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Emptying my bucket: Thoughts on bucket lists


Hello readers,

As I get older, I tend to think increasingly about the meaning of my life, my contributions, but also the shape and form of my story.  Does it mean anything to accomplish goals?  What if being were more important than doing?  The older I get, to sum it up, the less I am sure of anything at all.  Perhaps, unlike art, life shapes us rather than creating any kind of sensible form in and of itself.  Life sculpts us, carves away illusions and hopes and challenges beliefs.

Another aspect of my life that seems to be changing is that I don’t really want any more things.  In fact, I would like to rid my life of at least some of the things to which I have become either attached or accustomed.  I have always enjoyed simplicity, simply because I am not very adept at multi-tasking or managing the complex logistics of modern life.  Having a simple life to me has always meant having less things to worry about and more freedom to dream, paint, write, garden, and enjoy my life.  The fewer the tethers and obligations, the greater the happiness I feel.

When I was young, I looked forward to achieving my aspirations to become an artist.  I focused all of my energy onto that goal.  It felt good to be purposeful and I felt as if my desires were in sync with the way I spent my days, studying, painting, thinking, dreaming.  The shape of my life satisfied me and the forward motion of my dreams and goals carried me forward.  As time went by, however, I became a parent, and the social applications of my aspirations as an artist disappointed me.  As an idealist, I felt that the free market global world in which we live did not provide an outlet for my personal vision and creative style of being.  I desired a profound interaction with the people who would see my work.  Deep down, I wanted to create love and loving communication with my painted images, creating ties between people’s minds and hearts.  That is, to this day, still my deepest desire. 

Now that I am a middle-aged (if I live to be 92) woman, my thought processes are different.  I feel fragmented.  I am no longer directing my energies solely onto my own desires and purpose.  Now my purpose is centered around being a parent and a head of household.  While these are important labors of love, I still wonder in part why my choices led me to have to choose between security and self-expression.  I still feel I have much to contribute to the world apart from being a faceless employee.  We all start out in life with dreams and desires, and then most of us tuck those desires away so that we can raise a family.  Why are our societies not structured so that we can do both?  Why do we bend and distort our energy, our hearts, our joy in order to conform to social expectations and formats?  I feel that greater happiness both personal and collective and better parenting would come out of such a society.

However, I do believe that the ultimate purpose of my soul is to grow in love, empathy, and compassion for myself and others.  I have devoted much of my time in a concerted and determined effort to love and appreciate myself.  My early years were spent trying to figure out who I was in contrast or rebellion from my family, who seemed to define love as control or containment, and when I stepped out of that box, I discovered rejection and solitude. I was so shy, so invisible, so beaten down, yet so hopeful, determined, and confident in some ways. Success in my personal endeavors soon equated the search for love, acceptance, and approval.  I rarely found any of those things outside of myself, and so began the quest to recognize the shape of love within myself. 

Curiously, when I was young, I was able to live a semi-monastic lifestyle and focus fairly easily on my personal goals.  The conflict which has been lifelong for me is a dilemma I have yet to resolve.  Ideas continue to come to me as I search to define an activity which knits together personal growth, healing, art, and immortality.  I am getting closer.  When I come up with a new concept, I feel the energy and excitement rising in my heart and throughout my body.  I also feel a persistent desire to have a partner with whom I can develop and grow my business. Someone who has skills that complement my own. 

Perhaps I need to put this on my bucket list: the dreams and desires of my heart as equally important to being an accepted and responsible part of a family.  I always seem to put my own dreams and desires on hold, in particular those related to art and creativity.  As if to be successful as an individual or as an artist would somehow jeopardize my status within the family.  This sense of guilt or self-punishment might stem from my being afraid of being more powerful or creative than my mother…as if I were to perpetuate eternal or repeated failure (weakness) that somehow she might recognize and appreciate me one day? Acceptance in my family was always contingent to suppression of personal desires and personality so that my mother could remain all-powerful.  I know it means that she herself was fearful and insecure, and today I am no longer intimidated by an image with which I grew up, overshadowed by apparent power and consistent rejection.  

Maybe this struggle also connects to past lives that I don’t remember.  This is most likely true.  In any case, it is clear to me that forgiveness, generosity, self-love and confidence in the face of rejection are all important goals for my inner bucket list. It is also clear to me that pursuing meaningful spiritual work serving others connected to my personal talents  figures prominently on my bucket list as well.  While travels to Barcelona or New Mexico and becoming a recognized painter who works abundantly and produces joyful, bright, and energetic canvases full of my interrogations and appreciations of life as a human are definite items on my bucket list, in this post I just wanted to suggest that there are so many ways to fill one’s bucket list!

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