To help keep me in good spirits these days, a huge task as I wait for my cancer biopsy results (of which I heard nothing this past Friday, and am now expecting to hear something on Monday), I’ve been listening to this song a lot lately:
I really think this song explicitly expresses exactly how we should live: divest ourselves from the things that make us unhappy, unfulfilled, etc and embrace and invest in the things that bring us joy. I spent far to many years trying to postpone or even deny joy — going so far as to call it foolish, juvenile, and frivolous. Yeah, I know…. lets just call that my mentally ill period. Thankfully, I have moved on from that kind of madness.
So, as I prepare for the worst news possible, I have taken Paul Baribeau’s advice and created a list of ten things I want to do before I die. At first I was going to wait till I had gotten the news on the biopsy to compile this, but… I then realized this is the sort of list everyone should have as an ongoing target. Life is finite. We all know this, but when one feels that horizon speeding up, about to pounce on him/her, trust me it really makes this fact reverberate, much like a bat’s wings repeatedly smacking one’s face.
So here are things I want to do, see, and accomplish before I float away from this existence. I also challenge everyone who reads this to at least think of their list. And then to figure out ways to make the things you want, you crave, possible, or as Mr Baribeau so succinctly states: “then go do them.” Yes, I know I might never finish this list. Or, I will. But, I plan on adding another item each time I do one of these things. These are just the 10 things I want to do most before I die. And this is a public reminder to myself not to forget them and I urge others to remind me of these when times get dark. I promise to remind you of yours.
My goal is to get to all these. So here they are in no specific order, aside from number ten, I’d like to get to that one last. Please.
1. Learn to play the ukulele.
I have strummed on a Ukulele quite a few times and thanks to all the tablature charts available online I have even been able to play a few songs. But I can hardly say I know how to play one. That said, I really want to learn. I want to be able to play any number of Magnetic Fields songs and I even have a few of my own compositions I’d like to pen. I even think I’d sing them in public, for actual people, or at least post them online for public consumption, my terrible voice be damned. Perhaps someone out there is crazy enough to find it charming even.
I even went to price them the other day. They are amazingly cheap here, but the thought of carrying one more item when I travel scared me off. It seems like it is time I work to make this fear evaporate.
2. Try my hand at stand up comedy.
I am sure this causes many of you to scratch your heads? “But wait, I thought you hated comedy???” Okay, bear with me for a second. In some class in ninth grade I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said, and meant it, “a stand up comic.” This got more laughs than anything else I said in that class all year. And I am pretty sure I have only said it out loud once or twice since then.
See, I have never been against things that are funny, I revel in them really. I just find that things that are written to be “funny” far too often seem forced and are the exact opposite of funny when acted out or spoken. I would love to pick out a subject and rant away about it spontaneously letting all my humor come out. I really have no idea if this would work, if my demeanor and take on things would translate to laughs, but I sure want to try.
3. Hug an elephant.
Just how much do I owe this one to my early love of Babar? I have no idea. I will say I am convinced that elephants deserve a royal status on this planet. Read into that what you will. I also quite vividly remember the dream I had a few years back where I had to arbitrate an end to a violent skirmish between Babar and Tintin. I wandered around for days floating after that one. And I have seen countless elephants since I left the states, but always conscripted into some labor and/or to please the tourists. I swear you can see tears in the eyes of these elephants.
They are such noble beasts and rightly deserve to roam free with each other in the wild. Man has made that nigh impossible for most. There is an extremely reputable elephant sanctuary a few KM away from where I am currently staying, but they frown at my cane, as elephants in captivity are often beaten into compliance with sticks before they arrive here.
Add all this together and I am pretty sure you can see why I would love to hug one. I need to figure out a way to do this. I will figure out a way to do this…..
4. See a tiger in the wild.
If you thought I would make a list of 10 things without at least one feline-centric request, I dare say you do not know me very well. Facts are Facts: cats are the best thing in the world, bar none. Nothing else even comes close. When I was a kid who would go to zoos everyone else seemed to love the monkey or snake houses. Sure I enjoyed the monkeys and would have enjoyed the snakes — if they grew legs!, but I was all about the big cats: tigers, lions, panthers, etc. I would have paid every ounce of money I had to go hang out with them. Again, here in Thailand seeing a tiger is amazingly easy. There are countless places one can visit and see tigers in cages or drugged ones you can touch, feed and even cuddle with. I am fairly certain I would enjoy stabbing myself repeatedly with a rusty, staff infected iron rod rather than do that. Seeing one in the wild though would be 100% pure bliss. When I attempted to do this in India, the wildlife park I wanted to go to was closed for the week for the annual census tiger census count. I need to plan better.
