More Love

I have been considering the idea of  a bucket list.

Truthfully, I have been thinking about death a lot lately. Not in any morbidly weird way, but as a natural outcome of life.  More in a “We’re all going to die, let’s get used to it” kind of way.

So I guess I’ve  been thinking about the progression of life and the natural order of things. I know that there really is no natural order; we collectively accept a particular order as natural, but  so often our experience of life and death is one of chaos and uncertainty. Read the news, look around you, lead a grief group. Life can be very random and senseless in terms of when we die. We don’t much like to look at that but facts are facts, whether we like them or not. I have an acquaintance who just found out she has pancreatic cancer. She’s 47. Nothing natural about that, nothing to hang your hat on and say “well she lived a good long life” like we say about 90 year olds, with some sense of the acceptance of their death. There are a lot of people upset and calling unfair about my friend’s impending doom, not the least of whom is her.

You know, I’d rather not put myself in that position, however my first instinct, if I got a diagnosis of something dire, would probably be to  empty the bank account, get some fabulous pain drugs and take off. A grand tour of Europe, a quick round of sexual conquests before I start to look and feel too bad, some philanthropy, some parties, lots of people and the best times I could have with them.

I’m pretty healthy but , naturally speaking, I am entering the last part of my life. If all goes well I might have, what?  20-30 years? Frankly, that doesn’t sound good to me, because of the deterioration that will naturally happen, but it also doesn’t sound like a very long time. So let’s say I have another good 10 years, physically and mentally. I KNOW! no way to tell, but for arguments sake.

What am I going to do with those 10 years? What haven’t I done that I want to do? Shit, that list could be crazy long and easily lead me down a stretch of existential angst and regret that no one needs to feel, much less write about or read!  OK….so I make a bucket list. Maybe a little trite and hackneyed, maybe a pretty bad movie, but there is merit to the idea.

But I’m not going to share that list here, mainly because it isn’t written, not even started. It seems pretty overwhelming, actually. Ten good years, a zillion things I’d like to do…how do I decide? Do I arbitrarily decide, do I decide by what I actually might be able to accomplish? do I write everything down,all the fantasies, and be grateful for whatever I am able to tick off before I keel over? I don’t have that answer to that. Do you?

Actually, I wonder, ultimately, if a bucket list is even worth anything. If you think about it, what do we all seem to really want? With all the ephemera of trips and fancy cars, the large, philanthropic donations,  the experiences. What is it most of us truly want?

I think it’s love.

I can say I want a grand tour of Europe, but I certainly don’t want to go alone. Who would I ask to be my companion? Why would I donate to a certain cause, who would I be hoping to help?  What experience would be satisfying if undertaken alone? Hey, I could invest in a restaurant for my son the chef! All of that is love.

Death tends to throw love into  high relief. Certainly in grief, pain at the loss of those who die, but at our own death too, anticipatory or real.  Death gets right in there, taking our bucket list and boiling it down to it’s essence.

“Death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love…”  Rilke got that right. I don’t think I, or most people need a true bucket list, just a willingness to be honest about exactly what it is we want in life.

This morning I found a story about an installation that the artist Candy Chang originated several years ago. It’s a great article and actually the impetus for me hopping on this train of thought that has been meandering so weirdly through this post. It made me curious, and has given me a lot to think about today.

She posits the idea of ONE thing to do before you die. ONE. It makes sense, the one. It’s not a random idea. Mary Oliver speaks of it, albeit a little differently when she asks “Tell me,what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life”

Oliver speaks of one life while Chang speaks of one thing, but both are asking us to choose before we die. And sometimes, more often than not, the answers are very much the same.

I can say with certainty that my life boils down to my relationships, as does anything else that I might want from the rest of my life.  The sweet son I adore, the friends who love me and I them, my complicated and imperfect family, my Tom…I would not have missed one of those relationships,  any of those moments in the “absolute and  passionate presence” of all of those loves.

If I had to choose  just one thing, or even a full bucket list, I’d ask for more love, more and more and more. It’s the only thing that makes sense, it what motivates us to do good, to have adventures, to connect, to give. It’s not dependent on age or health, beauty or capabilities. Even if I lived until 90 or beyond, its the only thing that can really sustain me, any of us, the only thing that gives real meaning and purpose to our lives.

More love.

Bucket list……..CHECK.

