Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bucket List Part 2

My Bucket List
Perhaps you’ve seen the 2007 movie “Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.  In this movie the two protagonists, from completely different backgrounds, embark on a journey in which they try to accomplish items on their bucket lists.  The movie encompasses both the humorous and serious aspects of life as it draws to close.  A much older movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart as George Baily reflects on life in a different manner.  George Bailey views life from a ghostly view highlighting his absence.  Different questions are raised by each movie; one movie sees life as a checklist, the other measures a person’s affects on those around him or her.
In the Nicholson-Freeman story the emphasis is on the final lap of life.  At least one of the protagonists is trying to check off as many items during the final period of life as possible.  Achieving the items on the bucket list is a sprint to the finish line.  George Bailey reflects on his life and sees how it would have been without him; the focus is on life’s long journey. 
My blog idea list which contains topics I want to explore and share.  My writing notebooks and folders contain four or five concepts for large and small pieces of fiction.  I plug away without counting, without finishing a certain number this week, this month or even this year. 
While these writing projects are in written form, I don’t have a formal bucket list.  No top 10 places to visit and no 1000 things to do before I die.  I enjoy plugging away, just enjoying things as they happen.  Life’s journey and experiences are too much fun to ruin by quantifying or checking off a list.  I do have several unwritten bucket list items and if the occasion arises they will be enjoyed, as and when they happen.  They are moments to be savored by virtue of their value, not because they get crossed off some fantasy list.  My preference is to live right now, not for some unknown future.  But hope for a future life to enjoy.
Rather than enjoy special events just once I like to repeat them.  On the spur of the moment I will go to my favorite Jazz club and enjoy the music.  Sometimes it’s to hear a favorite band or could be to listen to a new group.  Pleasant experiences are worth doing over and over.  Iris loves cruises and would rather go on two modest trips per year than one extravagant cruise in a year.  Life is like pizza: when it is good it is good, when it is bad it is still good.
The checklist approach to life is mundane, boring and technical.  Been there, done that.  A period at the end.
Approaching activities for their intrinsic value is fun, unique and memorable.  The peaks and surprises of life are worth remembering, worth doing over.   An exclamation point at conclusion!
As I write this I realize I do have a solitary bucket list thought: wake up tomorrow morning with Iris and my dog, Ruby, by my side waiting to see what will happen. 
This is the Zen of life.  List not included.
KISS:  Keep it Somewhat Spontaneous.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bucket List Part 1

What is a bucket list?

Life’s journey often starts without a clear path laid out.  Most people don’t have an exact clear life plan when they are in middle school, high school and sometimes even in college.  Our first steps in the journey are tentative and flexible.  That is okay.  That is normal.  We blaze our own path in the beginning; our youthful confidence ignores doubt, missteps and ignorance.

Life takes shape and direction at its own pace.  People develop a concept of themselves and what they want to do; they develop and follow an internal compass.  Along with near and mid-term plans people conceive an ethereal concept of some distant future.  People begin to create dreams, wishes and aspirations of a conceptual nature.  These conceptual ideas are presented in concrete terms of things they want or want to do.  Thus is born the “bucket list.”

In the beginning the list is short including only major events: I want a small family, I want to go college, and I want to visit Italy.  Items are added and removed.  Events change the list: you go into the army instead of college, visit to Canada not Italy and the family is larger than planned.  That is just the way it is.  You adapt to the circumstances, change your expectations and move on.

I am not sure when the term “bucket list” or common use of a written list came to be.  Now at every turn references are found to the bucket list.  A 1000 things to see before you die, 50 things to do before you die, 111 ideas for a bucket list and summer bucket list are actual web sites on the Internet.  I didn’t bother to view these pages.  I am sure they are interesting and of value, at least to the authors.  They are the author’s lists, not mine or yours.  Do I really want to see the Pyramids in Egypt, climb a mountain, run a marathon or find a long lost friend?  The bucket list is only of value to those who engage in writing them.  How do they know what I want to do or need?  Am I part of a giant marketing research effort?

My simple life philosophy eschews the need for a formal list.  Wanting things or wanting to do a prescribed list of tasks is not pleasant, it creates urges to get, do or have material items.  It causes greed and desire to have things that others have or have done.  I am not them (whoever they are), and I don’t want their things or lives.
I don’t feel the need to have list of things to do because I am not ready to go just yet.  All I really want is to be the best “Warren” I can be, nothing more, nothing less.  List not required.

