22 October 2012

Bucket List Redux

It's been sixteen months since I began putting together my bucket list. It's a list that I harbor in the back of my mind, sometimes as a source of inspiration, sometimes as a nagging burden, as I ask myself, "What am I doing today to cross something off my list?"

All too often the answer comes back as, "Nothing." I can't help but feel that I am dawdling, that I've grown complacent in my sense of time and purpose. However, looking back on my list, there are so many things that I have done within the sixteen months since first putting the list together that I never would have thought to put on the list—but in retrospect could have, had I known they were even possible.

I am reminded of Errol Morris' New York Time's column, "The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is," which references Donald Rumsfeld's rather infamous quote from a 2002 NATO press conference, “There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are the things we do not know we don’t know.” Give Rumsfeld all the grief you will, his statement is factual, astute, and characterized by the type of self-aware honesty that too few of us hold—there are things we know, there are things that we know we don't know, and there are things that are so far outside our frame of reference that we don't even know that we don't know them.

Sixteen months ago, I was a writer who also had an extensive history as a patient. I knew I had some knowledge to share. I knew I wanted to help others navigate the patient experience. I didn't know what an ePatient was, let alone that I was one. I didn't know that there was an entire world of social media dedicated to healthcare. I didn't know that my ideas, my opinions, my words would take me 5,596.5 miles from Palo Alto to Paris, to HealthCamp DC the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health in Washington, D.C., to Kansas City, M.O. and Cerner's riverside educational facility for Regina Holliday's Partnership With Patients Summit. I didn't know I would find others who care deeply about talking about advance planning and facing our fears of death with a whole heart and an open heart. I didn't know I would meet people who would be more than mentors—but friends. I didn't know that what would be the most significant part of my life's work had yet to reveal itself.

In retrospect, my bucket list thereby seems naive. What should I make of the fact that I have accomplished so many great things that were not on the list and yet many of things that are on the list still need to be done—while others need be removed for they are no longer something I desire? Indeed the list is of my own creation, and I am the only one to whom I am beholden. Yet I can not help but think that we can not successfully force our hearts to be linear creatures. We must balance that which we (think we) know that we want with that which we do not yet know that we want. We must live with passion and pursue happiness in a way that gives meaning to our life.

The Bucket List Redux

1. Pet a tiger

2. Get more than a magazine article published — preferably a book

3. Write a book

4. Take Travis to London

5. Go horseback riding in Big Sky country

6. Visit Scandinavia — horseback ride through Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark

7. Visit Athens, Greece

8. Have a ROCKIN’ wedding anniversary/recommitment — 2013

9. Learn to Latin dance — and do it well

10. Learn how to make really awesome Asian dumplings

11. Eat fresh lobster in Maine

12. Effectively tell someone off/stand up for someone in public and in the moment

13. Drive the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway

14. Snorkel at Stingray City in Grand Caymans

15. Cruise in and explore the Caribbean — 2013

16. Go to the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan (July)

17. Go to Whiting, Indiana’s Pierogi Festival (July) — 2013

18. Have an extreme spa day – 2+ hour massage, mani, pedi, facial, body scrub

19. Pay for something random for a random deserving person

20. Learn to play the hammered dulcimer

21. Wear an expensive beaded dress for a fancy dinner date and evening out

22. Raise awareness of whatever disease I am finally diagnosed with — DONE/DOING

23. Participate in research to help with the diagnosis of my disease — DONE/DOING

24. Help teach other patients to be proactive and involved in their healthcare — DONE/DOING

25. Ensure our financial security by living debt-free and investing well

26. Finish my master’s degree at UNC-Greensboro — DONE


28. Be the subject of/inspiration for a piece of artwork — DONE

29. Landscape the backyard to be more of a place for ourselves and guests to enjoy

30. See the Grand Canyon — DONE

31. Develop a running list of National Parks visited and continue to add to that list including Yosemite, Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches

32. See Beck in concert

... more to come!

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"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world." — Buddha

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