by Teresa Swartz Roberts
8. Copyright 2016
I don’t really have a bucket list. I’m not interested in jumping out of planes, which is what people always say they want to do before they die. My neurologist told me that if I want to travel the world, now is the time to do it, during this honeymoon period with my Parkinson’s meds. I’m already content in that department. I went to Spain and France in high school, Belize for our tenth anniversary, Canada for our one epic family trip that was not a family reunion or work trip masquerading as a vacation, and Ireland to celebrate my best friend’s becoming cancer-free.
I look at the bucket list the same way I look at the to-do list. Instead of a to-do list, I use a done list, a review of how I spent my time rather than a catalog of tasks that I probably won’t accomplish. So my version of the bucket list is mostly checkmarks. I am happily married to a gentle man who still surprises me and makes me laugh. I love being a mother, and I enjoy the incredibly cool human being my son has grown into. I have freedom and opportunity to worship God in a loving community church. I can still take pleasure in learning. I find joy in the most unexpected places. Today I parked and put away my sunglasses, and when I looked up, I saw a pair of blue jays that I watched for the next five minutes. That should be on my bucket list, not plummeting toward the ground.
I do have some things I have always wanted to do. Learning to paint is going well. The process makes me happy. Learning to appreciate cooking as a creative endeavor goes well most of the time. Okay, some of the time. Gardening. Uh, no. The weeds have much more stamina than I do. My husband attempted to make me realize that I do not have to consider myself a failure just because I don’t have a green thumb. As Einstein supposedly said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Some attempts are going to be attempts, that’s all. I’m trying to apply that frame of mind to other regrets.
I missed a deadline. It’s no big deal to anybody but me. I don’t work in academia anymore, so the end of the semester can come and go without fanfare. It’s been decades since I worked in news, and I no longer take on public relations clients. I missed my self-imposed deadline for this monthly journal/blog/essay about life through the lens of Parkinson’s Disease. I don’t even know whether anybody is reading these monthly installments. I get some likes and kind comments, but the writing is usually longer than the average blog, and today’s reader tends to skim the first few lines of what’s on the screen rather than read an entire electronic article.
What happened is this: a bunch of crap. Literally. The toilet in the master bathroom leaked and led to water mitigation equipment to guard against Georgia’s number one crop, which is mold.* The cleanup was followed by the removal of drywall, insulation, baseboard, shoe rail, and a little bit of flooring. Now I’m navigating the insurance claim process, paying for what’s been done so far, and hiring someone to put my house back together. Most days involve waiting for phone calls, writing e-mails, looking up old documents, printing new ones, and realizing when the day has passed that I have barely gotten anything done.
When you have a chronic illness like Parkinson’s, you sometimes have to accept the fact that you’re not going to get everything done that you used to be able to do. I’ve gotten pretty good at embracing my new normal. (See my previous blog entry on the new normal.) What I haven’t quite figured out yet is how to reframe failure–or what I used to think of as failure.
I have a ton of UFOs, unfinished objects, those sewing and craft projects that I was always going to finish someday. Truth is that my sewing peaked when I made my wedding gown almost 33 years ago. I was always going to make a quilt. I tried to learn to crochet, but I haven’t gotten the hang of it. I’m never going to get any better at geography or finding my way around or math. I still haven’t read The Bible as thoroughly as I said I would. I don’t write letters like I used to. My postcard collection is not organized.
The list goes on. The beat goes on. I go on failing for another day. And that’s good enough for me.
*Thanks to Fred the Lifeguard for this moldy joke. –