More Next Week

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Goal of Retirement

Retirement is the light at the end of the tunnel, the brass ring to grab, and the finish line of a long race.  We work in order to retire; our ultimate goal is to stop working.  Eight to five, five days a week for years we toil to attain the final reward of retirement, the target we’ve been striving to reach.  We check our Social Security statements to make sure the annual reported salaries are correct, we carefully monitor our savings and perform endless tasks related to our financial well-being.  Sometimes we feel satisfied that our progress is on track and sometimes we feel that we have fallen behind.  Short-term issues balloon into major stumbling blocks in the trek to that wonderful goal, the unending vacation called retirement.

For years retirement has been a goal in the very distant future, so far away that it is only a theoretical concept.  One day the goal creeps into our vision, still far away but rapidly approaching; the distant retirement dream begins to race towards us at an even quicker rate.  We have been planning for it, but not thinking about what we will do.  Retirement is here.  The first week we complete our to-do list and our spouse wants us out of the way.  Yikes.  What am I going to do?  

I’d rather ask a different question.  Not what am I going to do when I retire, but why retire?  Paid retirement is a relatively new concept; the first government paid program only began in 1883.  German Chancellor Bismarck formulated retirement to counter the growing influence of Marxism in Europe.  Bismarck tried to give the German people hope, a dream of a better future.  The concept of retirement stuck even though the 65 years of age needed for retirement was higher than the average life expectancy.  Paid government retirement became the norm in Europe and the United States within a few decades.  Despite the newness of the retirement concept everyone accepts the fact that we are entitled to it, we’ve worked for it, and it’s our right.  Paid retirement may be new but that doesn’t mean it is bad or we need to turn back the clock.

I’ll rephrase my question: What should we do now that we are ready to retire?  Those fortunate enough to have sufficient financial capacity to stop working may actually stop working but they still need productive and meaningful activities; those whose financial circumstances force them to continue working must now adjust their mindset away from a permanent vacation, heaven on earth, and long days on a rocker.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wandering Behavior

Wandering or Wondering?

Forgetfulness is normal and as we age memory loss increases.  There is no escaping occasional memory loss.  Have you ever walked into a room and don’t remember what or why?  This becomes more common the older you get.  The fix is to start over and have a mini AH HA moment.  Your spouse or friends may ask why you did something stupid or exhibited poor judgment and you don’t really have a satisfactory explanation.  You don’t want to change something you’ve always done because you’re stubborn.  These behaviors are actually part of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease; fear of which causes anxiety in most of us who seen its dreaded effects. 
My wife, Iris, claims I exhibit wandering behavior, another Alzheimer symptom, coupled with a small measure of antagonism now and then.  My behavior involves taking my camera and driving through the older areas of San Antonio.  On these photographic excursions I would drag my wife along with me.  The stated goal was to photograph outdoor art, mostly done by average people or community service organizations to beautify a neighborhood or to promote a compelling social message. 
I started these photographic adventures a few years ago with no agenda or plan.  Sometimes a newspaper story about some piece of outdoor art would peak my interest, or I saw one while driving and I would make a mental note to go back with a camera.  My satisfaction came not with the original location found and photographed but with an accidental bonus shot.  A random piece of art on a wall or fence, on the side of a warehouse would catch my attention and it would be added to my collection.  Over a 1000 photographic images fill my digital files and many are displayed at
The antagonism would come when Iris would find fault with my driving (looking around, missing a turn or driving on the wrong side of a deserted street).  Her anxiety level increased when I would park, get out, leave her in the car alone and walk around with a $1,000 camera. 
I would claim my actions are normal and safe.  And I would proclaim this loudly.
My actions were not clearly thought out and perhaps even a little dangerous.  Sometimes I would go on these trips alone early on a Saturday morning.  My rationale was anyone up to no good was probably still asleep.  I would drive to my target area, circle around once to check out the neighborhood and then call my wife to give her a report.  Her paranoia became contagious; I would park, shoot my pictures and hurry back to my car.  After a quick look at the pictures on the camera’s preview screen I would return home.   My return would be delayed by a ride around the general area trying to locate other outdoor murals or paintings.  On the way home I would call Iris and ask if she needed anything at the supermarket, an automatic behavior induced by 42 years of marriage.
Yes, I was wandering.  Yes, I was sometimes antagonistic.  Yes, I was inappropriate.  Three strikes and you are out.  Don’t put me away just yet I still have a lot of life to investigate.  I am just curious and somewhat creative.  Perhaps I was wondering about life, not wandering without direction.
My recommendation for channeling creative ideas is: KISS.  Keep it Safe Seniors.

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