My happy bucket list

“How long have you got?” asks Sue, with an affectionate twinkle in her eye.

My friend looks back at her with wide eyes and a confused expression. She has willingly agreed to take part in a demonstration of a coaching technique after she brought up a current challenge in her life which is relevant to the learning of the group.

A provocative question* offered with love and good humour, powerfully resonant….and it seems to stun the group of delegates. You could hear a pin drop.

It certainly has stunned me, and something is happening inside, at a deep level of consciousness.

“Well, how many good years do you think you have left?” Another smile and a twinkle.


No one breathes for a split second. Then bursts of laughter bring a release of energy and then silence again, contemplating the question. I feel a heavy surge in my chest and become acutely aware that every year might be my last ‘good year’ with Alan, as his MS has become very debilitating.

My heart is pounding…I feel the wisdom from all around and from within me, grounding me and filling me up with hope and gratitude …and with it a warm feeling and an uplifting energy.

When I started the programme my reflection was that life can be great even when there are significant challenges. The two can exist alongside each other, in harmony somehow. Being here and continuing to learn about NLP - and about myself and others - has helped me to integrate it as a firm belief and as a way of being. Paying attention to the things we can do something about, focusing on gratitude and meaningful work, friendships, and making memories instead of getting caught up in daily drama and triviality.

I enjoy opportunities for adventure, fun, and freedom. Making a difference every day through my work, and deep connections with my family and friends.

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

My curiosity is piqued, and I'm reminded of the concept of a 'bucket list'. An online search brought back the the answer: “a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime”

I would add to that: “…while they have a choice to do so”. If you know you will have challenges or limitations in future, it doesn’t half focus your mind on making the most of the present! The movie ‘The Bucket List’ is about two dying men played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, unexpectedly brought together as hospital room-mates. Two men from very different backgrounds, and with vastly different means to support themselves and their healthcare. It had a profound effect on me and my husband as we watched it, and we have watched it again since.

And why include the word ‘happy’ in the title of this post? If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that the two men have huge grins on their faces, laughter, even crying out with joy at times. All the while knowing that they are dying. I am fortunate and grateful to be healthy and happy, with a roof over my head, love in my heart, and I'm gracious about being able to live life to the full, even though there are some constraints already. I truly believe that challenges can become opportunities when we work out and commit to what we want to have happen and align thoughts, decisions, and actions with that.

I don’t have a ‘list’ as such yet: in fact there may not be, because it feels more like a way of being, an attitude of lightness, fun, and adventure. As I’m writing this, I realise I already have it, but it feels stronger when I commit it to words and put them ‘out there’.

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” ~ Gerard Way

Even when circumstances are sad and upsetting and out of my control at times - often, actually - I look at life from a bigger perspective and it’s bloody fantastic. I am loved in abundance, and I offer love the same way. Friendships and family relationships have flourished. Music, nature, and beautiful creativity flow throughout my days, and I have the time, space, and mindful presence to notice it and appreciate it.

And although I’ve said ‘MY happy bucket list’, it’s not about me. It’s an invitation to everyone….and to you. I have been encouraging my husband Alan to think about what he’d like to do, as his health and mobility are becoming worse as each year passes. He is a very gracious person who doesn’t ask for much for himself, which I admire and respect.

And my goodness, we make the most of life. This year we are going on a trip of a lifetime to Canada, crossing the Rocky Mountains by train, finishing up at Vancouver Island where there are 9,000-year-old trees (yes, tree-hugging is on the cards!), and beautiful sunsets over an endless ocean, visible from our living room. We’re also going to Northumberland, Skye (one of our favourite places in the world, pictured above), the Netherlands, Aviemore, and probably other places too, as the year unfolds.

We are very fortunate to have friends and family who support us in every way imaginable to make it possible…from wheelchair-pushing to babysitting to encouragement to just go for it and do the things we want to do.

Travel is a strong theme, as is being in nature, good food and lovely restaurants. I am much more inspired to connect with experiences and make memories than buy ‘stuff’.

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour but THIS hour.” ~ Walt Whitman.

It’s hard to explain what it’s like to have lived over two decades knowing that life would be uncertain…well, certain in the sense that Alan will deteriorate over time and one day …well,you know the rest. Many people have to face terrible tragedy and have no time to take it in or enjoy life in the meantime. I find great comfort in sharing stories and I love how it encourages other people to share theirs. It’s very rare to find someone who has sailed through life unscathed.

And from that we find a connection to our humanity, compassion, and living life to the full…. and appreciating that it’s really all about something much greater than ourselves.

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” ~ Alice Walker

* - Provocative humour and provocative therapy came from Frank Farrelly’s work with psychiatric patients whom no other therapist seemed to be able to help. It’s a very distinctive style and, when delivered with such skill as I experienced here with Sue, is remarkable in shifting perspectives and removing barriers.

This was part of a training programme with Sue Knight, hosted by Lesley McDonald and Vicky Gumley, an NLP Intensive where we came together for six days to learn and practise modelling and training techniques, and much more! Sue runs regular programmes on NLP and Coaching with humour, currently online - you can find up to date details on her website.

And if you'd like to learn at Practitioner level, contact me about a programme I'll be running again next Spring.

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