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5 Reasons I Value My 'Bucket List' as Someone With a Chronic Illness

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The term “bucket list” isn’t new. Creating a list of things to do before you die has become increasingly popular, with lifestyle blogs and online videos of people’s progress in crossing things off their lists. I have had a bucket list for years, although it had nothing to do with actually kicking the bucket. It’s not a “seize the day” or “live like there is no tomorrow”-type of list. I don’t look at a bucket list in terms of death, but in terms of life.

My bucket list is a written reminder of all of the things I want to do or accomplish in my lifetime. Some of the things on my current 70 item list include:

1.  Float in the Dead Sea
2. See penguins in South Africa
3. Write and publish a book
4. Go to a NFL football game
5. Meet Venus Williams (who has Sjogren’s syndrome, too!)
6. Go on a safari/game drive
7. Ride in a tuk tuk
8. Ride on the Philadelphia Zoo Balloon
9. Eat a beef wellington from a Gordon Ramsey restaurant
10. Be debt-free

Recently my chronic illnesses started to severely impact my quality of life. I decided that there was going to be more of a sense of urgency to the list. Not because I am going to kick the bucket, but because I want to actually fulfill these dreams instead of just looking at them on paper and making excuses for not acting.

Here are the five reasons why my bucket list is important to me:

1. Live For Experiences, Not Materials

The act of creating a bucket list has helped me realize what I value the most. I have realized that experiences are more valuable in my life than material things. I want to cherish the memories of those experiences because those memories will last a lifetime.

2. Prevent Complacency

Living with chronic illness, it is so easy for me to get so consumed by physical symptoms, mental health, doctor appointments, finances, and hospitalizations. Balancing those tasks with every day household chores, work and a social life can be difficult and daunting. It is easy to become content because of the worry of an additional burden or believing there is no sense in fighting. It is stressful and sometimes all-encompassing to deal with these burdens. However, I think complacency can cause serious consequences. My bucket list provides me with a list of things that I want to do and not the things in life that I have to do. They give me motivation to work towards bettering my life and providing me with experiences that I have only dreamed of.

3. Provides a Sense of Hope

I have a lot of goals in my life, mainly that have focused on my career or my perception of success. However, these goals are not my dreams. I think we often work towards our goals in planning for success, but we often disregard our dreams. My bucket list enables me to see my written dreams and start planning for them. Writing these dreams down makes them more real and gives me a sense of both responsibility and accountability. It gives me hope for the future that there is a possibility to fulfill my dreams and something to look forward to. I don’t want to let myself down. As a person with a chronic illness, hope is important and is what motivates me to keep fighting for my quality of life.

4. Keep Me Active

As a person with chronic illness, it is so easy for me to stay in bed all day or not want to do anything because of my physical or mental health symptoms. However, my bucket list helps keep me active. All of the items on my bucket list require some sort of planning, whether it be saving money, making time or just the simple task of making a reservation. Once I succeed and cross another thing off my list, it energizes me to keep going. The items allow me to get out of the house and keep me moving. I can stay engaged with other people and not feel as isolated, as I continue to learn, grow and experience new things.

5. Give a Sense of Control

I am a person who loves control, so dealing with chronic illness is very difficult for me. I sometimes have very little control over my situation and even my body. However, I have control over every item on my bucket list. If it is no longer my dream, I can remove it without feeling guilty. If I come up with something new that peaks my interest, I can add it to the list. I also have control over when and how these items get crossed off. This bucket list is for no one but myself and I have control over every aspect of it.

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Originally published: March 21, 2017
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