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Thursday, August 1, 2013

August already - random thoughts on improving our lives

Light Knight, Flickr

It's August already! We're halfway through summer. Has your summer been like you wanted it to be?

Before we get too far into the "I haven't enjoyed the nice weather enough",  "I've been a slacker with my healthy living habits" and "Did I really drink all those cans of beer that are lined up in the garage?", let's twist that question a little bit:

You might be at a third of your life (i.e. in your late twenties), or halfway through (i.e. in your early forties), or even three quarters into it (i.e. past 60). Has your LIFE been like you wanted it to be?

And more importantly: what do you do about it TODAY?

No regrets

Now is not the day to think back on the things you haven't done, have regrets, and despair. In fact, no day is a good day for that. I personally never allow myself to have regrets, because as the poet Maya Angelou would say:

"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."

What this day and all other days are good for is to look forward, pull up our sleeves, and MAKE THIS LIFE HAPPEN.

Do you leave the past behind to focus instead on the present and future?

Reverse bucket lists feel good

One strategy I use to make the most of my life is the bucket list. However, we all know fuzzy, long-term goals with few intermediate steps are hard to attain. For that reason, I believe in the "short term bucket list". For example, when I take a vacation, I always make a list. A list of [the boring] things that need to be done (e.g. repaint the hallway, scrub the fridge) and of [the fun] things that I want to do (e.g. go canoe-camping with the kids, have a sushi night out with friends). At the end of my vacation, if most of the items have been crossed out (no need to do it all), I feel satisfied and content.

When I don't do that, I end up thinking "Where did all that time go, and what did I do with it?" I certainly don't want to feel that way when it's time for me to cross the Styx.

Recently it has occurred to me that I could also put together a "reverse bucket list", i.e. a list of the things I have already accomplished that I would put on a bucket list if they hadn't been accomplished yet. Doesn't that sound fun? Isn't it a great way to acknowledge the past accomplishments we are so quick at taking for granted? Examples from my reverse bucket list, things I have already done (I put 37 items because I'm 37):

  1. Getting my Master's
  2. Starting my own business (in fact, I started 2, and they both flourished)
  3. Managing a team of 20 employees
  4. Making a living out of my communication/language/writing skills, and in the medical field
  5. Finding a good father for my kids
  6. Having two wonderful kids
  7. Becoming a runner/running races
  8. Doing a triathlon
  9. Singing on stage
  10. Starting a blog
  11. Being a university swim team coach
  12. Windsurfing and sailing
  13. White water rafting
  14. Kayaking and canoeing
  15. Zip lining
  16. Doing some wilderness camping
  17. Swimming across a big lake
  18. Swimming a proper butterfly
  19. Learning enough about wine and classical music to have a conversation about it
  20. Riding a horse, camel, and elephant
  21. Making the water polo team
  22. Getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight
  23. Overcoming my shyness
  24. Volunteering
  25. Skinny dipping
  26. Sleeping under the stars
  27. Taking a scuba diving class
  28. Learning to drive standard
  29. Becoming a beach lifeguard
  30. Driving a motorcycle
  31. Seeing some of my favorite works of art "in person"
  32. Hearing some of my favorite musicians/singers/groups "in person"
  33. Backpacking in Europe for 3 months
  34. Visiting more than 20 countries
  35. Walking on the Great Wall of China
  36. Learning a third language
  37. Publishing articles in newspapers/magazines

Whenever I feel like I haven't done enough, I think of what my 15-year old self would think of this reverse bucket list... she would be quite impressed! That makes me feel better.

What will you put on your August Bucket List... and what about your Reverse Bucket List?

It's been quite a while... I should put it back on the bucket list.
Earthwatcher, Flickr

Life - The playdough analogy

I like to see my life as a big lump of playdough. It's my role to shape it the way I want. Granted, I might not have received the exact amount I would have hoped for, and it might not be the exact hue I would have chosen. Plus, on a regular basis I do find a dried up piece that is of no use and/or gets in the way of what I want to do. (In all honesty, most times, if there are dried up pieces it's because I have failed to close the lid properly.)

What I'm trying to say here is that I take responsibility. I am accountable for most of the mishaps, and I learn how to make the most of what I have.

Do you take full responsibility in your life?

The first priority is to put your priorities in order

Before I started writing this post I had another idea - I wanted to write a Friday Fun Facts post. It would have been about some random things I've stumbled upon in the news lately. *

Then I thought "This would be fun, but it's not my priority". My priority as it feels right now and in the long run is to talk about LIFE. And so that's what I decided to do.

