I had a dream last week in which I was tasked with carrying a bucket from one unnamed place to another. The bucket was empty, but at the same time so heavy I couldn’t move it more than a few inches at a time. When I awoke, I could remember nothing else. Heavy bucket. Someplace I was supposed to be. Frustration that I couldn’t get wherever I was going.
When I was younger, I was an avid maker of lists. Most of my journals contain one bucket list or another, jotting down everything that excited or interested me, a catalog of things to experience before I kicked the bucket. With the relentless enthusiasm and curiosity of my youth, a list helped me focus my priorities. There was so much I wanted to accomplish before I shuffled off the mortal coil, but so little time. Walter Mitty would not be my fate, only dreaming about living until the last speck of sand fell down the hourglass neck.
When I look back at these lists, I am proud of all I have achieved. I learned to play guitar. Built my own house. Created my dream job before it existed as a viable career option. Took surfing lessons. Visited Stonehenge, the Equator, the Parthenon.
Yet these smudged pages with curling corners are also graveyards of lost potential, a place where former dreams went to die. I’ve never been to Maine, never really learned to play chess. I haven’t seen Cat Stevens in concert and I don’t have a literary agent trying to sell my manuscript.
I turn 50 next year. It’s such a cliché to be feeling existential angst as I close the first half of my life century, but a cliché is such for a reason. I’ve been mining my old journals and jotting down my dreams, searching for clues forward. What does the second half of my life look like?
Perhaps it’s less about making lists and more about making meaning. Not an aggressive conquest collection of experiences I long for, but a flowing, fluid composition of what has – and is – happening in the moment. After all, the moments that have brought the most depth and breadth to my days are emotional, spiritual, and intellectual milestones that I couldn’t have planned for. Catching the eye of that cute boy in the London pub. Seeing two visible lines on a pregnancy test. A global pandemic. The motley crew of early-morning badasses who chose to support my business and ended up supporting me in ways I could never have imagined. Every stray animal that has adopted me through the years.
It was in this headspace that I learned about the F*ck It Bucket. The F.I.B. is a place to put all the horsecrappery that prevents us from showing up as the person we want to be. Anything that drains our time and energy without sufficient return on our investment goes in the bucket.
The PTA demands homemade cookies? F*ck it Bucket. Store-bought is fine.
Asked to sit on another committee? F*ck it Bucket.
Favorite jeans no longer fit? Drop it in the bucket, baby, and buy new ones.
This reverse bucket list isn’t a list of more things to do, but instead a list of things to release. The person I want to be in the second half of my life is someone who laughs loudly and hugs often. Someone who cares less about her thighs and more about how she can curiously show up in the world. A better wife, mother, and daughter. The person who always brings snacks (everyone loves the person who brings snacks). Someone who is too busy living her life out loud to post about it incessantly. I want to be a person who thinks and feels as much as they can, someone who is awake enough to know when she’s having a magical moment as she is having it.
Which requires some letting go of the relentless striving of my youth. A letting go of who I have been to make room for who I am becoming. I now understand the bucket in my dream was a F.I.B., and its heft was itself a check off the old bucket list.