Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Bucket List

Yes, I am shamefully borrowing a movie title! It was a great movie about 2 men from different social classes, 'stored' in the same hospital room for their terminal illnesses. See, sickness and death do not care if you are wealthy or poor. You could say that they equalize us all.

BUCKET LIST: a list of things to do, places to see, foods to eat before one dies.

The phrase comes from the American colloquialism 'to kick the bucket', meaning 'to die'. A bucket list supposes that there are must-have experiences that everyone should aspire to: climbing Mount Everest, sky-diving, experiencing a transformative love.

These are all generalities, of course. Not everyone is physically fit (or financially well off) enough to climb Mount Everest. Some have a veritable fear of flying, and if that doesn't get them, I'm guessing the idea of throwing themselves out of a perfectly good airplane might keep them grounded. And love... ah! Love! How many people in this world really discover true and enduring love?

Great Love happens all too seldom, doesn't it?

For some reason, I woke up today, thinking of bucket lists. Well, I know the reason I woke up thinking about them (I'll tell you later), and that thought led me to remember a conversation I had with my son last year.

“What's on your bucket list, Mom?”

He, a new father and reveling in the role – something to scratch off his personal bucket list, wanted to know what I wanted to do before I grew too feeble to do it. I couldn't think of a single thing! 

It's not that my imagination is so limited, or that my mind is so closed that I wouldn't want to experience anything more than what I am privileged to partake of already. It's just that there is so much in this world to see, do, eat and experience that I can't narrow my perspective down to a few items on a list. Every time I click on an internet link, read a book or talk with a friend, I discover some previously unknown that I'd like to immerse myself in.

Until recently I've been possessed of the arrogance of youth, thinking I had all the time in the world, and the physical ability to do anything I wanted. Having recently been made painfully aware of my limitations – time and physical, I am realizing that all of the world's treasures are not mine to take. I have to be selective.  

Here is how I came to think of bucket lists to begin with...

Olaf, a gentleman I've had the pleasure of knowing since I've lived in Wuhan, is now back in Germany with the love of his life, Xiao Ai. We've kept in touch all of this time, and yesterday, in our latest message exchange, I put forth the idea of visiting him, and Germany, via the Trans-Siberian Railway.

BUCKET LIST ITEM: Travel from Harbin to Moscow, for a 3-day visit. And then on to St. Petersburg for a week-long stay, to visit The Hermitage. From there, through Poland and into Germany – visiting my girlhood home in Berlin along the way, and ending up at Olaf's house in Stuttgart. (See Black Dragon River entry, posted April of this year).

NOTE: Olaf was not originally a part of my bucket list trip, but he confessed that that train trip is on his bucket list.

I have wanted to ride the Trans-Siberian train since I watched Fiddler on the Roof, all those years ago: Tevye putting his daughter on that train, to meet her husband.  Dreamy sounding names – Novosibirsk, Vladivostok, Irkutsk all lay along the lines of that fabled railway. The Ural mountains, the Volga, the Kama... the slice of life that can only be witnessed on passenger trains.   

Indeed, this trip would be quite an adventure. But is it a Bucket List trip?

If so, then many aspects of my life are Bucket List worthy: being a mother/grandmother, when so many can't have children. Touching the lives of so many, and having their warmth and friendship fill my heart. Embarking on no fewer than 3 distinctly separate careers in my life (so far). Abandoning all that is known and familiar to embrace life in China.

Some people never get to leave the town they were born in. Some don't want to.

I guess what I'm saying is: why make a List of things you might do someday – or feel compelled to do before you kick the bucket? Your whole life should be a bucket list, filled with experiences that make you uniquely you.   

Whereas before, I only had a vague longing to hit the rails across Russia – a 'someday' attitude toward the whole adventure, now that I know I would also be carrying my friend Olaf's dream with me, this trip has become a necessity.

I've got to start shopping for tickets... 

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