Tuesday, July 2, 2013
The Anti-Bucket List
Everyone is supposed to have a Bucket List. You know, the list of things you'd like to do before you die. It has always seemed to me that most people who have bucket lists are nowhere even close to death, given the amount of time they have to devote to thinking about shit that has never happened and that probably never will happen. I have never had one of these lists, though I have cheated death my share of times. When you are afraid you are going to die--from a traumatic accident, for example, you literally don't have time to think about the future, real, potential or otherwise. My experience with that is that your life flashes before your eyes in the few seconds it takes for your body to hit the sidewalk. In that time, you get the luxury of a few random memories of your short life. Or, let's say you have a potentially fatal disease. Everyone tells you that NOW is the time to do everything you ever wanted to do! And you're like, when? Now? During chemo? After work, which is the same work I had before cancer? After feeding the kids dinner? WHEN, people?
When you are actually afraid you are going to die, the only thing you want is to have more of the life you are afraid you might lose--that crazy, stupid, boring life. And then something interesting happens. You realize that the thing you REALLY want is not to do exciting things you have never done, but to not have to do annoying things that you have to do. You begin to have less patience for people or situations that seem like unnecessary drama. And then you have an epiphany. It's not a bucket list that you need! It's the opposite of that! You need an anti-bucket list, or a list of things you never want to do ever no matter how long you live on this earth. To gain some inspiration into this list, you start looking around at people's actual bucket lists. You find a webpage called bucketlist.org where anyone and their mother can add to the list of things folks should do before they kick off. And the very first entry gives you the very first entry you need:
Hug a Tiger.
OK, hell to the no. And, why? Tigers are not kittens. Hell, most kittens don't even like hugging. Do you think tigers sit around thinking about hugging human beings? Do you know how quickly that tiger could crush you? And also, what kind of bravery is that, when you do something that is bound to piss the animal off because tigers and people don't go around swapping affections in the wild. Just, no.
Here are some more in the list of Things Katy Doesn't Need to Do Before She Dies, Not Ever.
1. Take a cruise. The entire concept behind the cruise makes me think of dysentery. Oh, to be stuck on board with thousands of other people with food poisoning, diarrhea, or some other godforsaken illness. And then there is the endless amount of rich food and the forced entertainment. Not to mention the possibility of fire, or pirates. So when I want to go to a beautiful location, I will fly there, and then spend actual time on the beach rather than circling the beach wishing to God I wasn't stuck on a boat of ridiculous proportions.
2.Speaking of flying...Fly to Australia. Shit is too far away. Now, if someone could just transport me there without the interminable flight, I think Australia is one place on earth I would absolutely love to see. But I learned when I flew nonstop from Chicago to Maui that my limit on a plane without stopping is about 10 hours. I could maybe do 14, if I had some good drugs or something. Anything more than that and you might need to send me a postcard.
3. Read Moby Dick. I say this as an English major, a poet of sorts, a person who has been called a writer. Again, shit is just too long and there's other things I could be doing. Plus, the 1956 movie version is excellent. I love the first line of Moby Dick. Who doesn't love a book that starts with Call me Ishmael.? But then, you know what, that's almost enough. No matter how metaphorical it all is, there is only so much I want to read about WHALES. Anything else that I might need to learn, Gregory Peck could speak to me.
4. Have roommates. Now, I'm married and I have kids, so maybe that counts. Assuming Gabe and I don't get divorced, and assuming I die first which seems likely, this is probably a given. But I went to some great lengths to avoid having roommates as a young adult. I adored the grand total of two roommates I had in college, and am still friends with them both today. But I worked two jobs and stayed in unglamorous spots in order to be able to live by myself, a paradise of sorts that lasted for six years, even when I was in a serious relationship and he had a key and was there a hell of a lot. Even still, that place was mine. If I were the type to have a bucket list, I would place living alone again on it, right at number one. You can call me a curmudgeon, anti-social, or whatever--I don't care. The stuff that sitcoms are made of is the stuff that makes me cringe. All that comeraderie that happened in shows I never related to like Friends where New York was filled with white people who worked as waitresses and got badass non-rent-controlled apartments anyway and then ruined it all by letting these dolts come over unannounced all the time? No. Thank. You.
5. Pinterest. Because. Just...because.
6. Skydiving. Cancer cured me of my fear of heights. It did not cure me of my fear of dying because I jumped out of an airplane for any reason less than a hostage or terrorist situation.
