What can be better than a Bucket List?
Bucket Lists have been done to death, pardon the pun. Anyone and everyone has been compiling lists of things to do and places to see before they kick the bucket, as it were. The underlying philosophy of the Bucket List is the notion that life is short and temporary and that one should make sure that one does and sees everything one can before one dies. Sorry about the queenly language there. I’ve never had a Bucket List as such, although I do have a list of things—things that are both entirely possible and probably highly unlikely—that I’d like to achieve over my lifetime; these are more or less goals that I am working towards. Necessary, of course, but pedestrian and ho-hum and cliché because just about everyone is looking to harness their passion and work mindfully, meaningfully and minimalistically. Life, as far as I’m concerned and in many respects, is much more messy, murky and mundane. And because of that, ticking things off one’s Bucket List might not be as easy as, well, ticking things off a list.
For folks who have no fucks left to give
A concept that has caught my eye of late is the “no fucks” movement. You may have heard someone say that they have no fucks left to give—in other words, they really don’t give a fuck—a kind of shorthand for saying “I care not about this situation. Or you, because what’s happening here, well, it doesn’t work for me“. I like it because it says that I have a choice about what I care about or what I invest in, and it’s not that or this or you. It’s a reminder that letting go and moving on is one of the most empowering things you can do in terms of self-care.
And taking self-care a step further, how about this for a meditation that tells it like it is while also being incredibly calming? Breathe in strength. Breathe out bullshit. Pretty cool, hey?
So building on the idea that self-empowerment through letting go is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your growth as a human being, why aren’t we all working on our Fuck It Lists?
…a fuck-it list is ultimately about letting go of the things that hold us back from reaching our true potential. Some are about overcoming our ego attachments which have no real power, especially if we don’t feed them any, and others are an illustration of internal achievements that we’ll be more than stoked with when we’re lying on our death-bed and deliberating our achievements in life. After all, real success comes from within, not from without. ~ Philip J Watt.
After much consideration, here’s mine.
My Fuck It List
Fuck It #1 – My relationship with my daughter is my number 1 priority (because she is the only family I will ever have)
I admit that I have struggled with this in the last five years. As my daughter has grown and forged her own path, she has wrestled to define and claim her identity as both my daughter and her own person. While I have not stood in her way—and have encouraged her to live her own life—I have felt that the path she is treading doesn’t really include me. I’ve felt hurt, dismissed, disregarded. I now realise that I have to let go of any expectations I have around what constitutes our relationship, because this has been significantly impacted by my (non) relationship with my own mother. And if our relationship is to grow and change—as it should as she gets older— it is up to me to set the tone.
I need to make it crystal clear to her—clearer than I have in the past—that she means the world to me. I need to put aside my hurt feelings, my ego, my sense of injustice to show her that I love her and care about her more than anything and I want us to walk through life together, not only as mother and daughter, but as human beings who care deeply for one another.
It’s really the only think that matters, fuck it.
(And this also relates to Fuck It List Item #6.)
Fuck It # 2 – I will not go gentle into that good night (because I want to grow old indignantly)
As a 52 years young woman—soon to be 53—I am fitter than I ever was at 23. At 23, I didn’t get much sleep, I didn’t exercise (apart from dancing and sex!) and I drank and I ate convenience food because I was out a lot. Almost every night. It was the eighties, after all. I was young and slim and attractive and life was a candle whose only purpose was to be lit and burned at both ends. I had the time of life in my teens and twenties: zero responsibility (other than turning up for work and paying the rent and bills) and infinite fun. Clearly not a sustainable lifestyle, though!
At 52, I am conscious of the many unhealthy and unfit people my age that I see out and about. I don’t want to be that, so I make a concerted effort to be fit and stay healthy. It’s a regimen that I would never have entertained in my youth: running, walking, weights, intermittent fasting. I am acutely aware that I can’t stop aging—it’s a natural process—but I don’t want to be an old, unhealthy lady, dependent on others i.e. my daughter for my mobility and care. Fuck that for a bunch of bananas!
Fuck It #3 – Kindness to others will be my default position (unless they are sociopaths or narcissists or just generally awful people)
This is a tough one. You might not think it, but I am one of the most judgey and unforgiving people around. I have zero empathy or compassion or sympathy for people who I believe have done me wrong, or not behaved in a way that is congruent with my values or my way of doing things, particularly if I think they have an agenda that is purely about self-interest. The thing is though: how do I know? I can’t read someone’s mind to understand their motivation. In fact, most of the time no one knows what motivates them or why they do what they do… how arrogant is it of me to presume that I know what’s going on in someone else’s head? I hardly know what’s going on in mine!
Kindness—to me anyway—is to be gentler with people, to be more forgiving of their flaws, to acknowledge that they are treading the Earth in their own way and along their own path, battling demons and lancing boils as they go. They have their own story, which I may or may not get to know. It is assumptions that lead me to be unkind. By asking gentle questions and listening—really listening—to someone’s story, I can unravel those pesky assumptions which lead to me being judgmental and unkind.
Fuck It #4 – My gifts are special and I will honour them (and that means living a creative life, which is bloody hard)
Write, take photos and then write some more. How hard can it be for fuck’s sake?
Harder than coal mining, apparently.
Of course, I’m not making light of being a coal miner. It’s a dangerous job and I’m glad I don’t have to mine for coal to put food on my table or pay the bills. In a past life, I probably wouldn’t have any choice. You do what you have to do to survive.
Things are different now. You have a choice. You can choose a career or an industry based on your interest or passion or the paycheck. Life—in the western world anyway—is not exactly hard.
But ask any creative person and they will tell you that living a creative life is hard. It’s hard for any number of reasons: fear of failure, fear of success. No time. Priorities. Work gets in the way. Family demands. Life. A broken heart. A new relationship. Death. Poverty. Running. All are valid reasons to not create. All are valid reasons to create anyway.
I think about writing all the time. That I should be doing it. That I should be doing a lot more of it. That I need to get my camera out and take more pictures. And exhibit. And publish. To call myself a writer and a photographer, I have to actually write and take pictures.
(As an aside, I am a runner. I run roads and trails and treadmills. I run a few events, but I don’t often compete. I don’t need to. The act of running—doing it at least three times a week—and the fact that I do it, makes the claim that I am a runner true. I’m not the fastest runner, or the most graceful. I have good runs and bad runs. I’ve tripped and fallen and gotten back up and kept on running. I need to apply this same approach to my writing and photography. I can’t claim to be a writer or a photographer if I don’t do it.)
I know people would kill to have my gifts. Or would be killed, if they wrote what I wrote. I live in a country that protects (for the most part) freedom of speech. I am lucky to largely and freely be able to create and be creative without coercion or fear (skittish workplaces and managers aside). I should never take that for granted, fuck it!
Fuck It #5 – Making trouble and questioning everything is the only way to live (because it annoys the crap out of people in power who are hoping to get away with whatever they can)
Noam Chomsky once said: Make trouble. Question everything. It’s one of my favourite quotes, particularly in this day and age where people can spin a lot of crap that sounds sensible, but—when you dig a little deeper—has no real substance. No real meaning. Politicians and managers are masters of this sort of hoodwinking. There are lots of important sounding words being spoken, but not many people bother to unpack what’s bubbling underneath in the subterranean subtext. Sometimes it’s as innocuous as a subtle re-engineering of the truth to eliminate discomfort—for both the speaker and the listener. Other times it’s a deliberate obfuscation of what’s really going on—a lot of words that mean absolutely nothing guaranteed to hide absolutely something. I see that a lot in places I’ve worked. You have to be on your toes to even pick up on what’s going on. It’s easy to let the words wash over you in another mind-numbing meeting.
But it’s questions, really good questions, that can cut through the bullshit. If you don’t question the bullshit—and the bullshitter—you’d be amazed what gets through. How do you think the Australian government (Liberal or Labor) gets away with what it does, including passing self-interested legislation? Because the Opposition (Liberal or Labor) doesn’t ask good questions of the government. Sure there’s a lot of berating that goes on. And a lot of words that sound like questions, but there’s no real holding of the government to account. Because the media (and I’m talking commercial TV and radio) doesn’t really question what’s going on other than a few token soundbites that (they think) echo the zeitgeist. The ABC does a good job, though, which is why this government is seeking to cut its funding. And censor programs.
