Go to India. Learn how to play the recorder. Take my kids to visit my hometown. Sing more. Be more creative with my hands. What do these things have in common? Me!
In the early 1990’s I read an article about making a list: 50 things to do before I die. I had never really looked at my life as a journey that was going to end. It really hit me that the length of my lifespan is not a given and perhaps I might spend some time remembering and reconnecting with the things I value and enjoy.
I started listing 50 things. The first 10 or 15 came fairly easily. The next bunch took a little longer and the last bunch took some effort. The exercise was revealing. In my effort to come up with 50 things, I had to dig deep. I uncovered childhood dreams that I had set aside for more than 30 years. I touched on simple things that were profoundly nourishing to only me. I noticed themes on my list: a love for the outdoors, a drive for creativity, a longing to hear the sound of voices in harmony. I touched upon such deep longings of my soul and for this life experience.
This exercise took time. It took commitment; it took persistence. And it was all worth it for what I found out about myself. If that is where it ended, it would have been worth the time and effort; however, I took it a step further. Fast forward five years. Now I have a life partner who is also an active “list writer”.
In January of every year, he and I engage in a ritual. Part of it is reviewing what happened in the previous 12 months. It is always enlightening and reassuring that it is not my imagination – we have been up to lots! Then we, without a lot of thought, take time and throw the net wide on some things we might be looking at doing in the year to come. But the best part is making our list of 50 Things, and sharing them with each other. We journal the results of this ritual each year and over time we can see how our desires and needs have shifted and evolved. But what jolted us awake was to see that, in the early years, the things we wanted to do in the coming year were not connected in any way to our heart’s desires. If I really wanted to live in India, why wasn’t some part of our planning in the coming year working towards that? We had to reflect deeply. Were the things on this List old dreams that we could cast off without regret? Or were they really embedded in us and an essential part of our soul’s journey?
That self-enquiry led to much self-discovery. It also led to dropping some things from the list that, under closer inspection, were no longer valid. That was a relief! And we began to align our thoughts and actions with our inner most desires.
Since then we have lived in India twice, my grown children and I camped in the same campground I enjoyed for all my childhood years and we walked around my old neighbourhood. My partner and I are teaching ourselves recorder and researching sources of Elizabethan music and I am knitting my famous (at least to my friends and family) socks. Take time – now – to dive deep and bring these dreams up into the light and into your life.
Vicki Vanderhorst is a grateful being finding more things to be grateful for every day. She enjoys life in Courtenay and is the Spiritual Mentor of North Island Unity.