PAT NEAL: The Bucket List

Don’t wait until the end

BUCKET LIST — IT’S hard to think of a more frightening concept for our senior citizens. The phrase comes from a 2007 movie where the rich Jack Nicholson and the economically-challenged Morgan Freeman meet each other in a hospital where they are both being treated for terminal cancer.

The movie soon deteriorates into an ego-fueled fantasy where the two decide to embark on a whirlwind around-the-world journey to do everything they ever wanted to do, before they “kick the bucket.”

This was a very popular movie. The bucket list is a concept that fostered the idea that people can live their entire lives putting off the things they want to do then make up for it all later if they have the money and the time.

Sadly, people with money seldom have time.

Conversely, people with time seldom have money.

People with no time or money, a group which most of us fall into, have little chance of gratifying whatever illusory whims we think will make our life worthwhile in the end.

More often than not, this is simply not possible.

For example, I used to enjoy backpacking into the Olympic Mountains. Backpacking could be considered a form of torture outlawed by the Geneva Convention if not for the fact that it is self-inflicted. We enjoyed this outdoor activity anyway.

Lately, however, we’ve noticed that, with the effects of plate tectonics and continental drift, these mountains have been rising higher.

In fact, the Olympics are much higher and steeper than when we used to climb them as kids.

Even the flat spots seem to have gotten farther apart for some reason.

So, I don’t go backpacking anymore.

Instead I help others fulfill their life goals with an empathetic sensibility to their physical limitations. If you can fake that, you may have a future in the tourist industry.

As a fishing and rafting guide, I have taken many people fishing and rafting that have no business getting into a fishing boat or a raft, with sometimes disastrous results.

There was the guy who burst his colostomy bag on a fishing trip on a hot summer day. That was an epic day on the water.

Then there was the lady who had a broken arm in a cast. She wanted to paddle a raft down the river.

And you know what? She did.

It’s called dealing with the public. If guides only took people who were physically and mentally fit, who had a good attitude and an appreciation of the effort it takes to provide recreational activities, we would seldom be employed.

Then there was the lady who was recovering from back surgery who wanted to go white water rafting. I congratulated the lady for her successful operation and observed that she must have endured intense suffering for years.

She said yes, that the pain was unimaginable but, I know back pain and what it’s like to lay on the floor for three days unable to get up and we agreed.

I said the operation must have been very expensive and she said yes it was over $100,000 and her insurance wouldn’t pay for all of it.

I wondered why, after enduring all of the physical and financial pain and suffering, she would risk it all to go rafting.

It was the bucket list thing, an unrealistic expectation.

When it comes to bucket lists, the sooner you realize your expectations are unrealistic, the better.

Don’t wait till the end to do what you want.

Make your life your bucket list.

I talked her out of rafting.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via [email protected].

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