Do you know what your priorities are, and do you allocate most of your time and energy to them?

The grass is not always greener

Recently I've been questioning my life situation in general and some of my life choices in particular. But when I started confiding in some trustworthy friends or family members, something interesting happened: no matter what area of my life I was mentioning and no matter who I was talking to, I got the same response: I was told my life is wonderful as it is. Enviable. Someone even said: "paradisiac". And that I did not have much to gain from a change.

Of course those well-intentioned friends mostly see the positive side of my life, not the negative (I don't talk much about it, either). But I have to admit they are kind of right: my life IS very good. Maybe I'm falling prey (again!) to the What's Next? or Is That All There Is? syndrome. I've talked about it before (click on this link).

And listen to this song:

Of course when your life is not fulfilling, even if it's nothing major, denying this state of affairs won't take you very far. So... what can you do to find what you need and bring it into your life? That's when my next thought comes into play, namely:

If I was a therapist...

(Which I almost became, after all...)

... I would tell you "Welcome to my office. Please make yourself uncomfortable."

Because life improvement stems from change, and change stems from getting out of our comfort zone. Simple as that.

When was the last time you made yourself really uncomfortable?

For me, it was very recently. On July 15, I made a "public" announcement on this blog: starting that day, I would be less present on the blog, and spend less time online overall, to enable me to pursue other goals of mine that I had been neglecting (see here).

I knew this change was for the best (in order to meet my long-term goals), but gawd, has this withdrawal been painful. You know you're an addict when resisting is so hard. Well, those 2 weeks have been akin to a 2-week long PMS of the intense kind I've never even experienced; I've been hard on some people I care about; I've compensated with other unhealthy behaviors (vade retro, ice cream!); sometimes, when I managed to resist "the call of the Internet" AND the call of all other vices altogether, I felt like curling up in a fetal position and moan. (Okay... slight exaggeration).

What I mean is, changing your ways, especially when you've been relying on them to fulfill some needs (healthy or unhealthy ones) is tough. But I did it. AND, I've taken some significant steps toward my other, more important, goals. Once you get past the "paralyzed by terror" state, moving forward feels pretty good, thank you.

To make your way to your goal, you have to get rid of what gets in the way of that goal. And you have to take a plunge. Even if you're scared as sh**.

Are you willing to do that?

Dennis Barnes, Flickr

* Now, for those who might be interested in some pre-weekend entertainment, here are the random news I was talking about:

1) National Orgasm Day

Yes, you heard me well. Wednesday was "National Orgasm Day". If you did not celebrate, I believe it's not too late now.

Here's an article on all kinds of "orgasmic facts":


2) China in America

Paul Chiasson, a Canadian architect, argues that he has found a Chinese settlement dating from before Christopher Columbus in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. This disputed discovery, if proved accurate, would change the whole way we look at North America, China, and our native people.

For the history buffs, there's a short video on the topic (click here).

What do you think about it?

3) The modern Icarus

Yves Rossy, better known as the Jetman, has managed to do what man has wanted to do since the beginning of humanity: he can FLY. See here:

Would you like to try that? (You can always add it to your bucket list...)

4) Of beer and boobs

How is beer related to boobs? Well, I'll let you read those 2 articles and tell me what you think:



5) Some good, musical, inspiring news: 

Landfill Harmonic, or how to play music with trash.

Any random thoughts on this post or on life in general? And remember: life is all about the choices you make and the priorities you establish. Will you choose the easy way and only comment on my "random facts from the news", or will you dig deeper and comment on the "random thoughts on improving our lives"?...


  1. I love how you always make us stop and think!! Reverse bucket list is fun... I will write mine tonight....

    1. Sometimes I even make myself stop and think! LOL Have fun with your list!

  2. Hi Julie! I'm constantly asking myself why I'm wasting too much time. When I'm having a mopey day, I remind myself that someone else chose to make it their best day ever! But overall, I feel that I mostly spent these past 24 years raising children, getting some degrees, working professionally, writing, and taking care of myself--in a nutshell. No regrets for any of that!:D

    1. You are right, Marion: what we spend most of our time doing can (and is, hopefully) meaningful. When I feel like I haven't accomplished enough, I imagine telling my 15-year old self of all my adulthood accomplishments; "little Julie" would be amazed! :-)

  3. Love the idea of a reverse bucket list, especially to put things back in perspective. We are too quick to forget life's wonderful moments - big & small - and yearn for the next big thing. It's hard to always live in the moment, but we can't always look forward or we'll miss life now!

