Better Than A Bucket List
I’ve had a bucket list for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved the idea of one. The wistfulness of that list always left me something to dream about when I became an adult. But looking back now, I realize I had never really actively worked toward achieving anything on that list. It’s just super romantic to say I want to visit Paris one day. Or, I want to learn to play the piano. I want to travel in a foreign country solo.” Or I want to become a registered yoga teacher. Those dreams always existed in my life without a real plan to achieve them.
But life has a funny way of jarring you back to that list in an uncomfortable and certainly unwanted kind of there’s-not-always-tomorrow-to-do-that way. And when it does, you can sink or swim. You can melt into a ball of tears and wallow in grief and heartache. Or you can stand up, brush yourself off (after a respectable cathartic ball of tears/wallow period) and decide that you are going to live the vibrant life you’ve always known you were destined for because you’ve been given the gift of a second shot at freedom and peace.
The year my painful divorce was final, I decided to cut the shit.
That list didn’t need to be just a vapid bucket list any longer. It needed to become a To DO list. It NEEDED to serve as a beacon that I was moving in the right direction with my new life, my version 2.0.
I am the captain of this ship.
So I sought out piano lessons since it had been on my list the longest. At the age of 42, learning to play the piano for the first time is no small accomplishment. The disconnect between my left handed self and my brain is extraordinary but I found a lovely teacher very close to my work and dove in without looking. I signed up, bought the primary book she recommended and sauntered into my first lesson ready to be the female version of Schroeder from Peanuts. “And you have a piano or keyboard at home, yes?” my darling teacher asked me at my first lesson. Excuse me? She looked back at me. “Well, you’ll need something to practice on at home…” I had put NO thought into that. That’s how impulsively I jumped into the lessons and my commitment to zeroing out that list. One day I’ll tell the story of Devonna, my new-to-me piano, but for now, know I still diligently practice piano and show up for my lessons eager to learn from the master. Some weeks I get verbal gold star from my teacher Carol. Some days I just get a “You didn’t have much time to practice this week, huh?” Some days my foot connects to the football. Some days Lucy’s right there to swipe it away before it does.
Recently, I confided in a friend that my bucket list was nearly empty thanks to a beautiful year of achievements. After a challenging but thoroughly satisfying six month commitment to yoga teacher training, I am officially a registered yoga teacher. And in April, my best friend and I decided to stop dreaming about our adult Paris trip and just book it. Since I’d be right around the corner in Europe, I tacked on a solo trip to Vatican City at the end of that Paris trip and conquered traveling to a foreign country (two technically) without speaking the language. (crying in Saint Peter’s Square alone and lost is another story to come…)
“What about creating an Experience List instead?” she asked me. A what now?? Mikki Williams has a great TED Talk about the difference between a bucket list and an experience list. It’s beautiful. Instead of writing a list of flat, vague things you want to do before you die, mapping out a list of fluffy detailed experiences you wish to have helps the universe and you (or the people you network with in your lifetime) fulfill those for yourself. It’s like adding color to your words. It’s the whip cream to your sundae. The Woodstock to your Snoopy.
For example, visiting Paris is a one dimensional dream. Flying to Paris and staying in a quaint flat with a view of the Eiffel Tower and sitting at a sidewalk café outside in Paris in the spring while eating cheese and a baguette and drinking a bottle of wine with no need to rush anywhere is worthy of an experience list. (PS- we got really really good at that in Paris. Like, really good at it.)
There’s something empowering about putting dreams into the universe.
When I detail them like that, I can almost imagine them floating out of my head in a melodic wavy pattern and filling the space in and around me, repeatedly making the suggestion to the universe that I am worthy of this experience. Those thoughts can pepper themselves into casual conversations and drop subtle hints and find themselves in opportunities that allow them to become real.
So here I sit working on my new Experience List that shall replace the morbid bucket list I’ve always had written on paper or documented in my iPhone Notes app.
And since we’re friends, and the universe is listening, hiking the Grand Canyon with Bradley Cooper and sitting fireside under a blanket of stars while he serenades me…oh, wait….different dream.
A lot of my Experience List is travel related. I want to take a trip to Northern California and hug big giant redwood trees by day, and sip really good vino in a cozy winery/inn by night. I also want to spend a summer alone in a beachfront cottage with a box of books and a daily bike ride for local seafood and a gourmet kitchen and read and cook and nap in the sun and fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean at night, consuming every drop of summer like it’s meant to be consumed. I also want to drive a cute Shasta trailer across the country in a stop-at-the-fun-stuff-but-no-real-schedule ind of way and see what the west has to offer this girl. Ooh! And spend two weeks in India first exploring the Golden Triangle and the Pink City and the Taj Mahal at sunset and then cap that trip off with a week-long yoga retreat with delicious food and lots of yoga and an exploration of a slower paced countryside portion of that enigmatic country.
And one day, I will publish a book and my book tour will consist of quaint bookstores where I’ll read small selections to a respectable crowd of voracious readers eager to have their book signed by me and I’ll take the time with each of them, writing something witty in each book that they’ll show their friends and giggle at just how cool I am. (So maybe the universe can’t help me with the “cool” part, but I’ll settle for accomplishing all other parts of that dream.)
Add so much color to them that the dreams seem a little scary.
Are you a pen and paper kind of person? Get out that planner or journal and scribble out a few dreams. Add so much color to them that the dreams seem a little scary. If you’re a digital dame, open a note on your phone or tablet and type away until you’re almost (or thoroughly) embarrassed. Make them borderline uncomfortable to have to divulge them to someone else. And then TELL EVERYONE. Let those dreams waft out of your mouth and circle the space above you like dirt does around Charlie Brown’s other friend Pigpen: make it always there around you, practically who you are so that it does, one day, become what you’ve experienced.
As for me, I’ll be working on my Fur Elise from Beethoven to prep for the upcoming holidays and to give book lovers the ability to say to their friends, “One time I met author Danie Leever in a dive bar in Connecticut while she was on her book tour and she played music from A Charlie Brown Christmas for me and my girlfriends and it was so magical and it literally checked something off of my Experience List! I’ve always wanted to sing Christmas songs with my friends in a dive bar in Connecticut while dressed as Peanuts characters!”
Dream big, my friends. This is a life to love.