When it comes to movies I’m always behind the rest of the civilized world. I’m “still catching up” with movies that came out in the 1990s. TV shows are no different for me. By the way, did you hear? Bobby’s not dead! It was all a dream! Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one. If you’re around my age or older, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. A little younger than me and you likely haven’t a clue.
It’s the exact opposite with music. I know about music for years – sometimes decades – before my peers. I got into Steven Wilson, my favorite songwriter, in the early 1990s. It wasn’t until 2015 – 2016 with the release of his masterpiece, Hand. Cannot. Erase., that I began hearing others in America talk about him. A few circles of people would mention this “new” artist who wrote mind blowing albums. “Oh, you mean Steven Wilson?” I’d reply. “I’ve been listening to him and his bands for almost 25 years now.”
But movies? I really do love movies but still think of Terminator 2 as a new movie. I suppose I’ll never be current with movies and television. I mention this because today I feel compelled to write about The Bucket List, a new movie for me but one which came out back in 2007: a very important year in my life.
My wife, Char, watched it a few nights ago and told me I should see it. She was, as usual, right. She was asleep next to me while I watched it so she didn’t see me crying for about an hour after the movie ended. But I think she knew that’s exactly how I would process this film.
You see, as I’ve written before, I’m all about avoiding regret. My life’s motto is from a Beatles song. “I’m taking the time for a number of things that weren’t important yesterday.”
Those who know me personally know the hell the I lived in for so many years before I finally started to truly live my life with intent and purpose and with the aim of leaving no regrets on the table when I reach the end of my days. Toward the end of those years I spent in my own personal hell, I wrote a song entitled “Are We There Yet?” referring to the end of my life. To me, it seemed that was the only way out of my pain. But in proving His existence to me yet again, God showed me that He had another plan. That plan included meeting – and marrying – Char, who had been living in her own hell up until that point.
In 2007, the same year that The Bucket List was released, I took that other path laid before me and never looked back. Life changed completely. I no longer ask, “Are We There Yet?” but rather, “What next?” In many ways, my life since 2007 (and Char’s life, for that matter) has been one big bucket list. But I think it took seeing this movie to make me understand that fact the way I do now.
Char and I actively determine to live each day to the fullest, to not just dream of things but do them. And that’s not just cliche for us. In the relatively few years we’ve been married (almost nine years at the time of this writing), we’ve constantly been doing things we might have only talked about before. We’ve done things that seem improbable or even impossible until you simply determine to find a way, to make it happen, to just do whatever it takes to fulfill every dream, desire, and fantasy. Otherwise, we’d be leaving regrets on the table – and we can’t have that. In the years since we’ve been together, Char and I have been checking off our Bucket List without even knowing it. From sharing dinner with Elvis Presley’s original bandmates (too bad Elvis wasn’t still around to be there) to jumping in the ring and having a mixed wrestling match against each other at the Clear Channel Metroplex in Little Rock, we’ve been turning dreams into reality.
I realized from our earliest days as a couple that opportunity is all around us, every day. The question is what we do with that opportunity. As a new couple, Char mentioned to me that she always wanted to ride a hot air balloon. At a festival we were attending that same month, there were tethered hot air balloon rides being offered. Tethered, yes, but it was a start. And furthermore, the opportunity was there. I could ask the balloonist for his card and set up a future ride into the high skies. Opportunity. It’s all around us, all the time. The problem is, most people don’t see it. Most are too consumed by distractions that get in the way of truly living and realizing our dreams – and that will only help to leave those regrets on the table. Many are too scared to step out of their comfort zone and “make it happen,” whatever “it” might be. Like asking the balloonist for his card. The opportunity was indeed there. And sadly, a great number of people worry too much about what others think of their dreams to make them come true in light of opportunity. In revealing our deepest secrets to each other and getting to know each other intimately and completely, I told Char at the start of our marriage that I grew up with this huge crush on the character of Wonder Woman. Keep in mind, this was years before the Wonder Woman craze hit the nation with the new Wonder Woman and Justice League movies. Char suddenly buys a Wonder Woman costume – but she doesn’t stop there… she practically becomes known to all around her as Wonder Woman. She plays the character in her public life and – what’s the most G rated way of saying this? – in her private life. Did she care how others might judge this behavior? No. That would be distraction. She was too busy helping me live out my fantasy, my bucket list. She saw opportunity. And our marriage is sizzling hot!
The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, showcases the lives of two men (a multi-millionaire and a middle class guy) who both come down with terminal cancer and are given just months to live. They make a Bucket List of things they always wanted to do in life and spend their final days doing those very things. They die with no regrets, a stark contrast to how they had lived up until their diagnoses. Cancer certainly helps you think of your own mortality. But if you don’t have cancer, your opportunity is even greater – because odds are, you’ll have more than a few months to check off your list.
The sober truth is, we all have “months to live.” Whether it’s 6 months or 600 months, our days are numbered. The good news is that opportunity exists every day. What will you do with your opportunity?
Understand, I’m not advocating skipping out on social and personal responsibilities such as going to work or paying your bills. My social, political, and even religious bent prevents me from thinking that way. I do not advocate living “above your means” or on credit, either. But I think most people miss out on real living because of the many distractions around us. I hear people who go out to eat every meal say they can’t afford a vacation. I tell people all the time, we’re all millionaires. Make $75,000 a year and work for 14 years and you’re a millionaire. It’s not how much money you made, it’s what you did with the money you made. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re a millionaire. How did you spend it? Where did the money go? To the many convenient distractions around us everyday… or to checking off your bucket list and living life with no regret?
I could go on… but I don’t want to take up any more of your time. You have a bucket list to write. And to live. As do I.