One of my favorite classic movies is the 1958 comedy, “Auntie Mame,” with Rosalind Russell. Her character’s mantra throughout the movie is one I have tried to live by over the years myself, with varying degrees of success.
Mame believes that “life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.” She spends most of her time encouraging everyone around her to “live, live, live!”
I gotta say… up until this past year and a half, I had spent a good chunk of my life simply surviving and not really living. My focus was always on taking care of other people, making sure bills were paid and waiting for the next shoe to drop … and I fully expected said shoe to fall on my head.
That was an exhausting way to exist, and as a result, I realize now that I didn’t allow myself to properly acknowledge or celebrate so many moments of joy. I missed out on a lot of really good stuff because I was too busy dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
A family crisis last April -- and celebrating my milestone 40th birthday last July -- woke me up to the idea that survival is not good enough for me anymore. I decided that I want to be the best possible version of myself, and that I want to live life to the fullest every single day. So I set about to make some changes, which led to a full-on reinvention. You can read about some of that process here and here.
Because I was starting from ground zero, the first order of business was literally to get my shit together. My physical and mental health was in such tatters that I had to start with baby steps.
Quitting smoking and exercising became some of the basic building blocks I used to set me on the right track. And then I re-evaluated my career, and started taking action that would finally, at long last, point me in the direction of entrepreneurial bliss. (More on my first successful year in an upcoming post.)
Eighteen months later (ish), I’m proud to say that I’ve got my health and work life well in hand. So now it’s time for Phase 2.
For this phase of my reinvention, I’ve decided to allow myself to dream. Turns out you don’t really do that when you exist only in survival mode. Any dreams I harbored in the past were borne out of desperation, i.e., who will come rescue me from this pit of despair I call my life??
No, the kinds of dreams I have now are motivated by pure pleasure. It’s pretty frickin’ cool, actually. After two decades of taking care of other people, I am finally able to give myself permission to be selfish (in a healthy way) and do things just for myself.
As a quintessential list maker, I have started a bucket list of sorts… things I’d really like to do someday, and whatnot. I don’t care about climbing the Matterhorn, jumping out of an airplane, or trying a new exotic food every day for a year. No, my tastes are much simpler (and safer) that that. A daredevil I am not.
Here’s a sample of items on my list.
Travel is a big one. My family didn’t take vacations when I was growing up, so my globetrotting was limited to school trips and visiting friends during college. By the time I was 21, I had been to a total of five states, and my only jaunt out of the country was to Toronto, Canada. I expanded my travel portfolio when my son was younger, taking him to Disneyworld and to visit family and friends in the Midwest and on the West Coast.
That being the case, you can see that I’ve still go a lot of ground to cover. My top priorities in the United States are: New York City (I’ve been to Chicago and L.A., but not the Big Apple), Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Sedona, Arizona. There are tons of other domestic places I would love to visit for the first time, and still others worth a return trip (Hawaii is No. 1). But those three are the priorities for now.
Outside of the good ol’ U.S. of A., the first place I want to visit is Tuscany, Italy. The 2003 Diane Lane movie about that region produced an obsession in me that I have yet to shake. So when I finally get my passport, that’s my first stop. Next, I would love to visit Greece – pretty much all of it. I studied Greek mythology in college, so I have always been fascinated with that area of the world. Some day I would love to see the rest of Europe and Africa, and I recently developed an interest in South America, but the two locales above are the first on my list.
Other, more practical items on my bucket list include a full kitchen expansion and remodel at my Highlands home, and a new, ornate, iron fence and landscaping that would turn my yard into a tropics-inspired oasis.
I also have a dream car on my list: a red, convertible Audi A4.
An accomplishment I would like to check off before I die is dancing, but not just shaking my rump in a club. No, I want to take ballroom dance lessons again (I had a brief foray into swing and salsa as a hobby 10 years or so ago). This time, I want to get good enough to compete in amateur competitions. A dream come true would be to dance the Argentine Tango with DWTS pro Derek Hough. That last part’s a little out there, I know, but what the hell.
Another fleeting entry that hops on and off my list like a flea on an old hound dog is a certain cosmetic, ahem, enhancement. I have been giving the topic some thought lately because I’m writing for a plastic surgery practice here in town.
For the most part, I’m pretty happy with the way staying active is helping me to look these days, considering I am 41 years old and have never been particularly athletic up to now. Put me next to a 21 year old, I’m not all that impressive. But in my age group, I’m ah-iight, as my teenage son might say.
Still, there is one part of me that no amount of exercise will ever change, er, enlarge – my chest area. Boobs… I ain’t got ’em.
Off and on over the years, I have daydreamed about undergoing a breast augmentation procedure. Now, I don’t want to go from zero to Chesty McGee in one afternoon, but I’d love to gain enough *kapow* to hold up a tube top without underwire, and without hiking it up every 30 seconds.
The grass is always greener, yada, yada … I know. My girlfriends who are well-endowed are always telling me that they wish they had less voluptuousness to contend with, but I can’t help but be jealous of their assets from time to time.
I’m probably too chicken to ever go through with it, and God knows I am too frugal to throw down 10-plus grand on anything that has no practical value. Today, it’s a nonissue because I don’t have that kind of money lying around. And I also know that the burning desire I have right this minute is fleeting. It'll pass. And honestly, I’m probably getting too old to even consider it. (Ladies, we all know there is nothing worse that a perky party up top and a saggy mess on the bottom.)
Boobs aside, my little venture in bucket listmaking has been so much fun. It’s very liberating not to limit myself anymore. And most of my dreamy to-do items are actually achievable in a relatively short time frame, which just thrills me to my gills.
So now that my list is made, it’s time to start checking things off of it. I think I’m going to start planning my first trip for this spring.
So, who wants to go with me to New York?
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.