This week I realized (again—can you re-realize?) that I can see the Atlantic Ocean from my balcony. Sitting down, at that. No need to climb the railing and squint.
Most days, the sky and water match shades and the ocean just looks like a continuation of the sky—it all blends. But the other day, like today, the ocean was a much darker blue and it hit me that I have been looking at ocean all along—I just couldn’t distinguish it from the sky.
At times, life here is precarious. Some months are slim financially; others are an abundance. Navigating a country where you don’t speak the language is a challenge. Most days are okay. Some days you miss family and friends. Other days you laugh long and hard with new friends. There’s usually a balance.
But every so often, a moment breaks out of the balance curve and you feel as if you are actually touching perfection. You just have to recognize it.
Living the Bucket List
As I looked out the other day and realized I had a pretty nice view of the Atlantic, I recognized that I was living a goal that I had held for a long time. I have an apartment, on the water, overlooking the ocean. (Well, looking out to the ocean, a little more distant but perhaps better in this time of rising waters.)
It was an item that had been on my bucket list for decades. I went digging through my stack of file folders and sure enough, there was the file labeled “Bucket List.” It should be labeled “Bucket Lists” because there was a bit of a collection in there, written down over the years. As I looked at them, I realized that certain items on the list haven’t changed a lot over the years:
- Live by the ocean
- Live in Europe for at least a year
- Visit Italy and Greece
- Speak fluent Italian (That one is going to have to wait. Speaking fluent Portuguese has become a priority and it’s hard enough!)
- Write successful novels. (Well, I’ve written the novels. The successful part is much harder.)
- See a night launch at the Cape.
I’ve done most of those. There were and are more. Some were met which made room for new, different goals. Some have fallen by the wayside. I am very sure I no longer have aspirations to run a 10k. Or a 5k. Or run ten yards to catch a bus. I may have to change “Sail the Mediterranean” to “Cruise the Mediterranean.” Age is boxing me out of a few things. And that’s okay because so many of my “some day” bucket list items have become realities. I am extraordinarily fortunate.
It’s not about ticking off the boxes
I’ve been to Greece and Italy but I want to go back and explore more of those countries. While I wanted to see all 50 states (airports don’t count), I may never see the Dakotas. (43 out of 50 isn’t bad. And it’s entirely possible I have traveled through Nebraska and just can’t remember it.) My books may never be a commercial success.
But I did it. I put myself out there. I went after the things I wanted in this life, with a few exceptions. I have crashed and burned more times than I can count. And I’ve been lucky to have family and friends who have picked me back up and brushed me off.
Realizing the Moment
This past week’s full moon laid on another layer of enchantment. The moon’s reflection lit up the Tavira Channel in front of my apartment. I looked beyond Tavira Island to the Atlantic, and sure enough, I could see the moon reflected back, literally gold light bouncing off the ocean, dancing on the waves.
Did I get a picture? No. Past experience has taught me that the camera in my phone and my shaky hands are not going to begin to capture the magnificence of what was in front of my eyes. Instead, I let myself marvel at the sheer beauty of what was going on right outside my window. I chose to experience the moment and captured that picture in my mind.
Your bucket list may be more or less ambitious than mine. It doesn’t matter—it’s your list and your life. It’s what you want for yourself. You have to make your own moments. Then you have to realize when you are in a special moment. You don’t have to be in an exotic location or be madly in love. (Though you could be.) Sometimes you are living a piece of the life you once thought was a far-off goal—you have been slowly building towards it, perhaps subconsciously, all along. One day you look around and remember that this moment was something you thought you might never get. Yet here it is. Suddenly the moment is distinct and time stops.
Don’t reach for your camera. No need to Instagram it. Make yourself still and take in everything you can—the sounds, the sights, the smells, the air on your face. Imprint it in your brain. Life has very few perfect moments. Be open to recognizing and appreciating them. And know that you made them happen.