On Sunday 31st July 2011 I decided to start this blog, one that would remind me (and hopefully inspire others) to live a little bit more, and start ‘ticking those boxes’ on our life’s ‘to do list’ that we all ought to make a little more time and effort to do.
What inspired me you might wonder? …Well, Back in March 2010, I almost lost my father on the operating table after a routine pacemaker operation went wrong. He suffered Heart Failure and a Pulmonary Oedema, and my brother and I waited by his bed side for 2 days until he pulled through. 2 weeks later, in April 2010 (Good Friday to be precise) I lost the other of 2 men that I was blessed enough to call ‘Dad’ suddnly and unexpectedly.
He was an amazing man who raised me from the age of 7, as his own, having never had children of his own. He passed away so suddenly and unexpectedly of a massive heart attack (or so we all thought at the time) that I never even had a chance to say goodbye. I tried in vain to revive him using CPR in his French home when I realised he was not just asleep on his chair, but I failed. I watched paramedics and doctors valiantly attempt to save him, but they too failed, and he was pronounced dead on the floor there in front of me. He was only 64, and had been as strong as an ox, and who worked and lived to excess right up until his final day, but died far too young… It came as a massive shock to me.
Then, a few weeks later, I learned that the other man I was lucky enough to call Dad, the man who brought me into the world, was terminally ill with chronic heart failure following his previous failed pacemaker op; and probably had less than 2 years to live. I spiralled into a negative cycle of depressive thinking and barely functioned. I remember barely getting through each day and living almost without hope, and suffered the irrational fear that I would watch all the people I cared for disappear in quick succession.
My Dad in fact died not 2 years, but just 9 months later. He knew when he reached ‘end stage’ but hid his diagnosis from us until doctor’s finally revealed what he could hide no longer afterbeing taken into hospital just before Christmas in 2010. He slowly ebbed away in front of my eyes and died in a hospice in January of 2011 having spent his last Christmas in hospital in a dellusional state from lack of oxygen to his brain. His loss affected me in a profoundly different way. It was not so much of a shock and I was blessed enough to have the privilege to say goodbye and to tell him how much he was loved, but I was equally sad, if not more in many respects, because at least my step father had his mental health and no idea of what was about to hit him (as I still believed at that time)! I vowed to be with my Dad and to support him through until the end, and I did. He too was far too young to be taken-at only 61 years of age.
I have since discovered that my step-dad, Dad, did in fact know that he had a serious heart condition and had chosen to protect his family from the knowledge of his morbid diagnosis. When I first discovered this, I initially sank into a depressive state of thinking, wondering if perhaps, he hadn’t passed as suddenly or as peacefully as I first imagined, but instead bravely placed himself into that position to appear that way to protect us from the pain he was genuinely suffering. I tortured myself with that thought, until I decided that actually, by doing so, if that was the case, then I was disrespecting and undermining his courageous act of kindness. If anyone ever asks me who my hero in life is-I will always reply-my fathers. They inspired me, and in their own unique ways they both bravely faced their looming mortality with great dignity though their fear must have been great…
Losing these two amazing and inspiring men so young, made me realise something extremely important.
Growing old is not a birth right… It is a Privilege!
This has since become my life ethos, and has driven me to make profoundly positive life changes… Far too many people go through life in this world assuming (either arrogantly, naively or romantically) that they will one far off day in the very distant future, spend their afternoons rocking in a chair, silver-haired and twinkly eyed, as they tell their great grandchildren all about the adventures of their rose-tinted youth.
Well, the truth is, that if your luck is out, you may just get run over by a camel tomorrow! Ok, perhaps not, but the sad truth is that for many people tomorrow may never come, and we don’t all see it coming! I don’t see this view as jaded, pessimistic, or overly negative, it’s just that if we allow ourselves to live with the assumption that bad things only happen to other people, it might just stop us from actually living… Here and NOW!
Imagine how differently you would (or could) live your life if you knew when your time would be. Now that would be scary, but just imagine how inspired you would become to achieve your goals if you knew your deadline?! This (to some degree at least) is the rational behind behind my new view and how I have decided I want to live.
I don’t mean to ‘live each day as though it were my last’… If for example, I *knew* that today were my last living day, then I might go out and eat foods that I knew I’d never have to worry about exercising off, or I might lose sight of looking after my body, my health and equally I might not save for my future or make long-term plans… This is not my wish. I like having plans, and things to look forward to, and I want to believe I have a bright future ahead of me for my children and I… What I wanted to do was to stop saying to myself
“One day, I’m going to…”
Because if we live blindly to that assumption, then even if we do live to be little frail, silver-haired, old-age-pensioners, then you can guarantee that most of the dreams and ambitions people aspired to would never get ‘ticked off’; they’ll simply be pipe dreams.
We’re all aware of the concept of ‘our list’ you know: the list of things you want to do in your life, places you want to see and ambitions that you want to achieve. I remember that a very good friend of mine once starred in a TV series called “99 things to do before you’re Thirty”, they then changed the name to ’99 Things To Do Before You Die”. I remember watching her, and a number of other youngsters doing a bunch of crazy things that would never have made it onto my personal list, but none-the-less did make me think I wonder what would be on my list?
Some time later I remember watching a film called “The Bucket List” which starred Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman who played two terminally ill men who decided to create a list of all the things that they wanted to do before they ‘kick the bucket’, and then systematically tick them all off before their respective times came.
This is a trailer for it
After losing my biological father, of course I morned and cried, and then cried some more. However, this time, I decided not to follow the same path of self-indulgent, pity-party wallowing that I did after losing my step-father. Not only was it not productive, but my Dads would not have wanted me spiralling downward into some twisted swan-song of misery and mourning for the rest of my life. I am still only young (well, I consider my early 30s to be young at least).
I decided that all those things I want to do in my life would stop being dreams in my head and start to form actual plans! In particular, I made a decision to jam pack this year full of new experiences and start ticking the boxes immediately so that I would have lots to look FORWARD to in an effort to help me be positive and not just wallow in regret over the ‘what ifs’ and grief of the past year.
Basically I wanted to start being pro-active, pull my finger out, put myself in the driving seat of this thing called life and actually make my future life happen as opposed to just being carried along by it as an unconscious passenger!
Now I should say at this point, that I dont expect to get everything on my ‘list’ all done at once;
– For starters, I can’t afford to get them all ticked off in one go, and
– Secondly, I do genuinely hope that I’ll live a healthy long life, even if I dont assume I will! …So it would be nice to continue to have things to look forward to after the next year has passed, and not obsess about ticking every item off against some crazy-short-deadline like one of the terminally ill characters from the film, and then spend the rest of my life twiddling my thumbs, whilst I wait patiently for d-day to come…
This blog will be the journey of me, my bucket list and my plan to achieve my hopes and dreams… PLEASE feel free to inspire me along the way, as I hope to inspire you! I would feel privileged if, thanks to you, my list were to become longer and I had more things to look forward to doing before I kick the bucket.
For a list of the quotes that inspire me click HERE