1,000 Places to See Before You Die. That's the title of a book sitting on my shelf. Now, I got that before I got sick, but obviously it became a little more meaningful after my diagnosis. There's an ad campaign for a credit card too, listing 25 things you need to do before you die.
Climbing Mt. Everest seems to appear on these lists a lot. Well, I'm not doing that one. I'm not wild about heights. Or frostbite. I've seen a couple of really good documentaries on it, though. I'm hoping that counts. There are some great places in that book, and some fun things on the lists in the ads. But those lists always make me feel like I'm running out of time. That somewhere a big clock is ticking down, the way it did during college exams when you knew there was no way you were going to finish in time.
I don't think of life as a race. I don't think I'll finish higher if I can cross more things off the list than someone else. It's not like comparing times in a marathon. That's another thing I have no interest in, running a marathon. But I can blame that one on bad knees. That, and the fact that I hate running.
I count myself fortunate for having been able to travel much of the world. I've been to the source of the Nile. I've seen the Pyramids and the Great Wall and Red Square. But those aren't the milestones in my life. There are other things on my list. I remember a little boy in Rwanda, and trying to answer the question he asked with his eyes. Sharing a cup of hot chocolate with some of the best people I know on a frigid morning in the Iraqi desert.
Laughing at something that's really funny. Coming up with just the right line at just the right time. Shedding tears for the right reasons. Sending flowers for no reason at all. Giving someone the perfect present. Seeing the joy in someone else's eyes when they give you the perfect present. Sharing a special meal, savoring a good glass of wine. Letting the sound of waves take you away.
We all have our own lists. We judge our lives in our own ways, have our own definitions of success. There are still a lot of things I want to do before I die, but not very many of them are on those other lists.