Climb your own mountain to contentment

The deaths of 11 climbers and the human traffic jams on Mount Everest have been attributed to a limited window of time to ascend the mountain and the issuing of an excessive number of climbing permits by the government of Nepal. Another factor has been an increase in less experienced climbers who, wanting to ascend Everest as part of a bucket list of goals, are less prepared for the risks and dangers of the climb.

I think everyone should have a bucket list, and if climbing Everest is on yours, good for you. However, I wonder if our focus on the “wow factor/social media post worthy” experiences have made our respective bucket lists a little less joyful and true to ourselves. Shouldn’t we all have an alternative “real world,” bucket list? While it may certainly seem more mundane than say, bodysurfing in Belize or running with the reindeer in Lapland, a real world bucket list can prove to be mighty challenging. May I suggest the following for our real life bucket lists?

1) Forgive yourself: If you are thinking of a bucket list that usually means you have blown out enough birthday candles to realize, the cake will only hold so many and our time here on earth is limited. The words “woulda/coulda/shoulda” appear more frequently in our self-talk and we do wonder how things would have turned out differently if but for “x.” Sometimes we spend too much time looking in the rear view mirror that we miss the road ahead. Maybe we didn’t become the next greatest singer/actor/athlete/entrepreneur, but I guarantee you that we have all had moments of amazing achievement: an educational accomplishment or degree, a loving relationship, mentoring a co-worker or neighbor. Our past disappointments are familiar friends. They set a script for us that we often seem more than willing to read and relive. Our seemingly less than dramatic accomplishments are really quite remarkable, if we can only take a moment to see them as that and marvel at the wonders of everyday life.

2) Forgive someone else (Gee, climbing 29,029 feet up a mountain in Nepal really might be easier)

People have had to endure horrible and unimaginable tragedies through no fault of their own. I’m not talking about that kind of forgiveness, but more of the daily hurts, and accumulated wrongs that can make us bitter and less than what we could be: The friend who may have hijacked a potential relationship; The spouse who could be more appreciative of an effort made; The team mate who just wouldn’t share the ball. All of these can be the drip, drip of acid on the soul. Letting go of a hurt makes room for other things, better things.

3) Never miss an opportunity to do the right thing: Of all the things I remember my father saying, along with “Change the oil every 3,000 miles,” it was this. Life is filled with lots of gray. When you are presented with a clear moment to do the right thing, do it. Point someone in the right direction; Tell the father with the fussy toddler that he’s doing a great job; Give an encouraging comment to a young person; Offer to take the cart back for the elderly shopper. Every one of us can remember a small act of kindness that moved us and encouraged us. We have a chance to do this every day.

4) Climb a little bit of your mountain every day: Mount Everest is the world’s tallest mountain, but it is a big mountain made of lots of little rocks. Climb some of those small rocks every day: Read something you normally don’t read; Listen to an opinion you don’t agree with; Vow to see someone in a new perspective; Eat ice cream for breakfast (It is in the dairy group after all) We get so absorbed in accomplishing the “Instagram worthy,” goals we lose sight of the bite-sized goals and accomplishments that can have lasting power and influence in our lives.

Whether you want to run with bulls in Pamplona, swim with the dolphins, or finally get the attic cleaned out, our bucket lists are as different and varied as we are. Let’s not forget the amazing opportunities to have bucket list worthy moments every day we are alive.

Naomi Tsujimura, RN, lives in Raleigh and is a medical care analyst with Curi Insurance.