 

(I included a link to the Brain Pickings article about Candy Chang’s installation and how it has spread throughout the world. It fascinated me today, maybe you’ll enjoy it too)

http://buff.ly/1y5rgh9

 

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10 Comments

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  1. This made me a little weepy today. Punched me right in the gut in the best of ways. xoxox

  2. You are reading my mind. I am having the very same thoughts these days. I think it’s the combination of losing my mom suddenly in 2014 and my upcoming 60th birthday. I have also been thinking in terms of “10 good years” and what I want to do with them. Thank you so much for articulating this. I look forward to more.
    Ginny

  3. I love Candy Chang’s projects…things that pop up while we are all engrossed in our lives that make us stop and think. I also love how you can boil down a bucket list to a phrase that encompasses everything you want to do and have. It’s really lovely.

  4. Those wall are inspiring.

    Although in 2013 i am pretty sure i would have written quit drinking-so i actually feel a huge sense oc accomplishment reading it. Thank you!

    More love is always good. I am finding that having love as my word has changed my persoective already. Assuming people are acting as they are in search of love and acceptance gives me new eyes to see them.

    Anne

    • The best words give you those new eyes…

      I still am locked into my OM mantra….love/curiousity/judgement. That has stayed with me from the first of the year, and I get to practice all of it daily. Creating and evolving with the first two makes letting go of the third so much easier.

  5. What a wonderful and delicious post, M. I am 44 but sometimes have those thoughts. I see how others die in weird and unexpected ways. I think of the easy stuff – do I have my will updated (no)? Do I have things like my bank account info and other legal matters at someone’s fingertips? More importantly, to your post, is what will my legacy be? What will I do or choose to do or choose to focus on if I knew that I was hitting a new chapter in my life? I have no clue, frankly. But you bring up a lot of things to think about, and boy oh boy does love trump. A trip would be nice, but I would love to have my wife and boys with me.

    Once again, you blow me away.

    Paul

  6. I have been lurking around your blog for a while now, loving every post and relating to everything you say. You are a significant part of my inspiration for starting yoga! I think of death all the time. My husband has a long term illness that could turn terminal at any point so I suppose that is partly the reason. However I feel that my thoughts of death and dying are having a hugely positive effect on my life. I do think its helping me to think more deeply about issues and compared to many of my friends I don’t seem to have the fear and denial of old age that so many of them have. (I too am in entering the last part of my life…..)
    From a previous blog I know you have the Atul Gawande book. It too develops this theme wonderfully. And on that post – I hope you enjoy Wild as much I did. How weird to see Cheryl Strayed at the Golden Globes with Reese Witherspoon??
    My blog is going nowhere and I have made it private until I get started again – another resolution. In the meantime I am selfishly loving yours!

    • Winnie..
      thank you so much!
      I hope you get your blog going again, sounds like I would love it.
      Yes, I am reading Gawande’s book, and must say I am heartened and terrified by it. The need for these discussions and changes is so apparent, and I wonder if things will change in time for me. I am certainly doing all I can to make sure my wishes are known, but the description of the medical system,and what i lived through with my own parents is disheartening.
      I have been working on writing a post about my feelings about aging, my denial of it….hopefully I will get it done soon and would love your take on it. I am not afraid of death, no fear and denial of that like many of my peers, but I admit to fear of aging. The losses and indignities are just starting to show up and I don’t expect it to get better, you know?.There is a certain amount of “untruthiness” in this blog, at least in my mind, because i don’t say things…I can spew on any number of subjects and do, but the issue of age is just slightly starting to creep in.

      I’m sorry about your husband, I certainly wish you both well.
      I’m so glad that you found yoga..it’s been so wonderful for me (altho it does bring up those pesky age issues again, no?)
      I did finish WILD and really liked it, haven’t seen the movie yet but plan too. I DVR’d the Globes and am playing little bits at a time..I will look for Cheryl Strayed. Dd you read her advice column on the Rumpus, Dear Sugar?
      Highly recommend, archived on the site.

      Anyway..I feel like we just had a phone conversation! LOL…nice to meet you.
      get back to work on that blog!

      • Yes – lovely to chat! I think I have read most of Cheryl Strayed’s advice columns at The Rumpus. I am not sure I understood the word compassion until I read her advice.
        I also related to you post about dumping FB. I did that about 2 years ago and have no regrets. I found it huge serenity sapper.
        Chat again soon and yes will try to get going on blog, although no expectations please! 🙂

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