Somewhere on my Bucket List, I have a very important mandate. #38 (or so), Make a Bucket List. It’s that whole self-reflexive, self-fulfilling prophecy that pretty much insures I’ll never make a bucket list.
First, there’s the fact that concept smacks me as a slight ray of sunshine wrapped in the doom and gloom reminder of your own mortality. Second, that Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman bromcom just about killed it for me.
That said, I get the core beauty of the idea. There really is something inspiring in drafting a list of things that you absolutely have to do before you die. Of course, if you’re sitting down in your middle class digs and etching a sketch of what your final days should consist of, you probably want to keep things a little closer to reality. Dinner on top of the Sphinx is probably not gonna’ happen unless you add “…in Vegas.” And to that, I’d append, “Steal Tyson’s tiger.” Hey, what happens in Vegas…
No, the proverbial bucket list is probably best kept to a handful of items that you’ve longed to do or would find to be a challenge in your life but are unlikely to attack unless given a little push.
That is why I sort of subscribe to a similar, yet dovetailed philosophy. As the age lines continue their trek across my countenance, I’ve found that I’m more willing to seek out new opportunities; to stretch myself a little further and try something new. And like I said before, none of these are Earth-shattering events but they are just different or challenging enough to rock my own world.
Sometime over the last few years, I really started to find myself anxious at the normal nine-to-five grind that my life had settled into. I shouldn’t have had any problems. After all – I was comfortable. Happy. I really felt I had made a nice, cushy imprint in life and was in a place where I could while away each day with relatively few complaints – certainly none of any real consequence, more of the “Oh, why won’t this grass stay green on this side of the lawn” variety.
But that was the crux of the problem. Things were starting to feel “same old – same old“. I’d rise and fall into bed at the same time each day. I’d eat the same staples on a fairly consistent basis, with my own finickiness collared as a co-conspirator in that regard. I’d watch the same handful of television programs, hit the movies, enjoy time with family and friends, work on building a better Blog, earn a decent wage, get a little exercise, work the yard and minor home repairs. Essentially, keep up with those proverbial Joneses.
When you consider that elsewhere in the world, people rise to falling bombs or scour the fields looking for a scrap to eat, it’s bush league to bitch at how good you’ve got it. But, our particular brand of animal is only human and it’s an innate trait to want something more. In the past, it was more gear. More gizmos. I figured a new game or bigger TV could always recharge me. But some time in the last few years, I found that Band-Aid only covered so much territory leaving some raw skin exposed. And that yearning began to sting and eventually itch.
Last year, I wrote about the first, and to this day, only full blown season of depression that I’ve ever had the misfortune to wander through. It came on in mid-Winter of 2007 and settled in for the Spring of 2008. At the time I pegged it on malaise contracted at the office but in retrospect I realized that work only contributed a portion. It was that desire to do something different that was both the cause and cure of my ailment. Depression always seemed such a nebulous thing to me. As a guy who’d never experienced it outside of the fleeting day or two despair when Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air, I was one of those who simply scoffed – “Get over it.”
Don’t Worry. Be Happy.
Of course, if life has taught us anything it’s that these things usually have a way of pulling a Twilight Zone on us. Rail against something we don’t completely understand and shoot from the hip and you’ll find that life will apply the twist and send it spiraling right at ya’. And if you’re lucky, you’ll learn from the experience. Many don’t.
That six or several months that I spent mired in the morass was almost more than I could bear. Of course, I probably could have found the escape hatch early on if I talked to someone about it or consulted a professional but in true Guy fashion, I decided that since I already knew what was wrong with me, the hard part was done. WebMD and I had collaborated and deduced that I had a mid-range case of depression. The solution – turn to Andi (or Dr. Mom) and assume that she’ d whip up a life-saving remedy and I’d be on my way.
But, we all know that’s folly. In retrospect, I probably should have talked to someone who could turn their well-funded wizardry upon me and dash the spell for good and a lot sooner than it took me on my own. Well, that’s not the way things played out but I did eventually emerge from the shadows.
What did it was a little sprinkling of warm weather – although, while the depression abated during the Summer ’08 months it was always there, gnawing at the edges, biding its time until we’d ‘Fall Back’ once again and then when the street lights turned on at 4 p.m. it would pounce from the alleyway. That was its plan, anyway. So, I knew I was working on borrowed time as I tried to push it out of my mind last summer.
Then something miraculous happened. As I crowed about extensively last Summer, my beautiful and supportive wife Andi, landed her dream role as Maria Von Trapp in the Gateway Players’ summer production of The Sound of Music. You can read all about it here. The show was sensational and Andi did what she does best – finding new and ingenious ways to surprise me and latch onto my heart.
Watching her on stage, I saw some release. Having done a tiny bit of theater way back in the High School days, I was reminded of how much fun all that hard work can be. And more importantly, I craved that camaraderie that develops when someone shouts “Hey Kids, Let’s Put on a Show!” Whether you’re ducking bombs in a foxhole or slapping on the greasepaint back stage, finding your own private band of brothers is a nourishing thing.
