Personally, I got started early. Being diagnosed with a chronic condition such as Diabetes Type 1 (insulin dependent) makes you consider such things.
The insulin shots came accompanied by the fear of the aforementioned hypos, which caused me to over-eat and gain weight. This was followed by a sense of both outrage and vulnerability when my life-insurance premiums doubled. When I mentioned the latter to my endocrinologist, he said that this wasn't completely unjustified: had my condition remained undetected, I could have died within a few years.
That certainly put things into perspective.
Twelve years have passed and I am still alive and thriving. Since my diabetes is well controlled and my lifestyle is healthier and more active than it had ever been prior to my diagnosis, I am likely to live longer than I would have as a non-diabetic. The needles turned out to be neither huge nor hypodermic. I have been blessed a fantastic team of health professionals and live in a country with access to all the medication, information and resources I could possibly need. My partner, family and friends have been incredibly supportive every step of the way.
Still, I have started ticking my Bucket List items early, just in case: the diabetes might be under control, but we never know what else might be around the corner. ‘Live every day as if it were your last’ is not a bad philosophy to live by. In the past twelve years, I have -
- sung Handel’s Messiah as part of a choir (and cried when the audience stood up at the sound of the Halleluiah)
- walked the winding streets of Barcelona, entered the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, been lost (and found) in Sevilla, fallen in love with Toledo and been bewitched by la Alhambra when I visited Spain
- arrived at Machu Picchu after hiking the Inca Trail for four days, camping for three nights and climbing tens of thousands of uneven steps at high altitude - It was all worth it!
- marvelled at the vastness of the Uyuni salt lake in Bolivia – 10,000 square km of seemingly endless white and blue where one tends to lose perspective
- cuddled a healthy Tasmanian Devil Joey, now in danger of extinction
- written and published a novel, Exuberance
- traversed the width of Australia aboard the mighty Indian Pacific train
The expression ‘bucket list’, as in ‘the list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket’ might have pre-dated the 2007 movie of that name, but the film certainly did a lot to popularise the expression. Mark and I watched it when it hit the cinemas in early 2008, even though the critics panned it – any movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson in it can’t be that bad, we thought – besides, it was the ‘half-price’ movie that particular week.
Nicholson and Freeman portray two men who are diagnosed with cancer and end up spending some time together in a hospital room while they undergo chemotherapy. They are two people from completely different backgrounds, with totally different approaches to life – and death. The only things that bring them together are their illnesses, the hospital room they happen to be sharing, and the fact that once they conclude their treatment, they are both given only six months to live. So they decide to write a ‘bucket list’; a list of all the things they want to do before they die, and decide to do them together. Some of the items on it are:
- witness something truly magnificent
- kiss the most beautiful girl in the world
- help a complete stranger
- laugh until they cry
- visit the Taj Mahal
- climb the Himalayas
So the kind, family oriented, spiritual Carter (Freeman) and the heartless, materialistic, friendless Edward (Nicholson) set about ticking the items on their list, much to the dismay of Carter’s wife who wants her husband to herself in the last months of his life.
About half of the movie is spent at the hospital; the other half takes place all over the world – Hong Kong, the Himalayas, South Africa, Egypt, India. Edward has more money than he can ever hope to spend in the little time he has left, so financing their travels, in a private plane nonetheless, is not an issue. Along the way, they forge an unlikely friendship, they fight, and they reconcile just before they die. Carter, who had ‘left a stranger, comes back a husband’ to his wife; and Edward makes peace with his estranged daughter (the most beautiful girl in the world).
It was an average movie, plagued by clichés. But it did make me think about my own ‘bucket list’. What are the things I want to do before I die, or before I am too old or frail to do them, considering that I don’t have anywhere near the kind of money that Edward had? There are two kinds of bucket list items – those that one can only do in the event of winning the lottery and those that don’t cost a cent. The list Carter was writing before Edward decided to join him, for instance, mostly contained items such as ‘laugh until you cry’ or ‘help a complete stranger’, which were within his reach.
There is also a conversation the two men have while they are sitting on top of the pyramids in Egypt. Carter tells Edward that in ancient Egypt they believed that when a person died, the gods asked him or her two questions, and their acceptance into heaven depended on their answers.
The two questions were:
‘Have you found joy in your life?’ and ‘have you brought joy into the life of others?’
It might have been an average movie, but it gave me plenty to think about, and not only think, but do. There are many things still on my ‘to do’ list; the most ambitious being hiking the 'Camino a Santiago' from France to Spain. A month-long hike as an insulin dependent diabetic would present some challenges (it was challenging enough on a four-day hike), but that is all part of the adventure. However, 'to laugh until I cry' and ‘Finding and Giving Joy’ have a permanent place on the list, to be achieved as often as possible.
What are some of the items on your bucket list?