Recently being filmed for a BBC documentary about ‘Bucket Lists’ got me thinking how my life-limiting cystic fibrosis (CF)* motivates me to live every day like it’s my last day on earth…
‘Bucket Lists’ (what some people choose to do if they have a reduced or terminal health prognosis, before they “kick the bucket”) tend to be outlandish and quite expensive ideas, such as holidays of a lifetime, seeing wonders of the world or enjoy life events in exotic locations.
The BBC liked my variation of a Bucket List and wanted to give the programme some balanced opinions. My ‘list’, though never formally written down, is one that anyone can choose to follow, often costs nothing and can be achieved every day.
Man in the moment
As a direct result of having been told I wouldn’t live past 17 because of my chronic CF, now at 43, I feel empowered to live every day like it could be my last.
Every hour of every day is important for me as I never know when I will run out of time. Having CF and type 1 diabetes drives my thirst for life. The way I see it, each day surviving my conditions is physically and mentally debilitating; but at the same time, every day is poignant and needs to feel special to counteract the harshness. Thus it has to be punctuated by magic moments which must be savoured to the maximum. These moments form my unofficial bucket list.
My wife, Katie, and seven-year-old son, Felix, provide the necessary motivation to keep on top of my survival battle and offer me a ready supply of life-affirming memories.
I’m around for them as much as possible, and give Felix quality time, coaching him to play hockey, taking my turn to get up early with him at the weekend, going on family days out and taking Katie out for dinner.
I dress each day like it’s my last day on Earth, and never leave my favourite clothes in the wardrobe waiting for that special moment. I don’t see the need to gripe about the small things I hear around the office, instead I take time each day to appreciate something natural like a sunset or landscape.
I also take full advantage of the windows in each day to fit in socialising, my business consultant job, and not forgetting my vital exercise in the form of hockey on some Saturdays and evening gym sessions.
But it’s more than this. Put yourself in my shoes to really understand my plight.
If tomorrow wasn’t a given, what would you do differently today? What would you spend time thinking about? How would you live and leave your lasting legacy?
Living and leaving my legacy
I passionately feel that it’s crucial to cherish the life you have right now, not the life you hope to have in 10 years-time. Every extra day that I can wrench from my conditions gives me more time to create my lasting memory as well as leave a positive trace with people I know or meet.
Think of my scenario as a form of Groundhog Day, where I wake each morning to the wide-range of opportunities and moments available to secure my own legacy. The trick is to have your eyes and mind open and be ready to seize and appreciate them. As a sample, during the course of most days, I do the following:
Wear those meaningful items of clothing
Say something kind to a loved one
Do that thoughtful act for a friend in need
Make a stranger feel happy and special
Message someone I’ve not been in contact with for a while
Smile at someone who never usually smiles
Give my son an extra-long hug
Make my wife laugh
Stop still in awe to witness a beautiful landscape, sunset, cloud formation or the wonders of nature
Close my eyes and feel content about an aspect of my life
… as tomorrow may never come and I would have missed the chance!
As much as I despise my daily health battle (consisting of 2-3 hours of meds), it has given me a perspective on life that many people may never attain or will only encounter later in life. People with a life-threatening condition have a pronounced ability to not only identify, but fully appreciate magic moments, as they contrast so strikingly with the usual daily hardship. As I said, I find it liberating to look at each day as potentially my last day on Earth.
Why don’t you give it a try? Start your unwritten bucket list and see how it makes you feel?
Elton John: “I guess that’s why they call it the blues”
Don’t wish it away
Don’t look at it like its forever
I will keep you posted on my life-affirming moments, trials and tribulations as and when they happen. Please keep reading and sharing my blog and sign-up (on the right hand side tab) if you have not already done so.
Yours cup half full.
Tim Wotton (CF author)
In other news
My CF memoir is a finalist for the UK People’s Book Prize! Please help me to win by adding a comment via this link. I find out if I’m the eventual winner early in 2015!
My lovely CF friend, Lucy Watson, shares helpful eating tips via her CF and Healthy blog. This post is about the benefits of Turmeric. It’s a must read…
* Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life threatening inherited diseases, affecting over 10,000 people. The condition affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and digest food. Each week, five babies are born with the condition, however, each week, three young lives are also lost to it. There is currently no cure for CF. However, existing gene therapy trials in the UK are bringing people with the illness closer to a form of cure but CF is not that well known and would benefit from more public donations. For more information and to find out more view the CF Trust Website.