5. Visit Machu Picchu.
As I’ve said before, Machu Picchu is the single place I want to visit most in the entire world. It has been on my to do list since I was 12. Still it seems like an amazingly difficult one to accomplish, what with its elevation, and difficult to navigate terrain. But really, if I found out I only had one week of life left, I would travel here post haste and invite numerous people to take it all in with me.
6. See the Northern Lights.
I remember when I was in college in VT I really wanted to see a moose, a catamount, and the Aurora Borealis. It was not till the night before I graduated that I finally saw a moose, in one of the most amazing synchronistic literary occurrences in my life. I never saw a catamount nor the Northern Lights. The catamount seems fairly impossible to see, as they might be extinct, but the Northern Lights seems doable and quite amazingly magical at that. Also, totally random thought, but what does someone who is color blind see when they witness them? Are they even able too? Not that I am color blind, just curious?
And if I could work in seeing a polar bear in the wild at the same time I am pretty sure I would dance a one legged jig.
7. Ride a bike again.
Ever since my leg went to shit, this has been the single most compelling thing I have wanted to do. After the chemo there was hope that my bone would get stronger and upon hearing this I just thought ever so hopefully about riding bikes again. Sadly, that did not come to pass. The brace I wear every single day to allow me mobility, in fact inhibits my mobility. There is a punchline in there somewhere, I am just unable to see it. My brace does not allow my knee to bend much more than 90 degrees. Far too little needed for peddling. While I was in Pondicherry I even tried to ride one after removing my brace. No dice. Either I need a new brace that allows a full range of movement, yet still gives me the support I need, a steel rod attached to the bone in my leg that might possibly allow me to walk normal again, or some sort of bike that is only peddled from the right side.
I am thinking the first option would be the easiest. I guess I need to start pricing and trying on new braces.
8. Travel from one country to another on a boat.
I am not talking about riding a ferry from one side of a river to another here, but a boat in the ocean. I have no idea why this appeals to me so much, but it really does. When I left India for Thailand, I sought to find a way to make this happen only to be utterly scared off due to price. There is just something fantastically awesome about a voyage at sea. Perhaps I just want to connect with my ancestors who left Europe for the States and that new beginning. Or maybe I am just attracted to the idea that they were wanted criminals on the run from the law. Maybe it is just my love for Moby Dick or that I saw Mouse on the Mayflower one too many times. But traveling by boat — please note I am not saying cruise for a reason — calls me ever so sweetly, like a sirens song.
This one is the absolute scariest one on my list. I actually almost left it off, due to my fear. See, I am not afraid of heights. Not at all. But… when I look straight down from anything above the sixth or seventh floor, the world starts spinning and I am captured in vertigo’s grasp. I can look out just fine, but once my glance aims down to the ground directly below, things start going screwy, the room starts spinning, and I freak the eff out. This never happened till I had a massive ear/sinus infection during my junior year in high school. Before this, I had planned to do this before I left for college. But once the vertigo started, well… I shelved my desire. It did not go away. It just seemed impossible. So even though it brings with it about a metric ton of fear, I still want to try it. Desire is funny sometimes, eh?
Who knows if they will even let me due to my stupid leg, but I sure need to at least try.
10. Not to die in a Hospital.
I mean, come on who does. But this is really wide and vivid in my mind. In high school I pushed food to patients in a hospital and saw countless people die in their lonesome beds and have never, ever wanted that to be any part of my life. This one is difficult, because unless I take matters into my own hands near the end, I do not see how I avoid this. But if I have my way I will, on both accounts. This does not mean that I plan to end it all next week — quite the contrary! — I have never wanted to live more than I do right now. But…. when the time comes I hope/plan to end things on my own terms with as little pain as possible.
And I am adding an 11th, only this one will never go away: Ensure everyone I care about knows just how important they are in my life and how much I love them and cherish their friendship. Regularly. I keep forgetting this one. And frankly, that is totally unacceptable. I will be better at this. I promise.. “Because right now all you have is time time time yeah/but someday that time will run out.”