- Bucket Lists, baby! Image: pureblissyoga.ca
In this, my third contribution to Bucket List Publications, I’d like to get back to personal goals, and internal journeys. For me, the Bucket List doesn’t just include exciting destinations; it’s about the entire journey: Am I a good mother/wife/friend/person on this planet? Am I happy in my life? What do I want to be doing now, and down the road? Having travelled to quite a few incredible places, I’m grateful, but I also know that it’s the daily stuff, the minutiae, which can most rock the big picture.
For two years, the daily stuff, little and big, piled up on me and I lost my footing. I’ve just recently found my way out of that place and I’m enjoying a renewed energy. It’s a relief, a thrill and inspiring, to look at the world with fresh eyes and consider what I really want to be doing.
Re-finding my mojo, after nearly two years in a funk, took more effort than I initially had. I think depression is too often brushed aside and minimized by the world around us, and by ourselves as well. Others offered over-simplified solutions that didn’t hit the mark: “You need to exercise” (I never got that whole endorphins thing); “Just get out there” (and do what?); “You need to eat breakfast” (as if an omelet would turn it all around); “You just have to push through” (if it were that easy, I’d be in the clear)— all of these things, said by well meaning friends and loved ones, in an effort to help me out of the funk, only made me feel worse. The implication seemed to be, that if I really wanted to turn things around, it wasn’t that hard: I just needed to do it, get out there and do it.
Hindsight is indeed 20/20. As my two oldest children graduated from high school and moved away, I felt less and less needed. While I had never consciously thought of myself as “just a mother,” and I was never one of the moms who put all of her energy and focus on her kids, it was increasingly clear that that role had become more central than I’d realized. With two of my three kids gone, there was so much less for me to do, and that begged the question: now what? What a scary question, after twenty years of being too busy to really wonder what else there could be.
For years I’d been professing my desire to be a writer, but allowing my responsibilities as a stay at home mother to block any sincere efforts. It was easier to not move forward when I had so many things tying me down and back. None of that was conscious; it was all happening unbeknownst to my thinking self. If I was working the bake sale, or the track meet, or the 8th grade dance, how could I work on my manuscript? In fairness, on occasion, when I signed up for one more PTSA event, or opted to be a driver here, there or another place, my husband said: “Do you ever wonder if you’re taking things on to avoid doing something for you?” I don’t call him Smart Guy, in my blog Tales From the Motherland, for nothing, but I still dismissed his question as off the mark. Denial, it’s a bitch.
Suddenly when two of my kids were gone, there was a vacuum. There was a gaping hole where my dreams had once been; and, I had to figure out what to do about that. In the midst of it all, my mother’s Huntington’s disease had progressed and I was spending more and more time caring for her, as well. In October of 2011 she fell, broke her elbow and ended up in Hospice (read more here). Caring for Mom, along with two exchange students (read here), my own son, and all that went with those things, my own needs fell to the bottom, over and over. Throughout that year and the next, I found myself in a spiraling funk, slipping further down all the time, until I could barely get off the sofa, and my writing was stalling. I recognized what was happening, and wanted to move out of this dark place, but I felt so stuck— it was so daunting; I felt paralyzed for a long time.
Each of us finds our own path; we all have to determine our goals and figure out how to move through the harder phases of our lives. For me that involved several shifts: medication helped jump-start the changes. I talked with my doctor and got help. It was a really hard decision for me. I’d never needed that kind of help before; but, it was just what I needed to mobilize, and I knew it would be short-term. From there I started making and keeping manageable goals: write a blog post on certain days; clean a closet that was bothering me; meet with friends, to get out and shift things; exercise. Ironically, many of the things others had suggested earlier, were more manageable when I made connection for myself.
It’s been a cumulative process. Writing the blog has motivated me to think more about my long range writing goals (read my first Bucket List post here) and feel excited about that again. Cleaning cluttered places has lifted my doldrums and cleared my head; I hadn’t realized how much messes were keeping me from other things. Meeting with friends gets me out, energizes me, and reminds me that I have a lot of support. And exercise? Well for this general couch potato, it gets me out, it makes me feel stronger overall, and it begets more energy. I guess that endorphin thing isn’t entirely a myth, after all.
Now I’m looking at Bucket Lists with a whole new perspective. I’m asking myself a lot of questions and working on direction and focus. My book group recently read the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s a powerful book about finding and going after your personal “legend,” your destiny, or goal. The book has been translated into a bagillion languages and quoted by Nobel laureates, and people from all walks of life. My daughter actually suggested it, and told me this was a pretty astounding book. It is, and it came along at a time when I am re-evaluating my life goals and where I am headed. My Bucket List includes lots of cool destinations (Palau tops the list, Fiji, New Zealand, Jordan, Israel again, Pompeii, etc), but the list includes lots of personal destinations as well— things that matter as much or more than where I’ll go physically. I want to be the best mother I can be to my three kids; I want to work on sustaining a strong, mutually satisfying and nurturing marriage; I want to be a writer, and see my work published; I want to write a blog post under 500 words; I want to make a difference in the world. And then, I’ll travel as well. There’s no reason to limit our dreams.
Check out these great quotes from the Alchemist:
“One’s Personal Legend is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. “At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend….whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth” (21-22).
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Source: Part 1, page 22
- “What’s the world’s greatest lie?… It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.” Source: Part 1, page 18.
- “I’m like everyone else – I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen, not what actually does.” Source: Part 1, page 40.
Thanks for joining the journey! Thanks for taking the time to read my post. Please leave a comment, or some feedback; it’s much appreciated.
Dawn Quyle Landau is a writer who prefers to “Free fall.” Her work has appeared in Tangerine Tango, Women Writers Share Slices of Life; Cascadia Weekly; The Outlier Collective; Bucket List Publications; and in her blogs, Tales From the Motherland and The Huntington’s Chronicles. Dawn is the mother of three mostly grown, amazing and adventurous kids; and best buddy to a studly lab, named Luke. She and her husband of 27 years, live a very good life surrounded by the spectacular beauty of the Pacific North West. (And I don’t actually wear glasses; I’m just silly that way)