THE RELATIONSHIP BUCKET LIST
There’s a booming genre in wee books of things to see or do “before you die.” I don’t read these books, but Australian hospice nurse Bronnie Ware’s recently-published book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, did catch my attention.
Ware found that her patients’ regrets weren’t about things done imperfectly. We forgive the imperfections of our actions—and we regret our inactions. The inept parent, for example, can forgive himself at the end. At least he tried. But the one who never attempted it might feel the sting of regret.
I was most intrigued to hear Ware describe the number one regret as a failure of courage. Her patients wished that they had had the courage to live the life that they wanted to have, whatever it was, and not the one that others had prescribed for them.
I believe that wisdom applies to marriage and relationships. There are couples who are content with the marriage and family life status quo, certainly, but there are others, well-intentioned and married to decent people, who struggle with that status quo and would like to create a different life, if only they could muster the courage to try, to ask a tough question, to make a change, to speak honestly, or to color outside of the lines.
Whatever the case, it occurred to me after listening to Ware that the bucket list that really seems to matter is about relationships more than activities, experiences, things, or travel.
So here’s my list of some human encounters that we should try to have before we die. I bet that any of these relationship experiences would be as sweetly-recalled at life’s end as having seen the pyramids, or that time you tried bungee-jumping in a parking lot.
FIND THE “I’D LOVE TO GO TO THE GARBAGE DUMP WITH YOU” BEST FRIEND. This friendship is so effortless and rejuvenating that you’d rather be in the company of that person, even doing the dreariest chore, than almost anywhere else. The wonderful Anne Lamott writes it best:"When you have a friend like this, she can say, 'Hey, I've got to drive up to the dump in Petaluma--wanna come along?' and you honestly can't think of anything in the world you'd rather do."
BE A TORCH CARRIER (BUT NOT A STALKER). It’s good to experience both being the lover and the beloved at some point in life, both Dante and Beatrice. Often in romantic relationships, the roles are asymmetrical in this way, although we don’t like to admit it. Unequal love in romantic relationships is as much an unseemly, unspoken truth as parental favoritism. But there’s a bittersweet pleasure to clutching an abiding, unrequited passion in your memory. The object of desire remains an ideal, untainted by actual consummation. And there’s a courage, too, although best appreciated retrospectively, in having made an ass out of yourself for love—so long as you can take no for an answer, and quit. I’ve not been a stranger to my own “make an ass” out of yourself advice, but it’s a small, unavoidable price to pay for agency and self-determination.
AT LEAST ONCE IN YOUR LIFE, HAVE A LOVE AFFAIR WITH YOUR WORK. Lord knows few of us think of our work as a relationship, to say nothing of a love story, but it can be. It can elicit powerful emotions and profound devotion and joy. In other words, it can be a love affair. I love my work. I love the process of it. I love it even when I fail at it. The work itself satisfies, on its own terms and not instrumentally for any secondary praise, glory or wealth (hah!) that it might bring. It’s such a gift to wake up in the morning and have a big old crush on your job, or your new project.
BE A DEFENDER OF THE WEAK. At least once, and hopefully habitually, be the one who stands up for someone weaker in a social group. Don’t be the lemming. In middle school, I was the beneficiary of a more popular, prettier girl who stood up for me, the social weakling. When I had a chance to do the same for her, however, in a different time and place, I didn’t. I was a lemming instead. And 32 years later, I can still feel keenly the shame of having gone along when I should have stood up. I only vaguely remember being the occasional bully victim—but I do remember, and rue, having enabled a bully. That shame sticks.
BE THE “COOL GROWN-UP” that someone else’s child remembers, years, later, as a hazy blur of panache and style. I always wanted to be this, but haven’t been.
HAVE THE PLEASURE OF STAYING UP ALL NIGHT TALKING (TO OTHER PEOPLE, THAT IS). These evenings are some of my favorites. My husband and I were very close to one couple some time ago. Our evenings with them would start with dinner and wine, and end when the sun was coming up over Baltimore’s downtown. We’d talked and laughed so much that my sides hurt, and my voice was scratchy that whole next day.
HAVE A CRAZY-MAD LUST-LOVE RELATIONSHIP that involves, say, spending days entirely in a hotel bed and never tiring of each other’s carnality. Keep the blinds down, and drink good wine while you do this, and don’t forget that everyone would be insanely jealous if they knew, so you should keep it to yourself.
BE SOMEONE’S “REALITY-BASED” FRIEND. You courageously get to say, and do say, all of the unpleasant truths and hard advice. The friend hearing it might loathe you for having said so at first and then, years later, thank you for your candor, which they come to see as a gesture of caring.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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