Making Today Matter Is More Important Than Worrying About Tomorrow
The day after my high school prom, a group of us went to an amusement park to continue celebrating. After navigating the ticket line, I noticed a new attraction that looked like one of those free-fall water slides. As I looked up at the endless zigzag of stairs while shielding my eyes from the sun, my heart dropped when I saw a person falling from the top, screaming.
The screams stopped when she bounced up gracefully. I hadn’t noticed earlier that she was attached to a bungee cord.
“Who’s with me?” I excitedly asked my friends. My adrenaline was rushing and I couldn’t wait to leap off the edge.
I took that leap, jumping even before they could count to three. It was one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever done. It was a bucket list item I didn’t even know I wanted to do until I saw it in person. After that trip, I started to dream up other thrilling adventures for my future. My ultimate goal was to jump out of an airplane. My bucket list was filling up.
But what is a bucket list, really? Some people I ask say it’s a list of dreams, while others say it’s a list of life goals. However, everyone I talk to agrees on one thing: Success is measured by checking off everything on the list before you die.
A line in the Sheryl Crow song “Soak Up the Sun” made me think about bucket lists differently: “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.”
An invitation to disappointment
The day I went bungee jumping, I hadn’t planned to do it. I had no expectations, and I certainly didn’t have it on a checklist. I wonder what would’ve happened had I known about the attraction ahead of time. Would I have built up expectations in my mind, so that the actual experience failed to live up to them? This is one of many reasons for burning my bucket list.
Remember that at the top of my list was jumping out of an airplane. I got that opportunity from a friend whose company was offering a free jump. A bucket list check!
Except that an appointment with my cardiologist a few days later killed the plan. For some unknown reason, half of my heart was stressed out during a routine procedure, essentially leaving it paralyzed for a couple days. It took quick measures by emergency staff to help me to a full recovery.
The cardiologist warned me that takotsubo cardiomyopathy could be prompted by a sudden adrenaline rush. The chances of this happening, he added, were greater than 50%.
I decided the risk wasn’t worth it, and I erased the idea from my mind. But I felt like a failure, as if I had received a failing grade in an imaginary measurement of life — all because I couldn’t check an item off my bucket list.
Forget the list
Talk about investing precious time in things that don’t matter. I was living too much in the future, which leads to only two possible outcomes: I can succeed or I can fail.
What I do now is to make a “today list.” Going for walks and holding hands with my husband, spotting a rare owl on a rooftop, or watching my daughter get ready for her first date — these are the experiences that fill my life with purpose. I will continue to make plans, but I won’t use them as a way to measure the richness of my life.
Today is bigger than a bucket list.
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.