bucket list was born. Some of the items on my list are big and expensive (“Visit Rome”), some are small and free (“Make a meal using only ingredients from my vegetable patch”). Some of the items are purely selfish (“Attend a summer festival”), some are for the benefit of others (“Make a homemade present”). Some are for skills I’d like to learn (“Learn to fillet a fish”), some are for experiences I’d like to have (“Wild camp on Dartmoor”), and some are for jobs that I’d like to achieve long term (“Write a book”). Some have been achieved (“Get a greenhouse”), some have not yet (“Go on a canal boat holiday”), and some are in the process (“Finish making and print off all of our travelling photobooks”). Some have been deleted since getting my official diagnosis (“Have a baby”), and others have been entered since too (“Have a transplant”). Due to my illness, I cannot do everything that I dream of doing, but everything I have included is something I would love to do and still can do. In the last few months, I’ve ticked off… buy a campervan, watch a Tigers match, visit the Chelsea Flower show, print off my wedding photos… and watch Elton John in concert.
I love Elton John. I was brought up singing his hits in the car, and later playing his songs on the piano (though often in an easier key!). My favourite song of all time is an Elton classic – Your Song- mainly because I love the piano accompaniment, the words are a little strange! I’ve long dreamed of seeing him in concert, but when younger was always put off by the price, and when older, I just left it as a dream and never thought it would be something I’d get around to doing. Until I heard he was doing a concert down the road, at Blenheim Palace! It was a beautiful setting, an open air concert in the courtyard with the magnificent palace at three sides, and the stunning view over the lake at the other end. Unfortunately the crazy June weather, rained on our plans again. It literally soaked and sodded them! Instead of a little black dress, my outfit of choice was waterproof trousers and coat! Not quite the look I envisaged when I bought the tickets! However the great British public showed what it does best in time of adversity, and refused to let the torrential downpour dampen the event. There was dancing in the aisles, arms waving in the air, singalongs with songs.. all with water dripping down their faces! Elton showed he has buckets of energy; for two and half hours he sang every song back to back with extravagant exuberance, and played the piano at the same time! A very talented guy! He played lots of the classics, including my favourite, and they were all accompanied by a flamboyant stage show. It was an exhausting evening, but I was so pleased I’d managed to see Elton, a longed for dream achieved.
Although the name “Bucket list”, originates from the phrase “To kick the bucket”, you don’t have to be dying to write one! I believe they are a great way to achieve the fun things in life. Society asks us to achieve in our jobs and in our chores, but we don’t get encouraged to follow our dreams, to make memories. It focuses you, reminds you to do things. Instead of sleeping through life like I used to, always assuming that one day I’d experience my dreams, I now actively seek to tick them off. I actively search out tickets for events I’ve always wanted to go to. I actively put dates in the diary for visits I want to make. I actively set aside time to learn things I want to learn. I’m so pleased I was encouraged to write my list. So whenever I die in the future, whether it be in the next year or twenty years time, I’ll be very happy that I’ve experienced some of my dreams. My advise would be don’t wait until something stops you and makes you realise how precious life is, live your life now. As cliched as it may sound, it is very true…. live life whilst you can.
I’ve started dreaming about my new bucket list for post-transplant (my butterfly list). It will include many of my dreams that I’ve been too ill to experience. Dreams I always wanted to do when healthy, and presumed I would do eventually… never realising that one day I’d be too ill to do them, so they’d just have to stay as dreams, never to be achieved. However the beauty of transplant, is that you get a second chance to live your life for a while. You get a second chance to make more memories for a while. You get a second chance to achieve your dreams for a while.. the ones that you thought you’d missed the boat on forever.