I only follow two blogs: one is funny (hyperbole and a half) and the other is tragically beautiful (alice’s bucket list). Can you imagine being 15 and having a bucket list you don’t know if you’ll complete? Of course not. I guess that phrase “can you imagine” is almost always rhetorical, because someone almost always has it worse off than you do.
I like how simple Alice’s blog is. She doesn’t try to wax poetic, she just writes about what she wants and what she does to get it. She isn’t trying to be quotable; she’s just trying to record her last moments. She recently blogged that she was afraid about what would happen when she’s gone and no one is promoting her charities the same way she does. She wants people to donate bone marrow to a fund in the UK. I’m sure there are other charities she supports but that’s the one that she seems to talk about the most.
A dying girl supports charities. And here I sit (lay actually because I never just “sit” in my bed) truly supporting one charity: my self. What can I donate to my body and mind today? Relaxation, exercise, chocolate, endless time with people I love. As scared as I get sometimes about my future, I still know that it’s there. I never see my sister or mother or brother or father going anywhere. My good friends will be standing around my apartment’s island countertop forever. My life is a perfect cycle of take shots, go out, wake up go to class go for a run drink lots of water do homework go to bed early and maybe go out again in a few days. It’s like I know what I’m looking forward to. My big plans include going to Europe next summer but that’s about it.
So could I possibly create a bucket list? Even now, at the invincible age of 20 I don’t know if there are big things I want for myself. I’d rather not skydive. Meeting someone famous would make me too nervous. Traveling thousands of miles to see one of the “wonders of the world” doesn’t really seem practical.
But what if I didn’t have long to live? It’s not really a fun game to play with one’s self. In fact when I have dreams that I’m dying or dead (my dreams are never rainbow and lollipop oriented) I wake up and cry, for the thought doesn’t inspire action, it triggers dread and stagnation: I go back to sleep to avoid the thought. Creating a bucket list is not fun, but maybe it’s necessary. Maybe if you thought that you only had a few months left, all the silly stuff would come off the list. Meeting Lady Gaga wouldn’t seem so urgent but hanging out with your estranged father could become endlessly important.
When I was little I used to get these feelings–these intense moments of euphoria that would make me feel light-headed and tingly all over. I think these were unrecognized moments of the literary kind of ah! that even Proust can’t capture. I haven’t had this moment of past-present-future fulfillment in many years. Sometimes, in a split-second I feel complete and satisfied and happy with what has happened, is happening, will happen. And inevitably the split-second passes and the next seconds and minutes and days are normal. There’s nothing wrong with normal, but if your life had a time limit don’t you think you’d want a little abnormal thrown in there?
So that’s my bucket list: abnormality. Not like a physical deformity or a visit to a circus, no: simply the opposite of normal. If I didn’t have much longer to live then I would want to feel life at least a few more times.
I had this phase when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up I’d say: “happy.” Yes, I want to be a writer and a lover and a reader and an eater and a runner but I can’t really be any of those things if I don’t, at least for a split-second, feel myself wholly a part of them.
Alice’s blog is not quite as abstract as this; she is pretty sure that she knows what she wants before she dies. She knows that she will not accomplish all of her goals and in her final days she seems okay with her pieced-together and incomplete mission. Those tiny moments of fulfillment that I hope (eyes squeezed tight, hands held out waiting) for so fervently have expanded into all of the seconds of her days. I can never say how she feels but I think her bravery glues all of her desires together and creates the most whole person I’ve ever encountered from afar.
To Alice I would say: not accomplishing everything on your list is not a failure; having a list at all, in the face of a ticking clock, is accomplishment enough. To let your desires and your dreams overcome your fear and your young life’s end is about as much living as anyone can do.