Recently, one of my blogging friends over at Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal posted a piece about her bucket list; it seemed a happy coincidence that she would post about something which is so integral to the problems I’m having right now, and I decided to incorporate it into a post I was going to make at some point anyway. Bit of a warning: I maaaay have sworn a few times in the following…
Here’s the thing: I have a bucket list. I’ve had a bucket list for about 5 or 6 years, and that bucket is fucking huge – not only huge, but the handle is gilt and the pail is carved marble. The contents look something like this:
- Have babies. Lots of babies. Love them all and be SuperMom.
- Be a great (vegetarian) cook in order to provide brilliant meals for my family. Almost an oxymoron in itself.
- Wear dresses and look stylish all the time.
- Finish my book, submit it to an agent, get published and become an appreciated author.
- Be one of the best sculpted novelty cake artists in the country.
- Go into property development and reinvest constantly until I have enough capital to buy a house, either outright or with very little mortgage, and have leftover to begin investing anew. Continue to invest until I have enough money to actually build my own house.
- Set up and own a jazz bar.
- Raise enough money to build a well in every village in Africa, and generally do unfeasible amounts of charity work and change the world.
- Set up a zoo. A fucking zoo, people.
So I’m guessing you’re beginning to see my point. That’s one heavy bucket. I’ve been dragging it around for years without getting any closer to slaking my thirst. The fact is – and I’ll defend this in the comments – all of those things are possible. But for any one person to achieve even one, let alone all of them is incredibly unlikely; among the billions of people on the planet, there are those who can lay claim to one of the achievements above, but they number in their hundreds, and even being generous, in terms of percentage of the population they don’t even register.
So for me, my bucket list has actually been a hindrance; it is full of weighty desires which are heavily connected with my unhealthy desire to impress people [link to follow… once I’ve written a post on this!], and at the moment I feel like every one requires an amount of money, whether for new clothes, cookery courses or baby supplies, and this is something that I just don’t have right now. Having this gorgeous, enticing, ambrosia-filled bucket is torture because I am constantly thinking about it but never experiencing the joy the achievements would bring.
However, for all of that I am glad NaDR encouraged their readers to make a bucket list – I certainly would not want to relinquish mine; thinking of my life goals excites me, and there is nothing to say that I can’t be one of those 0.000001% of people who achieve things that major. In fact, if you strip each of them down to their core they become far more tangible:
- Become a mum
- Spend more money on fresh veg, plan our weekly meals and perhaps go on a cookery course.
- Buy some new dresses
- Continue to write my novel, send it off to an agent and self-publish if I want to if conventional veins don’t work
- You get the drift.
So I suppose my point here is twofold:
- My bucket list is pretty unreasonable.
- It is wonderful to dream big, but while you do, be realistic – don’t mistake me; never abandon your plans no matter how crazily unfeasible they seem to you or anyone else, but be aware that it is possible that things wont work out perfectly, or perhaps not at all. It is important that you know how to live a happy life should your most fervent desires not come true.
And so now you have more insight into the reason that I am concentrating on how to find daily happiness, and the reason my blog doesn’t (yet) cover how to go after the bigger things in life. What point is there if right now you’re miserable; you know the nature of the best laid plans of mice and men – sometimes future machinations just don’t turn out the way you want them to, so it can’t be healthy to dwell on them unless you have things that bring you present day joy. Moreover, think about how much more confident you will be, and thus how much more likely you are to achieve your dreams if you are happy.
My suggestion then is that rather than a bucket list, you create a treehouse. In the back garden of your mind. Don’t carry it around with you every waking moment; instead visit it regularly and enjoy clambering about. Plan out your dream adventure hideout, and with each achievement nail a board into place. Hoist yourself up on low branches first, or else you will never be able to reach the lofty ones; in other words, include goals to which there is no impedance, monetary or otherwise – things you can do now (you can finish reading the blog first). Do these things often, and once you have done them hop to a new, equally accessible interest or challenge. Seeing yourself slowly build up a long list of achievements – or rather, seeing your treehouse take shape – will reinforce your belief that you can do, get or become anything you want.
Perhaps to some a distinction like this will seem pointless, but to others it may be a revelation, and to me it certainly feels like a step towards living a happy life. After all, the existence of a bucket is pretty pointless if no-one gets to use the water it holds.
It seems appropriate that my first post covers the reason for beginning this blog of mine, and as such I have copied below what lies permanently in my ‘about’ page; the truth is that it will take the first few posts to explain my motivations (and lack thereof), but I hope this does for starters:
A few months ago my partner was made redundant. Aside from increased anxiety about how long our money would last (not long) and whether we would have to depend on benefits (we would), I began to feel troubled about whether I too, should seek employment, if only because at least then it would give my other half more time to find something. I thought about it, and over a period of weeks and months it dawned on me that even if my SO did get another job he would still be on the same meagre salary, or perhaps something even lower, and that all of my hopes and dreams for my future life hinged upon saving up a degree of capital that would not be achievable on this income. So it was decided. I would continue my Cake Decoration business in my spare time and get a ‘proper job’. This felt like a positive sacrifice in order to achieve my goals – seems logical, right? Well, the key is in the word ‘sacrifice'; I have only had one job since leaving university in 2005, a 6-month temporary administration role, and I hated it to the point of going to bed crying on a sunday knowing that it was all going to start again the next day. I have never felt so horrible and I am terrified that a new job will make me feel exactly the same, and lead me to regress to that depressed state. I have made so much progress since then with my social anxiety (a whole other story which I will touch upon later) and my depressive moods that it is really upsetting to think that it could all be undone; being so distressed about how I was spending the majority of my day unhappily was the reason I chose not to seek further employment but instead pursue my goal of becoming a published author (yet another story, which somehow led to being a part-time cake decorator earning no money), and now I’m about to return to it all.
This, coupled with the stresses of actually searching for work – tailoring my CV for each application only to be rejected yet again, spending hours searching for nothing and having to prove it all to the government – has meant that I have recently lost what little happiness I had and everything feels purposeless. Every aspect of my life seems to be below par; I cannot motivate myself to clean the flat, to cook meals, to go shopping, to clean my hair, to return emails, nothing. I told my partner last night that if it weren’t for having him, and for fear I would probably now either be running away or killing myself. It was most likely hyperbole, but right now my life doesn’t seem to have any worth; I’m not making myself happy, and excepting the SO I’m not making anyone else happy, so where is the point? So something has to change. I have to try to find that point. I want to find small ways in which to live in the moment and to savour small moments of joy. This needs expanding upon, but one of the reasons I think I haven’t been able to do that thus far is that all my hopes, dreams and grand plans are for the future, and are heavily dependent on each other, but I’ve come to realise that my life is going to pan out one of three ways if I don’t do something soon:
- All of those hopes and dreams come true. But I spend the next 4+ dreams in misery, torturing myself over whether they will.
- I achieve all of my goals but they were only illusions of happiness. I spent 4+ years in misery only to find that my plans didn’t bring happiness.
- None of my dreams are brought into reality, I am crushed and I have no idea how to live my life in a happy way.
So this blog is about trying to find – and share with you – those little things that can be done each day, perhaps each week, to bring me present-day happiness; happy moments that I can savour, no matter what happens in the future. I want to reclaim the feeling that I’ve only ever had fleetingly in my life and that others too often take for granted; I want to go to bed satisfied with the day, and wake up excited for the next.
I hope I can help someone out there achieve the same; stay put for more x