When word leaked a few days later that the theater company was looking to fill a few more parts for their autumn production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I looked over the ledge and jumped. At the time, I couldn’t quite seize on why I did it but I know now that it was the cure for what ailed me. It would be challenging. It would be fun. But more importantly, it was something different from my routine. Something I hadn’t done in a very long time and something that not everyone raises their hand to do. Granted, I wasn’t throwing my body on the line for Queen and Country but in my own way, this was the ammunition I needed to blast back that nagging demon for good.
As you diehards know, I had a blast in the show. And the two-month experience, from first rehearsals to final curtain call, was wonderfully cathartic. It helps that I was drafted to play Aide Warren – a vicious pit bull of a 50’s era orderly who delighted in tormenting his charges. I liked to think of him as Nurse Ratched’s Right Hand of Doom.
Beyond chasing away those sneaky specters that had haunted me since earlier that year, the play also marked one of those bucket list items. Like I said, I don’t have a specific list nor do I plan on drafting one, but when these curveballs get thrown my way, I recognize the ones that I want to swing for. And I’m aiming for the fences.
I had such a great time in Cuckoo’s Nest last year that I fully intended to audition for a part in another Gateway production this year. With 5 shows on the docket, I figured the odds were decent that I’d land something – no matter how small.
And then the work thing happened and my days and nights got busy as I toiled to uncouple an exiting client while working on my own escape plan for post-employment.
And then summer hit and we started to play catch-up on all of those nagging Spring Cleaning items that lingered unblemished on my annual To-Do list.
And then the auditions were announced for the final adult production, Reckless, which happened to fall on the same evening that Andi was working.
And with this changing state of affairs in our household; with me hunting gainful employment and Andi waitressing for – (a. a change of pace/b. Disney World savings/c. Plan B in case the severance gives out before I’ve reacquainted myself with the work force), I knew that it would be difficult to juggle rehearsals with her shifts and the child care needs that might crop up. So, I regretfully tabled my sophomore effort for 2010 which although less than 6 months off just seems so far away when you say it out loud.
That said, if I couldn’t do the play, there is no threat that those demons would haunt again. Like I said, I’d been hit full bore by depression only once in my life and while it was a tough ghost to chase, eventually I busted its ass. The play helped. My wife, family and friends contributed more. That ghoulie is gone for good.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m not looking for that next life’s experience. As I said at the outset, I’ve never drafted a bucket list but I do know the realistic, attainable challenges when I see them. The most elaborate thing I have pre-meditated is sky-diving. I WILL DO THAT!!! Maybe for my 40th.
With Broadway on hiatus, there was an open slot on my Life’s Achievement List for 2009. I’m not sure I’ll try something new every year but when the opportunities come along, you’ve got to grab them. Right?
Anyway, this long-winded preamble has finally wound its way to the point.
This year’s grand challenge is to tackle a Triathlon.
I know what you’re thinking. Big deal!!! You want to impress us, bungee jump off the Zakim!!! And that’s sort of the point of it all. I’m an ordinary guy and while my wildest dreams have me finding some sort of success through the written word, it’s these little measures that add some meaning to my life. Last year it was the play. This year – a little jaunt over the river and through the woods – although technically I’ll be going through the river (or lake) and over the woods by bike and foot.
The thing is, I’ve only run one road race in my entire life and I don’t recall ever finishing it. I’ve done the 20 mile Walk for Hunger twice. That’s it. That’s the sum total of my athletic accomplishments. So, a triathlon is akin to me showing up on the day of the Boston Marathon and trying to wrestle the crown from the Kenyans and bring fame to my Newfoundlandian countrymen.
This is a big deal for me. And, a big challenge.
Opportunity knocked when our friends Stacey and Sarah got bit by the triathlon bug earlier this year. They have now competed in two separate events and had begun talking about follow-up stints including one planned for Douglas State Forest on September 19th.
Andi had expressed interest in joining the Dynamic Duo and had been talking to them about the rigors involved with the event and what to do to prepare for it. The more she talked to them about it, the more her interest grew. And as she began to seriously consider it, my brain hit spin cycle.
This would be something new. Something different. And certainly a challenge. And if I could complete it, something that I could look back fondly upon, many years from now, as another point where I swerved off my locked-in course.
Once again, I needed this.
So, it’s official. Andi and I are officially signed up to compete in the TDD Triathlon on Saturday September 19, 2009. The event is being held at the Douglas State Forest in Douglas, MA and consists of a 1/4 mile swim, 11 mile bike ride and 3 mile run.
I’m fairly sure I could do each one of those components handily. All together, one after the other is a different story all together.
And that’s what makes this a milestone and a challenge. I have confidence that I’ll do it and knowing that I’m tackling this alongside my beloved wife Andi, and our friends (including Stacey and Sarah), makes it all the more special.
Of course, The Ed Zone will provide you with an up close and personal take on the event. Hopefully, I can score a staff photographer to take a few pre- and post-race snapshots and we’ll add another page to my digital diary.
Wish us luck!!!