Saturday, February 23, 2013

I'LL SWING MY LEGS

Some people on Pinterest have an interest in listing the things they want to do before they die (I'm much more into women's fashion and nail polish art, but that's just because I speak girl).

Making a bucket list is a popular, albeit curiously creepy, thing to do. Ever since that damned movie came out there have been stories about terminally ill people rushing to fulfill their wildest dreams. The parents of one doomed infant even penned a blog in her voice, listing the things she wanted to do before kicking the bucket.

Quite the renaissance for a phrase that's been around since at least the late 1700s. Francis Grose included it in his A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, first published in 1785 (that same book listed "crank" as a slang word for gin).

There is, of course, a website devoted to bucket lists, but many of its members have picayune hopes, wishes and dreams when it comes to things they want to do before they die.

Make Skittles vodka? Send a message in a bottle? Go to a rodeo? Ride a mattress down a staircase? Done, done, done, and yup.

Find my doppelgänger? Accomplished.

Tell Dad I love him? In a weird way, yes.

Hang up the phone on Bob Barker? Indeed.

Go to Brazil? Not yet. But I will.

Tonight my friend Alex added something to her Pinterest bucket list (she calls it her "I Will" list, which is ever so much better, with its tones of determination and optimism). Alex's vow:

Change someone's life.

An admirable goal, yes — but she's already done it. Alex has changed my life for the better, and I thank her, and I'm just one of many people she's already affected. Not bad for someone still on that side of 25.

Fact: each of us has changed someone's life. Being alive forces us to interact with other humans. What we do affects them; what they do affects us. We are all real-life George Baileys, and most of the time it really is a wonderful life.

The smallest interaction can give birth to vast change. Just ask Edward Lorenz. Cover your eyes, clap your hands over your ears, close your mouth and fall silent — the monkeys pretend, but the change still happens. Ignoring it does not alter that truth — but it can warp it into something unnecessarily ugly, and that sort of tragedy shouldn't be on anyone's list of things to do before it's too late.

Embracing the sweet, trying to change someone's life for the better, trying harder not to hurt others in the process: these are some of the things on my "I Will" list. I won't call it a Bucket List because that sounds like a bunch of one-time things to accomplish and check off, and I don't want to embrace the sweet just once. I want it to be a permanent part of my soul, a continuum that bridges the eras of my life.

Besides, every time I hear the word "bucket" I think of Kings of Leon, and how I'll swing my legs when that time comes. After all, it's the pact that we made.

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