The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bucket List-less

I learned a new term today: bucket list.

Okay, so it's not all that new. I've heard/read it many times on people's blogs, and I've inferred that it has something to do with things you want to do in your life. But I never actually looked up the term to see why these (hella long) lists were called bucket lists.

So, once I figured out all the meaning and etymology behind bucket list, I began mentally compiling mine. But then I stopped for a few reasons (and not very good ones at that):

1. I don't know how to put a bucket list tab on my blog page (other people are doing it on Blogger, so it must be possible). I am embarrassingly computer-stupid.

2. But even if I did know how to put a bucket list tab on my blog, what if my bucket list isn't cool enough to hang out with all the other bucket lists? What if instead of being a clever shortening of the term, my bucket list is indeed a b-list?

I have a fear of being a b-list person. It's my own private (or not so much now) personal insecurity: people find me a b-list person. I fear mediocrity and b-list smacks of it. This fear is grounded in some experience.

a) I was home-schooled and didn't have any friends besides books (and goats and rocks and trees--sort of like a Disney heroine except I have bad hair and a shitty singing voice and no fairy godmothers (that I know of)) for many years of my life, so this whole being in the company of peers thing is still relatively new (say about 1/3 of my life). I lack the social graces that apparently you pick up when you are being tormented in junior high. I'm often awkward.

b) I have had some friends(?) close acquaintances(?) who very obviously considered me their b-list friend: if something better came up (and it often did), they had no problem with abandoning me to my own devices (luckily I had all that practice reading books and not having friends as a child, so my devices are quite competent). This behavior wasn't some soul scaring thing for me. It was a bit sad, but I recognized the situation and didn't spend (too) much time wondering why these people didn't want me a an a-list friend. But the psychological damage has been done. [Of note, three people, who don't know each other at all, have randomly apologized for making me a b-list friend . . . while that apology (which confirmed everything) is nice, it didn't do much to assuage my fears that I am indeed a b-list person.]

c) My name starts with a "b," so I am perpetually on a b-list somewhere by virtue of that (though I do love the letter b. It makes me think of that Sesame Street song, "Letter B").

And further, what if my b-list is not only completely uncool, but it is also shorter than 100 (or 101 for some blogs) things. WHAT IF I AM SO BORING I CAN'T COME UP WITH 100 COOL THINGS TO DO BEFORE I DIE?

Seriously, people the Internet over are judging each other by the items on their b-list.

"Oooh, she wants to catch fireflies in a jar" (read: quirky, appreciates aesthetics, yet enjoys the simple things in life)

"and he wants to run an ultramarathon barefoot in Mexico with the Tarahumara tribe" (read: super in shape yet knows how to party, impenetrable feet, loves nature and being in solitude for a long time, reads books on running)

You get my point. How do you even think of stuff like this? I can't. My b-list would contain: drink wine and read books. Then I would cross those off over and over and over and over again because I do them everyday. But they aren't things I want to stop. They aren't things that you can do just once and say "whew, that reading thing, glad I got that one over with, now I'll never read again." I like drinking wine. I love reading books. I want to do so much more of both of those before I die ("have sex" is something else that has happened before and I would like to have happen again, so it would probably be on my list too--I guess I could cool that one up with a location or type of sex act, but honestly, how do you know when you've crossed the creepy line? The goats (happily) never taught me those kind of social skills . . . did I just cross the line there?)

3) And speaking of thinking of my b-list contents, how do you organize your head enough to even make a list of things you want to do before you die? Nothing I want to do stays static. I tend to get passionate about something for a period of time and then I just abandon it along my road of life without a second glance. I would have to update my list every week or so to accommodate the new things I want to do and get rid of all the stuff I no longer am interested in. And we all know I wouldn't actually update it, so then I will go back to it in like 13 years and have a panic attack because I never made my son homemade blueberry pancakes. Or, worse, I'll feel so committed and locked into doing the things on my list that I'll sneak into my son's college apartment on a Saturday morning as he's sleeping off his hangover from the night before and make said pancakes only to be surprised by his naked roommate coming out of the bathroom. Then the roommate and I will have to sit down and eat the pancakes because my son won't be awake yet, and I'll have to pretend that the roommate isn't naked and all shaved and pierced (was that crossing the line? Damn those goats). It will be awkward for all of us.

4) Maybe I'm ascribing too much weight to this b-list thing, but if I am going to put down life goals in writing, I really want to make sure that they are things that I really want to do and not just filler. However, sometimes I won't know whether or not something should be on my b-list until after I do it (and we all know how dissatisfying it is to add something you've already done to a list just to cross it off). For example, "jumping in puddles and rescuing worms with my son during a rainstorm followed by "hot-tubbing" it in our giant bathtub with (kinder)beers" wasn't something that I wouldn't have included on my list de novo, but now that I've done it, I know my life needed that moment to be complete. Our lives need hundreds and thousands of these little moments to be complete, and we often don't know it until they've happened. They are moments that can't be anticipated and that is why they are so precious. How do I take those moments and condense them into a pithy little line and then cross them off? I think something is lost. I want to live my life, not necessarily make it a to do list.

I love lists. I love having goals and desires (in fact, I have so many of both that I have been referred to as a cavern of want). Yet I am reluctant to merge the two. Maybe because I can't solidify what I actually want to do with my life. Maybe because I am afraid of the reckoning that articulating something brings. Maybe because I just don't really want to examine all that I want to do before I die. Maybe because I'm afraid of what would happen to my heart if I actually put something like "write a book that gets published" into print and then I am 95 years old, dying, and it didn't happen.

Maybe I am making this whole bucket list thing into a way bigger deal than it really is.

That's likely.

In any case, I am now going to drink wine and read. So I can cross those off my list



  1. you are always at the top of my a list. and my helsinki list.

  2. what I was looking for, thanks