An Extraordinary Life Via An Ordinary Bucket List
By: Attorney Katherine S. Breckenridge, Esq.
Published August 1, 2017
Probate & Administration
Have you felt lately that there just is not enough time in a day, or in the spectrum of a lifetime, to accomplish all of which you dream? When your alarm clock goes off in the morning, do find that you have already allocated each minute to tasks you want to undertake? Perhaps your priorities have begun to shift as you age and the concept of time takes on different dimensions.
How does one prudently and wisely select one’s actions, with an understanding of purpose and stewardship, while keeping the precious gift of limited time on this earth in perspective? Perhaps the concept of a bucket list offers a vehicle of time management.
A bucket list typically refers to an itemization of places we want to go or things we want to do before we pass away. Interestingly, such a bucket list may contain larger-than-life aspirations, such as travel abroad, competing in a race, meeting a well-known person, or perhaps participating in a daring event like sky diving.
Recently, I have learned a valuable lesson from one who is much younger than me. I was visiting my college-age daughter, who is on a college budget. During my daughter’s four years in college, she has done well to save her pennies and purchase what she calls “investment” wardrobe pieces,” those articles of fashion that frequently seem outside of this parent’s budget. During one visit, my daughter had just shown me one of her fabulous fashion purchases, and me, being the prudent mom, was wrangling in my head with thoughts of the importance of budgeting and living within one’s means when a “refrigerator list,” written by my daughter, caught my eye.
Through the words on that simple list, I was taught a life lesson about making and enjoying special moments. “Bucket List for the Month: (1) Go to the market and buy flowers . . . ” There were other items on the list, but this one provides the example of identifying life joys that are doable in “small portions.” What crossed my mind, as a parent was, “brilliant idea,” my college student had captured a life lesson that I was still learning. Whether in the midst of work, addressing life projects, or grappling with an illness or a shift in life preparations, create an “ordinary bucket list,” that is on a short time frame for accomplishment. This may ensure that one enjoys some of the little things in life, that when added up provide for a quality that equates to an extraordinary life.
I so admire those who are able to take life in stride. I am not good at the above. I set big, overachiever goals and go into my work tunnel, and often bypass the small joys along the way. I frequently rationalize that God created me like that, driven. In fact, my very favorite quote is one from C. S. Lewis, which appears in his book, Letters to Malcolm:
Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for ‘down here’ is not their natural place. Here, they are a moment’s rest from the life we were placed here to live. But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of Heaven.
I take that encouragement to heart, to live a life of purpose. “This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them-for this is their lot.” Ecclesiastes 5:18 (NIV) Thus, what a gift has been given to us, to be able to find Joy in the work with which we are tasked upon this earth, and to identify small delights along the way, perhaps setting them forth in “bucket lists.”
As an estate planning attorney, the topic of conversation around my conference table is most often that of death, how to plan for the imminence of it, and what happens upon its occurrence. It is a weighty subject matter. There are other matters in life that demand our attention, and devoting time to talk about death just seems to make it all that much more real. Having such a discussion is not on anyone’s “bucket list.”
Please be encouraged to at least have a discussion, with your loved ones and with your attorney. Place it on a separate “to-do” list if needed. Have the appropriate documents in place, at the very least, a will, a power of attorney, and an advance medical directive. Protect the care of your person and estate while present, and your wishes for your estate upon passing.
Such an action is important. Have two concurrent lists if needed, a “bucket list” and a “to-do list.” After you take care of that important item on the “to-do” list, in this case putting together an estate plan, enjoy the next item placed on your “bucket list.” Joy is a gift and positive reinforcement is important, and what better way to do so, than to go to the local market and purchase flowers – make it an extraordinary life!