—From the Fool—
Somebody asked me what I had on my bucket list. I guess they made a movie called that. It turns out you’re supposed to make a list of stuff to do before you die off, and it better be good. It doesn’t include Eat enough or Look at flowers. It’s big stuff like Sky-dive into Paris or Play the ukelele.
So I tried, but I didn’t come up with much, even when I Googled. If it involves riding an elephant or wrapping a snake around me, I’m pretty happy doing not much. What kinda got me into gear, though, was thinking what I don’t want to do. There’s a lot to be said on that score.
Stuff I think I probably won’t ever do—
—Shoot people. Which if I don’t have a gun I probably won’t, although you never can tell for sure, but if I do pick up a gun I hope it won’t have bullets.
—Climb up the outside of a skyscraper, because what if you meet a window-washer coming the other way, or a bird banging into it?
—Go to Chad. I just don’t see the point.
—Be a card-carrying member of anything. I always lose them.
—Vote for somebody that really sounds mad.
—Run for President or anything else. Although maybe you get free meals.
—Visit Old Faithful geyser, because you don’t know exactly when it’s going to shoot off and you might have to wait an hour or so just standing there like a dope and having to go to the bathroom just from thinking about it.
—Take off all my clothes in San Francisco, although people do but probably catch cold.
—Cheat on my income tax, unless I get some income.
—Join the One Percent. At least the One Percent they talk about. I probably am one percent of something.
I guess in general I’d like to leave my campsite cleaner than I found it.
Medicare really cares about pain. They rate it from 1 to 10, and every time a nurse checks in on you at the hospital you have to give them a number. I’m not sure zero is an option, but it seems like a good idea to me, as does Spinal Tap’s idea of the possibility of 11.
When I go in to physical therapy I need to come up with a number, too, but it isn’t quite so easy. In the hospital, it clearly means right now, this moment. For PT, it might have been 7 when I tried to get out of bed in the morning, but then as I limbered up it could have gone down to 1, and if my PT appointment came before the time to take my next ibuprofen, it might be back up to 3. It’s a juggling act to figure out why they want to know, and what’s actually true, and what will look best.
We went for a final hail-and-farewell to the ocean, last chance before leaving, hoping to communicate that our upcoming affair with other oceans wouldn’t weaken our undying commitment to this Lady we love. It wasn’t chilly, but the wind was the max we’ve ever chosen to endure while sitting with our picnic. Another time, we’d have picnicked in the car, but hey, this was special. It was zesty enough to require hanging onto the sushi tray at all times to prevent it from taking off like a frisbee.
Was that a 10? Have calm and balmy days earned a 2 or a 3? Is a rating of 1 an insult? How the hell do you judge the ocean? When I think about it that way, then I start to qualify my perception of pain. How does the occasional sharp stab compare to a constant dull ache? And if it throbs, does that add another 2 points? When I hurt, I try to do something about it, to adjust my position, take an aspirin, toke a CBD, listen to music that reaches my soul.
And when I visit the ocean, I’m totally open to whatever She’s doing at the moment. A nice active chop is no less enjoyable than a slick swell or a thrilling foamy-topped crash. Maybe I should think of pain the same way, and see where that gets me.
Getting ready to go. For me, that’s the worst part of travel. Once you’re launched, it’s a different sort of anxiety, and it comes in 52 varieties. But in the preparatory stages, it’s only two issues: Is there time? and What have we forgotten?
When we were doing very heavy touring years ago, the juggling act was extreme. No electronics, so all connections were by phone and mail, and besides the normal questions of how we connect with home base, pay bills and book the next tour while we’re in the midst of this one, there were our two kids—the clothing, the books, the toys, the homework. It was so much more complex.
But it still feels the same. We’re two days from departing for a month in Europe, visiting our daughter and other friends, with some extended time in Iceland. We have all our reservations, electronic connections, and packing; we have our house-sitter; we have a list that’s a small fraction of what it used to be—and we have the same level of adrenalin. Everything seems a rush. Everything that can go on hold is on hold. It almost seems that going to the ocean and to a party two days before we leave is like crossing the street with your eyes closed.
It’s partly a function of age, I suppose. We’re more wary of where we step, and we’re less madly improvisational. We also share, between us, about 150 years of experience in what can go wrong. And apart from the myriad disasters that can befall “sinners in the hands of an angry God,” we know that most everything is survivable.
And, for me, it’s partly a struggle with that lifelong challenge to live in the present moment, not the future. So much of my work has always been geared toward a future product—the book, the play, the performance—that it’s my habit to look at the path that gets me there as something less real. Food and sex: those are in the here and now, but most other stuff is marked for the future. Seeing the sea or the forest: take a photo so I can look at it later. Hearing music: it’s great, I’ll set some time to listen to it when I can really listen. Not really the way to live a life, I know, and I make slow strides toward living. By the time I die I should’ve gotten the knack of it.
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I always tell them either 3 or 6. If its a 3, they don’t bother me and if 6 they won’t ask anything more of me. Meanwhile, I work keep working on absorbing and releasing the real pain, which has no number, just an identity. LOL!