Bucket Lists, Medicare, and Transitions—oh my!!

September 19, 2012 at 4:29 pm

We’ve all heard the term “bucket lists.” The idea of creating a wish list of activities or experiences we’d like to accomplish in our life is often raised, both in the cinema, as well as in daily conversations. I must admit that while I’ve considered this, I’ve been far too focused on my work, and maximizing the impact which I might have in creating a desirable change. Starting with my undergraduate days, and progressing through medical school, residency, and practice, there was always an excuse—too busy, no time, there’s always later, someday when the time is right…. It was a never-ending list of rationalizations, and made sense to one who felt that time would always be there later to relax.

But within the last several months, I’ve had an “opportunity” to reassess, and reconsider this long- standing approach. First, while it may seem trivial, I had a birthday in June. OK, I know that’s an annual event, but this was a special birthday. For while I was attempting to ignore the reality of time, I had to contact CMS earlier this summer and become enrolled in Part A of Medicare. Ouch, that hurt. It raised in a very real way that I’m closer to the December of my career and life, than the summer of my expectations. I suspect it will be hard for many to understand, but for me it was an awakening of a realization that I had already been given a fair share of time on this earth, and there are no guarantees I’ll be given an infinite amount of time to accomplish all those things I’ve put on hold.

Secondly, after 26+ years in clinical practice, and an incredible 10 ½ years at the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement, I’m transitioning to a “part time” status in my unique role as Chief Knowledge Officer. There are many reasons for doing this—wanting more time to spend with family, playing more golf, freeing my time up for other “opportunities” which might arise, feeling a bit like I’ve lost some of the influence and involvement in my tasks. But starting in a few weeks, I’ll have anywhere from 8-10 more days a month to fill with whatever it is I’d like. For someone who’s never worked less than 50 hours a week for over 47 years, it would seem that would be a desirable goal, but it is with a bit of trepidation I move into a role which seems less impactful, less intense, less intriguing.

But then, there’s the bucket list discussion. As an avid golfer (OK, avid doesn’t equate with “good” but more accurately describes my enthusiasm) for decades, I’ve watched hundreds of golf tournaments on television. For over 40 years, I’ve fantasized what it would be like to play Pebble Beach on the Monterrey peninsula in California. I’m quite certain that the golfers reading this will totally understand and commiserate with that “bucket list” item. And it’s happened!! Over Labor Day weekend, three other similar bucket list devotees and myself took the pilgrimage to Monterrey and had the opportunity to play Pebble Beach.

While expecting to have my sense of anticipation exceed my actual experience, I can now say that the experience was almost religious, and was exhilarating in a way I cannot describe. As I walked in the shadow of all the greats who’ve played the game, enjoying the sun, the breeze, the view, I was struck by the intensity of the emotion in the moment. I was also struck by the need to relook at my bucket list, and my Medicare status, and my transition, and reboot my life.

This may seem maudlin, it may be self-evident, I may be overdramatizing. So be it, but while I move toward the next phase of my life with some anxiety, and some sense of trepidation, I choose to look at it as another door opening, and opportunities and experiences which I’ve only thought about before becoming reality. In fact, I’ve been a Green Bay Packer fan for over 5 decades, yet for many reasons (listed above) I’d never been to Lambeau field. In the spirit of my new status, I made another pilgrimage, traveling to Green Bay to watch a classic match between the Packers and the Chicago Bears. Imagine, after decades of “wait” I’ve accomplished two bucket list items in two weeks. It can’t get any better than this….or can it?

It’s almost here, I’m going through all those transitions feelings I’ve told others to expect, the grieving of the loss, the feeling of being disconnected, the excitement and accompanying apprehension about change…..Hey’ I’m not retiring, it’s just a chance to reexamine life, relationships, opportunities, and exploration. About that book I should write, or that skydiving challenge…just saying.

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