I bet most of you have heard of the new Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman movie, The Bucket List. In it, Nicholson and Freeman play terminal cancer patients who decide to tackle some life dreams. The notion of the movie hits a tender place in my heart. My dad was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma in November 2004. He went through about 2 years of cancer treatment, with me and my mom by his side for every chemo drip, doctor’s probe, film analysis. My dad is cancer-free today, but his cancer is not one that yields remission. We live day-to-day, today there could be no cancer, tomorrow there might be some. Ever since my dad’s diagnosis, I have been embedded in the world of cancer, by choice. One of the things that I have learned in my immersion is that it is fairly common for a cancer patient to make a defiant stand against cancer. For one woman I know, it meant that she bought knee-high, high heeled boots, something terribly uncharacteristic of her. My dad had his own “I am not going anywhere” gesture that I wrote about in an essay, entitled The Cancer Siren. Here’s the excerpt:
The Saturday before my father’s first chemotherapy treatment, he asks me to help him buy a car. My husband has documented my shrewdness to my family after he painfully watched me talk a car dealer down by three thousand dollars on a new car.
“You either want the sale or you don’t,” I had said and watched my husband close his eyes briefly at this embarrassment. The sales manager, I had been handed off early in the process when they saw the number I was willing to pay, looked at my husband for help. The kind of look that said, “Please talk some sense into your wife.” Michael shrugged. Not my problem, he seemed to be saying. I went home with the car. This is the stuff that becomes family legend.
“Sure, no problem,” I tell my dad when he asks for help. “What do you want?” He lists various small SUVs, cars that don’t seem practical for two people in their late sixties. “Why are you so interested in an SUV?” I ask. “Because I still have some traveling to do.” “Like where,” I ask, thinking he means the two hour distance between their house and each daughter. “The Grand Canyon.” “Alright,” I relent. “We’ll get on that sometime soon. Let me do some research.”
I didn’t move fast enough for my dad. The day before his first chemo treatment, he went out and bought a new car. Not because he needed a new car at the time, not because the Grand Canyon trip was imminent but because, to him, buying that car felt like a life insurance policy. It was a way to be defiant of the cancer, an “Oh, pardon you, but I have other stuff that I need to be doing. Could you go ahead and get out of my body?” move.
Suffice to say that I am a girl that has caught glimpses of The Bucket List in action. And, as you might remember, I am a girl with my own list. Granted mine has less urgency than The Bucket List, although there are things that I know I want to do before I kick the bucket like go to the Super Bowl, visit Tuscany, live abroad for a period, and train a guide dog. My list is a birthday list. So, with the opening of the Bucket List, I thought I would survey the scene with my birthday list now that I am two months into this birth year. The good news? I’ve managed to get a few things scratched off. Snorkeling. Check. I snorkeled with Stingrays in the waters off Grand Cayman in December. Swimming with Dolphins. Check. Hooray for a cool dolphin facility in Cozumel. Make a Kiva.org loan. Check. Now, for what else might get done soon:
I want to start a scholarship program (stay tuned because it’ll actually be the work of hundreds of women including you, hopefully). I’ve had two critical meetings for it already and am working my way through the logistics in the hopes of having something to announce by the end of February, just as we get set for Women’s History Month.
I want to learn how to sail, and I have a “learning how to sail” story lined up for a magazine. It’s due in March so it looks like I’ll be setting sail in the middle to late February. I won’t focus on the fact that it will be learning how to sail in the freezing cold (at least for now, in the comforts of my own home where it is easy to have a good attitude). I will instead focus on the fact that I get to spend the night on the sailboat which seems like it will be really cool.
I’ve completed six weeks of my goal to have 12 weeks of a consumption reduction plan (I cannot make any purchases during those weeks other than necessary food, gifts, toiletries and office supplies– I am trying to reduce what I buy). It’s actually been easier than I expected because it coincides with other goals to reduce my carbon footprint, increase savings (since no one else is contributing to my retirement but me), and using my time more efficiently (no more mindless web surfing where I find this really cool office product that I must have). Now, it seems that I need to change the goal from 12 weeks to someting higher but I better make it to 12 first.
I am also working on reduing my carbon footprint. I’ll do a blog or two on this one specifically because it’s been really interesting to learn what I can do to make a difference.
Other things still out there teasing me include: helping my parents declutter (not sure who has greater anxiety about this– me because I know what the closets look like in my parents’ house or them), cleaning out our attic here (oh, how easy it is– when you move– to just put stuff that you don’t feel like going through into the attic. And oh, how much it comes back to bite you when you think you might want to change your attic into a bedroom so that the little cottage that could might actually have more than 2 bedrooms), and one of the more wild ones: going to trapeze school (wild because I am afraid of heights but I still chase adventure like my fear might suddenly, magically go away) . I’ll keep you posted on my list but, in the meantime, tell me about yours. What’s on your “bucket list”– the list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket?