Mid-life Bucket List

This morning I was reading a wonderful blog called Press Pause written by my old friend and first college roommate Deana Graham. Here’s the link: http://deana-pressingpause.blogspot.com/2012/10/possibilities.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PressPause%2FdeanaGrahamPhotography+%28Press+Pause%2FDeana+Graham+Photography%29. As I was reading her post about possibilities—sorry, Deana, I am one of those former English teachers—I realized that Bruce and I are reaching the age of possibilities again. For many years now our lives have moved to the rhythms of children growing up and learning to be independent and all the responsibilities that entails, but soon the only ties we will have to this house, this community, this state will be ones we choose and that only involve the two of us. It is almost like being newly married again. We can go anywhere and do anything we want on our own schedule. If we wanted to drive cross-country or fly to Tanzania we could.

I’ve been contemplating this change in our lifestyle for some time. Luckily for us parents children usually don’t grow up and leave the nest all at once, and since both our sons are grown—in college and soon to be in the Navy—our house seems really big. We built it to have room for relatives to visit and for grandchildren if that blessing is one God grants us, but we also realize we can be grandparents anywhere. Perhaps what I’m feeling is the restlessness of aging.

My mother-in-law has been traveling a lot lately and seems to be thoroughly enjoying herself, but in her I sense anxiousness, a need to see and do all she wants to do before she can’t anymore. She is now seventy eight years young, thirty years further along than I am, but I still feel the same need to move, to do, to see. Maybe it’s because Bruce and I never settled anywhere until we moved here. Before this we lived the gypsy lifestyle being in the military demands, moving every three years or so. PCS orders the military calls them, permanent change of station. About four years after we came to Wisconsin, we were sitting in our old living room, both of us restless until the realization dawned on us: it had been four years since we had moved. That explained our longing for new places and experiences, the variety that, for us, is the spice of life.

Bruce left the military for a variety of reasons, one of which was living in a place where our children could grow up in the same school in a small town near at least one of our families. We have satisfied that requirement. Perhaps it is completing the mission, perhaps it’s dealing with being unemployed, perhaps it is mid-life crisis, but whatever the reason, we are both chafing at something—fiscal austerity, not having a vacation in nearly five years, unemployment or employment that makes us miserable. Whatever the reason, it’s time for a change in our lives and in our attitudes.

One of the things we are doing as a couple this weekend is making a bucket list for our lives together so we can prioritize our vacations and leisure time. I just read The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski with my book club. We have yet to discuss the book—that happens this Thursday—but reading that book inspired me to make a bucket list of my own to make sure I step up in my own life to create my own destiny rather than waiting for life to happen to me. I think the book also inspired a bit of restlessness in me. Even though the main character is completing another person’s list, she ends up stepping out of her comfort zone and truly living. I like that idea. When I created my own list, I surprised myself with some of my items, which prompted me to talk to Bruce about compiling his own list. I’m hoping we have some of the same items, but I think our lists will diverge. Creating a list together will be fun, but it will also challenge us to see each other’s priorities from a loving perspective. I think it will be fun to see the possibilities we have to share in our future.

I used to think of growing older as limiting. When I was young, I believed most older people were not adventurous. I didn’t see the weight of responsibility they carried. I didn’t understand priorities of family and putting someone else’s needs and welfare above my own. I think few children and young adults do, but now I realize I’ve underestimated what the second act of adulthood can entail, the possibilities of love rediscovered, of travel, of learning new cultures, new places, and experiencing new things. I’m looking forward to finding out what the second half of my life holds in store for me. Thank you, Deana, for reminding me of the “gifts of possibilities.” I too have wondered about the many possibilities I’ve passed by or have failed to notice. From now on I plan to keep my eyes wide open and my bag packed for adventure to enjoy what life throws my way. Here’s my bucket list. I would love to hear what’s on yours!

Bucket List 2012:

  1. Become a successful published novelist
  2. Write a family cookbook with pictures for Erik and Travis
  3. Hike the Appalachian Trail
  4. Vacation in Tahiti and Hawaii
  5. Learn French again
  6. Travel to France: Paris, Provence, and the Dordogne
  7. Go back to London and travel around the British Isles
  8. Drive the great roads of America: Route 66, Blue Ridge Pkwy, PCH, Lincoln Hwy, Yellowstone Trail, Bankhead Hwy, Hwy 41
  9. Vacation in California’s wine country
  10. Take drawing and painting lessons
  11. Learn photography
  12. Learn to cook macarons, croissants, and other French pastries
  13. Move back to the South (at least half the year)
  14. Get to a weight I’m comfortable with.
  15. Visit the country’s national parks and stay in the great lodges.
  16. Learn to knit and knit myself a sweater I’ll actually wear.  :}

I know my list might change, especially when Bruce and I compile our individual lists, but I think I have a lot to look forward to.

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