7. Becoming a wine snob. Now, I like wine. I'm allergic to it, or at least to the sulfites in it if it isn't processed in a true organic sense, and that lessens my desire to drink lots of it. But that's not what I mean. I mean I could die a happy death never knowing what the fuck people are talking about when it comes to the nose and the body and the finish because then I just start thinking the damn thing is a car. The same goes for the new trend of talking about beer and even coffee like this. I love coffee. If you hand me a beer I will drink it. I like good wine. I like coffee for how it helps me stay alert and for how drinking it in the early mornings allows me to daydream about living alone again. I like alcohol if it goes well with food, and I like the buzz. There's a lot of decent wine and beer out there that doesn't cost much, and I could live a long life never understanding what makes a single bottle worth $300.
8. Meet (insert name of celebrity). It could be anyone, any single person who is famous, and I really don't care. I might be entertained and intrigued and interested for a minute if I came across a famous person, but if I never did EVER for the rest of my life that would be just fine. I've met a decent number of famous people if I were to stop and think about it, including President Obama back when he was just a state Senator from Illinois. I just can't come up with someone who intrigues me enough to make it on a Bucket List. I geeked out meeting Li Young Lee. When I met him he was working in a factory in Chicago. He's a Chinese refugee who writes poetry when he feels the desire. That was like straight up celebrity to me.
9. Run a marathon. I am a very fit and active person. My ability to participate in high impact sports was destroyed by the car accident I referenced above, way back in 1984. Even so, I don't have any desire to participate in extreme sports. Being active every day and feeling my body work and move and live and get stronger is good enough for me. If anything, I would love to be able to play basketball again, not just as Katy the Shooter, the almost 40 lady who can still sink a hook, but as the fast girl who could run and block until it started hurting too much.
10. Get a tattoo. Now, for a while there, post cancer treatment, I was convinced that I did want one. At the time I had no piercings and no tattoos other than the ones I was forced to get for radiation. Now, I have pierced ears, and I love them, though of course that is so far from interesting that it was more interesting to NOT have them. I thought that I wanted a way to mark the end of treatment, to give me some kind of sign that my body was changed and had survived something. I even decided on a design. I thought I could get it written under the left breast, until I realized how much that would hurt with the total lack of body fat I have there. Then, I thought I could get it on my hip, as another symbol of my near death. And then...I got over it. I realized that I would probably get sick of looking at it. Those stretch marks on my hips from childbearing should be sufficient, right?
This is just the beginning of the list, which has served as a nice diversion on a beautiful day. I am writing this while wearing a bathing suit, sitting in a paddleboat, watching my children jump and swim off the dock. I didn't even bother with sunscreen. I just had a beer and it's the middle of the goddamn afternoon on a Tuesday. There is nothing in the world I need to do today, nothing that is left, nothing that is forgotten.
This is the kind of day I was waiting for when my premature death seemed inevitable.
It seems fitting, somehow, and preferable to the kind of thing you're supposed to say when someone asks you what you'd like to accomplish before you die. It seems that this question must just stump some people. I am amazed by some of the entries on the Bucke tList website. I mean...go in a water fountain in the mall?
Oh honey. Really?
And what's up with all the people who are dying to see the Rolling Stones? I mean, they're a really great rock band. But do you think of them in the same breath as you think of your own death? On the other hand, it might not be a bad idea to walk straight up to Keith Richards and ask him how in the HELL he is still alive.
I've fallen in love several times, met men in interesting places, including on a cross country train, married someone who seems to adore me. I have interesting, charismatic children. I have studied important things and built a non-traditional career for myself that has suited me just fine. I have stuck my stake in the ground of my favorite city and I have never regretted it. I have seen the sun set and rise in some truly beautiful places in the world. I have lost the working function of almost every part of my body at some point, and had the pleasure of watching it all come back to life. I remember learning how to walk. Shit, I finally learned to ride a bike...when I was 35. I have lived almost every day feeling this body and this life as if it was some kind of miracle, even when it seemed almost impossibly small.
It's a good life. I'm happy with it. And throughout everything, I have been strangely unable to come up with a phrase or a symbol or a mantra to describe what I think the meaning of life is. I am not religious, nor even particularly spiritual. And then, eventually, I figured it out.
Don't tell me you weren't wondering what I would tattoo on myself if the desire ever seemed overwhelming. I realized what it would be, the phrase that has swum around in my brain ever since I first heard it. It means, look, this is impossible, technically speaking. But wouldn't it be fun to try?
Let's Waltz the Rumba.
Indeed, Fats Waller. Indeed.