Should You Have a Bucket List?

Do You Have the Courage to Kick It?

Do you have a bucket list? What’s on it? Is it a list of shoulds and somedays? What conditions do you assume must be in place before you can tackle your bucket list? Is the pressure to do so kicking your butt? A new book trilogy has me on heightened alert, F*ck the Bucket List, by Ayelet Baron, who Forbes named as one of 2020’s 50 Leading Female Futurists. She’s a new friend and kindred spirit whose vocabulary resonates with mine, with words like courage, trust, joy, and adventure. 

My own bucket list includes going to Australia. My parents spent 1991 there, Mom as an exchange teacher (not long after surviving cancer, with a vow to live a full life). I didn’t visit because I’d just started a new job and such a vacation felt impossible. Going to my ancestral homelands of Ireland, England, and Wales is also on my bucket list. I didn’t attend a McCormack family reunion in Ireland in the 90’s because money and vacation time still seemed scarce. Traveling afar isn’t my highest priority right now. Living without regrets is, though.

Thanks to Ayelet Baron’s provocative trilogy, I’m asking myself whether my bucket list has truly been my own. What would give me the most meaning, purpose and joy? What have I delayed doing, putting off til someday or too late? Am I choosing to Not Do out of fear or scarcity or some other lack of courage? Am I filling a bucket with regrets, like sins of omission.

How do you define your bucket list?

Is it a list of things you think you ought to do or become? Do you feel pressure from expectations that are not your own? Or is it a wish list of would-be-nice-to-do things? What kick in the seat would you need to go do stuff, or revise or relinquish your list altogether? Do you need, as Ayelet calls it, a F*ck It list instead?

I asked my Mom on a morning drive to the mountains if she had a bucket list. Her first reaction: “Of course.” What’s on it, I prompted? “Doing laundry. Getting groceries. Paying bills.” (I noticed the verbs: doing, getting, paying…). I reminded her that a bucket list is those things you hope to do before you die. “I’d love to dance til the end of my days,” she said without delay. A few minutes later, she said, “I’d love to go back to Paris.” (She and my dad have been there in each season, including Christmas Eve mass at Notre-Dame). What part of Paris, I asked, expecting her to say the Musée d'Orsay or to see a certain Monet painting. “I’d go to the Champs-Élysées, because it’s a big beautiful garden that anyone can go to for free.” A few minutes after that, she said, “I’d love to have a big party and invite all my adult friends, the ones who haven’t given up on life.” Always the kindergarten teacher, she also named kids she’d invite.

Earlier that morning, I’d been talking with two girlfriends about the concept of bucket lists (one of them posted her own blog the same day I posted this, unbeknownst to me). Travel was top of our lists, until we went into deeper territory, beyond places to go and sights to see, or needing money to do it. It led us to ask, “Even if it’s something we have patience to wait for, the question is why are we really putting it off?”

One thing that used to be on my bucket list was taking a long road trip all by myself, getting to stop whenever and wherever I liked to take pictures. I did that in 2019 for four months and had a blast. I called it my “free-range road trip.” If COVID hadn’t happened, I might have kept going, though I’m glad in retrospect to be planted here in Colorado’s high desert for now.

I still keep a green plastic pail in my car, a held-over habit from my Seattle days when I could go to the beach and collect seashells and stones. That bucket is my 3-D commitment to remain playful, ready to explore, and be delighted by whatever I find. Ready to make sandcastles that I know will be washed away by the tide.Two years ago on my road trip, I made a detour from the interstate to revisit the Indiana Dunes State Park. I took my Emotikin, bucket and elephants to that beach, where we watched the waves and the sunset.

Finding New F Words

Ayelet and I have talked about her choice of book title for the trilogy. I love the fact that F*ck It rhymes so well with Bucket. Plus I believe we need some righteous, moral indignation to snap ourselves out of unhealthy default-modes.

If you ask me, bucket lists can paralyze us in the Freeze response, looking like apathy, or the Flight/Flee response, like avoidance. Or in Flock mode, as in follow the herd to what “they” say success is, instead of choosing your own path. Sometimes we need to Fight in the healthiest way, fighting the status quo, fighting outmoded expectations or toxic pressure to do things that don’t feed your soul. Fighting can be a form of self-care.

So aim a strong kick aimed at any bucket list full of Achievement To Dos. That creates the right kind of anger to Fortify us toward more life-giving actions. That’s why for the endorsement I wrote, I looked for some other F words that I found in these books.

I told Ayelet about my recent conversation with Mom. Here’s what she said.  

“I am ok with people having bucket lists but I say F❤️ck it to having items that I am expected to achieve (that are not mine). Knowing our hearts is so beautiful and your mom's responses touched me, especially "the ones who haven't given up on life."

“My dream is that one day my books will not be needed as we live abundant lives as curious creators. It's funny because of the title, I am barred from some places and it's ok because I am not here to convince anyone of anything they are not ready for. This is why I love your mom's insight!”

Explore Possibilities and Impossibilities

Here are some questions from F*ck the Bucket List for the Health Conscious (book 3) to explore possibilities for yourself:

Now, About That List…

I’d love to know about your bucket list, and if you’ve considered revising or kicking it lately. And ask your friends to see what they say.