It’s Time to Reverse the Bucket List


I’ve done the printables – the bucket lists in a kaleidoscope of colors for every season of the year. I’ve used all the ink in my printer on reminders to carve a pumpkin and make spiced cider and go see Christmas lights and make homemade popsicles and wish on a dandelion.

Now I’m done.

Mainly because one of two things always happens: Either the list goes on the fridge and waves in the breeze of my indifference as I pass on by to watch Netflix. Or I do the thing it tells me to do in order to cross it off the list, which turns the cookie making/finger painting/leaf collecting into a chore. Either way, it sucks the life out of me.

So I’m starting a new tradition this year come January 1.

I’m reversing the bucket list. I am dumping out all the contents of the previous year into one long pat-me-on-the-back list to appreciate, like a receipt with your savings circled at the bottom. It will be filled with all the things I’ve survived, things I’ve accomplished, and things that took me completely unawares in the last 365 days. It will be a looking-back rather than a looking-forward, which takes the pressure off. There is no impetus, only relief. If we carved a pumpkin, yippee. If not, well, there’s always next year. And it still serves my deep, perhaps dark, desire to cross things off a list.

I’m splitting it up by month. 12 big wide open spaces to fill with whatever I want to remember. Like last January when we got snowed in for six days and nobody killed each other. Or last July at the Independence Day parade when all three kids smiled and looked at the camera. And last August when I kept nail polish on for a solid two weeks – my current record and proof that the kids are literally less hands-on than they used to be. The pumpkin fudge from September will go on there and the meeting of the insurance deductible. I want all my past wins on there so I don’t forget.

The beauty of the reverse bucket list is its gentleness. It lets you zoom in on what you want to see and lets the rest blur at the edges. I will not write down the Urgent Care visit for my three-year-old who tripped while looking at Christmas lights and almost concussed himself. Or maybe I will. They glued his gashes back together and we were in and out in less than an hour. That’s an ER miracle. It’s also what made us meet our deductible.

No, I have yet to make that organic yogurt in the Instant Pot because it scares me and looks like the trap they use to catch Slimer in Ghostbusters. No, I didn’t make the kids’ teachers homemade gingerbread biscotti to go along with their holiday gifts. I like to think they preferred the Target gift card. No, I didn’t make a capsule wardrobe and donate all the rest like I said I would. I just like the possibility of those boot-cut corduroys. Yes, our fence is currently held up by a set of lawn chairs and will probably collapse by the time I finish this sentence, but hey, at least we avoided the HOA for another year.

If bucket lists are all about seizing the day, the reverse bucket list is about seizing the yesterday. I refuse to let it pass me by without acknowledgment of how actually awesome I am for all I managed to get done in the last year of life. It’s the most satisfying list to make and it doesn’t leave me twitchy when I see it on the fridge.

*This article originally appeared on Parent.com

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