    1. We always want more, more, more, but we need to look at everything we already have...

      I hope you will write your own reverse bucket list! It's fun! :-)

  4. I love the idea if a reverse bucket list - nice to look at the amazing things we've done - not only those we wish to do someday. I think I will start mine now!

    1. I think at this point in our lives (mid-late thirties for you and I), we have enough to rejoice about our past once in a while! :-)

  5. Julie, I must say that you write very thought provoking blog posts. In the words of Sinatra...
    "Regrets, I've had a few
    But then again, too few to mention
    I did what I had to do
    And saw it through without exemption"

    That sex survey was compiled on U.K. citizens. That is not an island nation with a burgeoning population boom. While I lived in Europe there was a Frenchman arrested for Necrophilia, but later released. At the time of his questioning He stated in astonishment..."She was dead!?! I thought she was British!!"

    And as a retired G.I. that has consumed thousands of gallons of beer all over the world, I can state unequivocally, that beer always has a better flavor when the drinker has boob eye candy to enhance the taste of the brew.

    1. Call me old fashioned, but I really like Sinatra... :-)

      That necrophilia anecdote is hilarious!

      We'll have to see if other commenters feel the same about beer and boobs (I'm afraid the answer is yes...)

  6. I've never even thought about having a reverse bucket list - what a great idea!!! I also like the short-term (bucket) lists!!! If I do a reverse bucket list there is a good chance it will end up on my blog and I will definitely link to you.
    Thanks for making me stop and really think about things tonight - I need to do that more often!!

    1. I can't wait to see your reverse bucket list, Kim! :-)

      Glad you enjoyed that "stop and think" moment. They are among my favorite ones.

  7. It's ok that you write less often : quality over quantity. A lot of quality in this post. I cannot wait to see the book that will come out of this blog.

    1. That's such a nice comment! I will keep it in mind in moments of self-doubt! Thank you!

  8. Love this post, so different and so thought provoking! I also love the random facts haha.

  9. Wow. So much awesomeness in this post!

    But am particularly taken with the "reverse bucket list" notion.

    I do something similar and have an imaginary conversation with my, say, 20 year old self and report back what I've done, how I live now, in my 50's, what my relationship is like etc... and I have to imagine that 20 year old self would find a lot to be excited about.

    Wonder what my 80 year self will have to say?

    1. "Talking" to your younger self, and to your older self, is a great way to put things in perspective. :-)

  10. A) Being Jhcicb is a good gig. I try to remember that hourly, because I need to hourly.

    B) Best advice I ever received: "If you leap, the net will appear." It always has.

    C) Funny, I watched a brief Jet Man video like 10,000 times yesterday!

    1. The leap-net advice is a good, usually accurate one indeed.

  11. Oh my gosh, so much great stuff here!! I'm overwhelmed by all the reading I have to do now! haha :)

    I love reverse bucket lists, and yours is particularly inspirational. I want mine to include way, way more travel, among other things.

    I love this quote I recently read via The Happiness Project blog: “One lives in the naïve notion that later there will be more room than in the entire past."
    - Elias Canetti

    So true, right? Better start now!

    1. Oh yes, if we only wish for the future to bring the space and time and happiness we want... there's a big chance we will end up with regrets on our death bed!

      Traveling is up there in my priorities. Go ahead and do it!

      Thank you for visiting my blog, Kim! :-)

  12. I think hou have a gift of not only writing but also making us all stop and think.
    Im in my early 30's and yeah like all of us I have regrets. I wish i could change them but i chose to learn from them (mostly)
    take care

    1. Thank you, Z!
      I think learning from your "mistakes" is the best attitude! We all grow that way. :-)

  13. I am completely in love with your blog, most of your posts make me think and actually discuss the topic of your post with my family/friends...I'm going to work on my reverse bucket list because I feel in life I get so overwhelmed by the thought of how many things I still need to work on that I forget about all the things I have managed to tick of my list...the other point you mentioned about getting out of your comfort zone is also so important, I always work on that...I know if want to achieve something I need to change whatever needs to be changed and even a small change can really get uncomfortable..but who cares as long as I get to my goal :)

    1. I am completely in love with your comment! LOL

      I think your analysis and comprehension show a lot of wisdom. You will reach your goals for sure. :-)

  14. I love this post - there is so much in it you could have made it 5 posts!!

    The idea of a reverse bucket list is awesome and I want to make one right this minute!

    1. Go ahead and make your list, Diane. It feels great!

      And yes, I'm too lazy to separate long posts into shorter ones... :-)