Without questions, stuff becomes normalised. Small, incremental changes end up fundamentally altering our freedom and way of life—and we don’t know how it happened—because we haven’t been paying attention or can’t be bothered taking action or we’re worried about what will become of us if we do ask questions. Before we know it, we’ve become complicit bullshittees. I’m not saying that asking questions is easy. It’s not. This is what happened recently to one person who dared to question the Powers That Be in a public, televised forum. I also see it in the places I’ve worked, where people are too afraid to question what’s going on because they fear for their jobs. They fear being singled out. They fear being bullied. But if we all ask questions, really good questions, then truths and personal agendas and sociopathy and megalomania will become obvious and we can do something about it. If we fail to question, we deserve what get.
So, fuck it. Make trouble. Question everything. You’ve got a lot to lose if you don’t.
Fuck It #6 – I will not end up like my mother (because that would be a tragic fate worse than death)
At nearly 53, I realise that I am nothing like my mother in so many ways. I have never married (she had three marriages and divorces under her belt by the time she was in her mid forties). I’ve had only one child (she had three—my two siblings—to two different men). She had fractious and fraught relationships with all her children (and despite everything, my relationship with my own daughter is good). I moved out when I was 17 (my daughter is still living with me at age 23). She was a nurse turned teacher’s aide, who never went to university (I’ve been in a number of professional roles since my early thirties, and have a Master of Arts and started a PhD). She didn’t own property until her fifties (I bought my place in my early thirties) and she hasn’t really travelled (she did one overseas trip to Ireland, while I go overseas once, maybe twice a year). She retired in her early fifties with anxiety issues (I’m going to have to work until I’m 80 and I’m generally not an anxious person). She was violent and manipulative and controlling (I am none of those things).
But I am also like her in many ways, too. I love to read, as did she. My sisters and I all had library cards, and we changed our books every Friday after school. She was essentially a hermit—she didn’t encourage us to invite our friends over to play. In fact, she made it so uncomfortable if they did visit, that they wouldn’t return. I hate people being in my space—I go out to socialise. And while my daughter’s friends do drop in from time to time, I don’t actively encourage them to stay and chat. The parents that have a house full of teenagers? That was never me. I rarely let her have her friends sleep over when she was young, and birthday parties were always held off premises, unless it was my immediate family and a few close friends. I would always say that we didn’t have the room—and that was true—but the fact is, I didn’t want anyone in my space, even though it was also my daughter’s space.
And my mother didn’t have many close friends. I’m like that. I have lots of acquaintances and my relationships, for example with my work colleagues, are usually excellent, but I don’t invite anyone around to visit. I could. But I don’t, for the same reasons outlined above. I just don’t like other people in my space. My space is my space. It’s my castle. I don’t share it unless I am intimate with someone. A man, for example. This need to keep the world at bay has gotten more profound as I’ve gotten older. When I was younger, in my teens and twenties, I would often invite people around for dinner or cards or movies or drinks and I enjoyed it. Now, I’d rather stick pins in my eyes. What happened to my social self?
My mother is now in a nursing home, with signs of dementia. I don’t visit her, but one of my sisters does. She’s the only one of us who does, even if it’s not regular. As far as I’m aware, my mother has no friends, and (of course) no significant other to keep her company or care for her in her twilight years. I doubt that she is visited by her grandchildren. I know my daughter doesn’t see her. And that’s what worries me. I would rather die than live out my senior years with health issues, estranged from my daughter and (hopefully) my grandchildren. And that’s what I rail against when I say I will not end up like my mother. I intend to be surrounded by my grandkids and involved in their lives, spend my time writing, and being social (even if it’s not at home) and creative and healthy, and contributing or giving back to my community somehow.
Because, fuck it, I’m not meant to live a small, nondescript life.
None of us are.
Then how about buying me a glass of wine — or even two! — for writing such an awesome essay?