My son asked me the other night if I had a bucket list. This struck me as funny at first.
After all, he’s eight– what the heck does he know about bucket lists? I am 40 and don’t think that much about them. Of course, I saw the movie and understand the expression, but I can’t say I ever bothered to make one.
Partly because when I make grocery lists, I inevitably leave them on the kitchen counter and when I get home I find they are only useful for checking off the items I forgot to buy at the store. I am not sure what happens if you lose your bucket list. Do you forget what’s so important for you to see or do, the way I forget to buy Q-tips?
I am not that girl anyway. I don’t have extravagant plans. No desires to bungee jump, or go on safari, or make millions of dollars. I realize that makes me kind of a bore. But I’m afraid of heights, hate getting bit by mosquitos and presume I would also hate getting bitten by an African hyena. As far as millions of dollars, I’m more neutral about the idea. Still, that much money seems complicated, and the pursuit of it more so. Why would I include complicated on my list?
My son’s question seemed random, but then I thought about the last few days. My husband and I enjoyed a nice beach getaway and spent much of our conversation reflecting on our lives. Maybe if we had a bucket list we would have been looking forward, but instead, we talked a lot about how content we are right now.
More than ever, I get what it means to be mid-life. Not in crisis, but no longer a dependent child, like my first 18 years. Realizing how far I am away from childhood makes me cherish the time I have now with my kids more than ever. One day, my husband and I won’t be the most significant people in their lives. They won’t rely on us the way that they do now. We won’t always know what they ate for dinner or what time they went to bed or if they still play MineCraft on the Xbox in their free time. (Please Lord, don’t let my boys grow up to be gamers.)
I get it though. My time with them is fleeting. Knowing this makes me hold on like hell to right now. So I am. I am holding on. Because, I can’t imagine when my tenure with them is up that I will ever do anything else that matters as much.
So, if I bothered to make a list, I would put them at the top with a dash separating their names from the things I want for them — happiness and health, along with a sense of peace and purpose.
Gosh, after that I would be a Greedy Gretel to want anything else.
It’s so easy to think though that where you are now in life will remain. That we will always be in a particular situation or status, even that we will always want the same things.
We evolve. It isn’t about creation or evolution theories either; it’s about changing and being changed by life. Life is not stagnant, and sometimes that’s to your advantage and sometimes it’s not. I don’t know why it’s like this — just that it is.
The human spirit is malleable. It adapts to circumstances of love, loss and loneliness. Somehow it almost always survives. Its evolution is far more fascinating than watching a monkey turn into a man.
Of course, my husband and I talked too about what we thought our lives would be like when our boys were gone, but I’m not so naïve to think we get sole authorship of that chapter of our lives. That would be like thinking just because my son said he’s going to be a coin expert when he grows up that he will be.
I just think the possibilities for all of it are endless, and lists themselves are lifeless.
Before my son received the sacrament of First Holy Communion, he attended preparation retreats on Saturdays. After each one he would bring a little gift home from the Sisters. One of the gifts was a small bag of mustard seeds. Attached to it was a piece of paper with a verse from Mathew 17:19-20. “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
It stayed on the windowsill of our kitchen for a quite a while, and I found myself reading it several times a day. At first, it didn’t mean too much to me. We don’t have mountains in Florida and the thought of commanding one to move was just a bit beyond my faith threshold. Yet, as the days turned into weeks and I continued to read the small slip of paper, I began to think beyond the words of the verse, beyond the mountain.
I thought of what it meant to believe in the infinite. I thought of self-imposed limitations and how they inhibit our movement in life like the strings of a puppeteer. I thought how amazing it is that God loves us so much that He wants us to live without the confines of only what we can see and touch. He wants us to believe past the physical to what we can feel and dream and create with the gifts He’s given us.
The verse helped me believe more in myself. After all, I felt certain that I had faith at least the size of a mustard seed, so why should anything be impossible for me? I dared to imagine a limitless life and it was more exhilarating than thoughts of hanging upside down from a bungee cord (which sounds absolutely terrifying.)
Of course, I know several people who have bucket lists, and I can see where it’s a fun thing to consider. But I have yet to master my lists of corporal and spiritual Works of Mercy, and would consider it a real coup if just once I remembered to bring my grocery list with me to the store. Besides, it is said that life is what happens when you are busy making plans. Maybe sometimes our plans are not nearly as extraordinary as the unexpected journey that awaits.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in my life or in the lives of those I cherish. I just know I am content at this very moment and I am grateful to have a glimpse of what it means to believe that with God nothing is impossible.
I still don’t have a bucket list and believing in the limitless possibilities that come with faith makes me feel more certain than ever that I don’t need one. I haven’t planted the mustard seeds either. Instead I pinned the small packet to my bulletin board. But attached to that verse, the seeds are anything but dormant. They grow possibilities. No water or sunlight needed — just a little faith.