Kicking My Bucket List

Kicking My Bucket List

By Ann Wlazelek

Parasailing has been on my bucket list for years, but every time I got close to soaring like a human kite behind a power boat, I chickened out. It didn’t matter that grandmothers had done it. I did not want my derriere being dragged across the water on America’s Funniest Videos.

So, when a third opportunity presented itself on a Hawaiian cruise and my husband agreed to go tandem, I pre-paid for the excursion, believing that my coupon-clipping, tight-waddedness would force us to go through with the plan.

It worked! And we loved it!

After an attendant strapped us into life vests and harnesses, his comic sidekick driving the boat reassured us with, “The cord won’t break but if it does at least you already have your parachute.”

Bruce and I did as instructed: Held onto a bar at the back of the boat as the attendant hooked our harnesses to the inflated parachute behind us; sat on the deck and bent our knees. Next thing we knew, we were in the air, beaming at each other.

“This is great,” I shouted, waving to the other first-time couples waiting in the boat.  “I didn’t even feel sick in my stomach from rising in the air.” “Yeah,” Bruce agreed. “It’s as if the boat disappeared from under us.”

I share this third-time charm story with all of you who put off making or acting on a bucket list, the term popularized by a 2007 movie in which actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play two terminally ill men ticking off a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket.”

Sometimes it takes a little extra courage, time and even trickery to make it happen, but experts agree that making lists and checking things off can feel good and be good for us. “It doesn’t need to be a bucket list per se, but it’s important to have goals,” said Dr. Alice Boyes, a New Zealand psychologist whose advice for writing such lists and questions to ask yourself appeared in Psychology Today last summer. (

The sooner you start, the sooner you can discover which goals are more emotionally satisfying than others, she said, explaining that a cooking class in Italy might live up to expectations but bungee jumping not so much.

Our trip actually checked two goals off my list: parasailing and seeing Hawaii. We put off the Hawaiian trip years earlier, when family members got sick. Cost and long flights also delayed the dream. A 40th anniversary brought it back into play and the islands’ beauty, romance and fun were well worth the wait.

I think my mother got me started with list-making as a kid. She would write a list of chores for my sister and I to do, cut them apart, roll them up and let us reach into a bowl to pick one until they were done.   She’d even add a “Give Mom a Kiss” every now and then, making the exercise more fun, almost like reaching for a potential prize.

At home and work, I frequently keep my own “to do” list, which helps me remember and feel accomplished when items are crossed off.

One of my first wishes for what to do before I died was to see a pyramid. Middle East strife kept us from traveling to Egypt to see the Sphinx and Great Pyramid, but my husband and I did get to see the Mayans’ Chichen Itza in Mexico in 2003.

Many of the items on my ever-changing list include travel, and we’ve done a lot since Mexico. Seeing Athens was once of Bruce’s lifetime goals, accomplished on a Mediterranean cruise only months before 9-11 forever changed air travel and safety concerns.

I still would like to see much of what the United States have to offer, including Mount Rushmore, Seattle, redwoods, Yellowstone National park, and a train ride across the mid-west. Bruce would like to try a paddle boat down the Mississippi. I also toy with self-publishing a children’s story my Mother used to tell our son, videotaping my mother-in-law’s life story; and writing a book about our family’s experience
with addiction.

Boyes recommends starting with large and small goals, as well as things you can do for less than $100 and in your own back yard. “I don’t think you have to pick things that scare you, but it’s good to have things that cause you to grow your competencies, whether that’s solo travel or developing a standup comedy act,” she said.

Choose some things to do this year and some that are more long-term, Boyes added.  And, regularly revisit your list to cross some things off and add new ones. “Things move on and off my bucket list all the time as my interests change,” she said.

Mine too. In fact, now that parasailing went so well, perhaps it’s time to add zip-lining to
the list.

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