One thing about receiving a life-threatening diagnosis, regardless of the health problem — it does cause you at some point to confront your own mortality.
There has been a lot written about this over the years, but one fact never changes: It is a different conversation when had over dinner with friends than it is when you are nose to nose with it, and it is your mortality being considered.
Bucket lists are great fun to think about, but I have decided that if you do not make time for your bucket list items as you go through life, then either those things are not as important to you as you may think, or they quickly become a waste of what time you have left. They look like they could be one more attempt to find peace and happiness outside yourself.
Does it sound like fun to ride a Vespa through Tuscany? Sure it does, but is that how I want to spend my time? If I had forever maybe I would work it in, but if I am short on time, maybe not.
I have a good friend who does it right, I think. She finds ways to work her bucket list items into her daily life as much as she can manage, though she is in good health. She even occasionally drags her husband and kids along on her adventures and they are better for it, whether they know it or not! Who knows — maybe she will live longer and healthier because she lives this way, or maybe she will get run over by an 18-wheeler tomorrow. Either way she was in a better place than those who wait their whole lives to do the “fun stuff” and then never get around to it.
As I look at my life, I have to ask what I would have done differently. For many people this might be a minefield, because their self esteem is tied to their belief that their decisions have always been flawless.
In my case, I decided to make a list of all the mistakes I have made over the years that I can remember. The purpose of this exercise is not to feel bad, create regrets, or encourage low self esteem. It is the exact opposite: It is to realize and acknowledge that I am not perfect in the least and that my self esteem is not tied to that. I am who I am and a good person, but only human after all.
This exercise is increasing my flexibility with decisions about who I want to be and how I want to spend my time going forward, whether that is 20 years or two.
I am becoming determined to make decisions differently from now on.
I am not completely sure what that will look like yet. This is a process and I am at the beginning of it. Some things I already know for sure, though. There is no more room in my life for unpleasant people or mediocre food.
I am sure there will be more epiphanies as this new life unfolds for me.