Sunday, February 20, 2011

Question of the Day with Michael Phillips

Angel Harp: A Novel
Question 21 of 25
Name three things on your bucket list?

Wow, another really good question! And very thought-provoking.

I used to maintain a list of questions I asked myself about every potential writing project. I was so full of ideas that I had to find some way to screen them to make sure I focused on the truly important ones. One of the questions I asked myself about potential projects concerned its “deathbed significance.” Would such-and-such a project or book be one I wish I hadn’t devoted so much time to…or would it be one I would be disappointed not to have done. Those kinds of questions really keep you focused on what is eternally important.

So I’ve been thinking about these kinds of things for a long time. In a sense, I’ve been preparing for death for years precisely because I don’t want to have regrets.

Part of this may have stemmed from the fact that my father was not particularly healthy. By the time I reached adulthood, I was aware that he might not live a long life. So I mentally prepared for his passing very early. I made sure there was no unfinished business with him. I tried to enjoy his being alive. And mostly I tried to prepare myself for the inevitable time that he would no longer be there. Those years of preparation, I think, helped give me a don’t-wait-until-it-is-too-late perspective about many things. I’ve tried to take care of things so that I don’t even need a bucket list when I am too old to do anything about it.

As it turned out, my dad lived much longer than I expected. He died at 79, and I consider those “extra” years a great blessing. Yet being prepared for it sooner was good for me and gave me a perspective that I think is healthy.

All this is really a prologue to my answer to your question: I don’t really have a bucket list.

I am at peace with life. If I were to find out that I would die tomorrow, I wouldn’t have a long list of regrets. There are no places I’m eager to travel to, no adventures I dream of, no worlds to conquer. Sure, there are dozens of books I still want to write. There are relationships that I hope the years will improve. I want to ride that century! But most of the things that I would like to see happen in my life are out of my control.

When I think of the future, what I want more than anything (besides the spiritual clich├ęs) is to spend every minute possible with my wife and best friend. You’d think that after 40 years together we’d be tired of each other! But even if we both live to be 100, it won’t have been long enough.

This was a very good question. Honestly, I’m a little surprised by my answer. But after careful thought, I realize that I don’t have a bucket list.

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