I was thumbing through Facebook the other day when I saw someone had posted a link to a story on "Nine Things to Do Before You Turn 60." ¶ Awesome, I thought, but unfortunately, the headline offered more promise than the article delivered. ¶ Instead of a bucket list of adventures, the story contained nothing but practical advice, such as reviewing your 401K and investments, and filing paperwork on whether you want to be kept alive by artificial means.
Those are all important things to do, but I was looking for something a bit more exciting and selfish. So there was just one thing to do, and that's to make up my own list of five things I need to do.
1. Look backward. When I was on the cusp of joining the real world, I spent one entire college semester planning my future. It involved buying a motorcycle, getting a tattoo and becoming a foreign correspondent. So OK, I didn't do any of those things, but that doesn't mean I can't do them in the future.
I switched out the motorcycle idea for a Vespa, but then my editor and her husband both managed to end up in the ER while riding on theirs, and not even at the same time, so now I'm thinking bicycle. I saw a really cute one at Target.
My desire for a tattoo comes and goes. I'm actually glad I never got one when I was younger because the place I intended to put it has, shall we say, drifted. But a California poppy on my ankle? Maybe.
I was never going to be a foreign correspondent, no matter how much I blustered, but I'm refusing to look at my not doing so as a failure. You have to try in order to fail, and I was always content being a hometown reporter.
2. Get organized. If you think I'm talking about my affairs or my income tax files, you don't know me well. I've spent the past several months organizing something really important -- my craft room.
Now I spend hours there having the best time ever doing scrapbooking, making cards and trying new techniques. I also spend a lot of time refining my organizing. My personal papers may be scattered around the house, but dang it, my paper cutting dies and stamps are in alphabetical order.
3. Fill your life with love. The best way to do that, in my opinion, is to get a pet. They can be bottomless pits of need, but then, so can I. Every pet I've ever had has filled my heart with love.
4. Hold your friends close. I've made it through some tough times, not through the kindness of strangers, but from the abiding love and compassion of people I'm honored to call friends.
5. Stop doing the things that make you miserable. I am a worrier. I'm pretty sure I come by it naturally, and I used to think it served me well. Worry was a talisman against something bad happening. Most of the time it worked -- few of my imagined outcomes ever happened -- but it also made me pretty miserable.
I used to lie awake nights worrying. Worrying about my mom, worrying about my nephew, worrying about my finances, my job, my future. I nearly worried myself into oblivion.
Part of me learned to like the angst, to wallow in it and slather the raw spots with self pity. Then one day I realized I had wallowed too deep, and slowly, I pulled myself out. I still worry but not nearly as much.
And when I feel myself headed back toward that pit, I take my dog for a walk. I give myself to the end of the block to worry, to feel pity, to be angry, envious, petty; once I reach the corner, I let it all go.
So that's my list. Do I need to do all of these things before I'm 60? No. I need to do them before I get another day older, and every day for the rest of my life.