I have been cleaning out my study over the last couple of days – no small job – I have been putting it off for a long time. I unearthed a lot of rubbish, a tonne of reading, receipts, filing, thankfully nothing that should have been included in my tax (which I have done already this year – yay me!) and my bucket list that I did for my Psychologist earlier in the year.
Why a bucket list?
I had been depressed on and off for years. When I was well I had only just been coping with no room for anything but putting one foot in front of the other. It had been a long time since I had really allowed myself to cast my eyes very far into the future. It was hard to do. My life had become so tied up in looking after the dog and keeping him out of the way so that I could manage walking that it was hard to picture anything else. This is not a healthy way to live!
Maybe not – but everyone knows that we need to get through each day – so what’s the point of looking any further?
My first response to this would be to give you a reason to stick to the fundamentals that feel so arduous when times are tough. The healthy lifestyle, the sleep, the medication, the self management strategies that you’ve chosen to compliment your medical treatment (see my post Beyond Medicine) can feel like such a chore at times, and there are days when you question if your daily struggles are all that important. Things that have some value and potential to motivate you are important.
My second is that a routine is strongly recommended, but often hard to fill out. An exercise like doing a bucket list may give some clues to your interests or things that you could start even now to use time doing something that you are more likely to consider worthwhile.
Thirdly, if you are getting well and your health is stable, but you’re a bit lost about what you want to do – this is a great way to brainstorm ideas that you can later use to figure out what direction you want to work towards and what sort of goals you want to set for yourself. You can also look at the different sort of things you have put on your list and use it to try to make sure you keep some balance to your goals so that you can target a balanced lifestyle that reflects you.
Fourthly, if you are struggling to stay well and all that you are focussing on your health or perhaps your health and keeping your job – perhaps you can use it to choose one thing to help with relaxation and/or re-energising. Often – and I speak from several years of experience here – this is neglected to our detriment when expanding our support network and finding opportunities elsewhere for success would improve our workplace performance and keep the dog in his place much more effectively.
Not sure what you’d put on it? Try meeting up with a friend and do bucket lists together (I met up with a couple of different people). This helps stretch your ideas until you start freeing up your mind. Read past journals if you have some if you used to write about things you’d like to do one day. Be as vague or specific as you like – it’s your list.
Here are some of the things on my list:
Make a pretty garden
Redo a house
Teach professional practice skills
Overcome Depression and Anxiety to the point where they no longer require any intervention – even meds
To make sure I keep up friendships and make new ones
To grow wise but be humble
To be physically fit and able to run without getting puffed out
To get good at being organised and reliable
To learn lots of interesting things eg Ancient Greek, Ancient & modern History, Latin, Languages, Leadlighting, Aromatherapy, Sciences, making things, gardening, writing and publication industry, professional development and research, theology …
Write a book and publish it
Write a children’s book, get it illustrated and publish it
Go to Scotland, Ireland and Canada and see lots of other places too
Write a song
Learn to play Cello and/or an alto/tenor woodwind instrument
Research and develop useful intervention strategy for use in Mental Health Recovery – meaningful to and valued by consumers – well weighted by evidence
Learn to tap dance
Build a doll house
Act in a stage performance
There’s a tonne of others that I’m not going to share and I’ve simplified a lot of these. But they have made way for goals and routine and positive steps.
There are six major themes among the things in my bucket:
Social Responsibility/contributing to others
Growth (language, fitness etc)
My challenge is to have something – one thing at a time among my goals that touches on each of these areas. I also try to include something of each – at least most – in my routine.
The steps to some dreams are appealing. The way to others not so much. The keys are choice, balance and timing.
Never let the dog stop you from dreaming. Sure, be careful not to get stuck in them – but be careful not to lose sight of the things that you’d like to do or some day. These are the things that give you a reason to put your next foot forward. These are the things that make it matter that the dog stays out of your path. These are the things that help you choose which direction you walk in. These are the things that make it matter that it’s you and not the dog that does the choosing.
Look where you are going. Move deliberately. Walk one step at a time if you must during the hard times, catching your balance and calling the dog back to heel in between. Don’t let him draw you down to wrestle with him while you walk. When you stop looking where you are going, the dog has the upper paw. Shorten the leash. Keep him close. Don’t give him an inch.
Heel, Dog. Heel!