This is an excerpt from my new book, Rebooting My Brain: How a Freak Aneurysm Reframed My Life (2012, Avail in Kindle and Paperback). I invite you to apply this to your life…and your business. Enjoy!
It seems “bucket lists” are all the rage these days, and the trend cropped up even more in the year following my aneurysm. Coincidence?
I’m not sure if this term had been around for a while or debuted with the Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman film of the same title. Regardless, it kind of irks me that it is swirling around everywhere, like shallow buzz about the latest hot handbag or must-have designer. While I love self-help and motivational goal-setting as much as the next gal (yes, I read Eckhart Tolle, so back off), I’m always leery when it takes the form of a blind fad. Shouldn’t those themes be much more consistent and ongoing throughout our lives?
As the one-year anniversary of my brain hemorrhage passed, I was still trying to figure out what it all meant―and if it really meant anything anyway. Successfully distancing myself from the immediate recovery of the event―which was all about getting back to daily living―I entered this second phase of more thoughtful contemplation around the whole thing. Why did I survive? Why is my recovery going so much more miraculously than someone who has three children relying on her? If it was not “my time” yet, than what the heck is it I was meant to do here? What am I not finished with?
Small questions these are not.
Answers abound. Paul, who truly understands how lucky we are but is not a spiritual guy, will tell you, “This happened due to the genetics of a combination of weak vessels and high blood pressure that runs in the family. You are okay now because we got you to the hospital in time and the doctors were amazingly skilled. End of story.”
Or maybe it’s just as simple as what a sassy old friend of mine said when we met up for dinner after not seeing each other in person for over ten years. She had followed my story and progress through our online journal and social media updates and was dying to catch up with me. Her playful theory? “Maybe you are still here so that on this night, in this city, we could catch up over dinner and you can entertain and inspire me.” I kind of like that answer.
Which brings me back to bucket lists. I feel in today’s renaissance of enlightenment, we are just putting too much darn pressure on ourselves to “live our best life.” I am all about going after what you want, not waiting, and experiencing all you can experience. But in my life, the adventures have happened pretty organically.
Sure, goals are great things. But when they start to consume you, to make you feel like you are less of a person if you don’t accomplish them, that’s where I have a problem. Tweet this!
My recovery was all about being gentle with myself, setting realistic goals, and not overwhelming myself with too much. I think this is a good way to live, brain injury or not. So rather than some of the more lofty bucket lists out there that seem to taunt and stress many of us―and make us feel like we are not doing, being, or seeing enough―mine became a simple bucket list:
- Ensure you have at least one person in your life who understands you, accepts you for who you are and who makes you laugh. Just one will do. It could be a lover, parent, sibling or friend. If you don’t have someone like this in your life, make it your mission to find him or her.
- Spend at least one night of your life falling asleep to, and waking up to, the ocean. Wherever that might be.
- Next time you are on a plane, bus or train with a rambunctious toddler or fussy baby, try to make the child smile. Just once. See how it makes you feel.
- Call one long-distance friend a week. Not email. Phone. If you can’t call, write a handwritten note.
- Adopt a pet once in your life and give it a happy, loving home.
- Say thank you to every bus driver or cabbie when you get off the bus or out of the cab. You never know how much that might turn around a bad day for them.
- Once a day, ask one clerk, be it barista or cashier, “How are you doing today?”
- Have one dinner outside on a warm summer night with friends, wine, candles and great conversation.
- Each time you talk to a family member or a close friend, say “I love you” at the end of the conversation. You never know if it might be the last time.
- Every year, make one trip to a place you’ve never been or somewhere out of your comfort zone. This could be another city in your own country, a foreign country, or it could be based on accommodations: if you are a hotel person, go camping. Try it for perspective.
My injury forced me to slow down and focus on the moment. It was not just a Hallmark card platitude, but a necessity. My goals became much less lofty but much sweeter.