Do You Need A Judgment Day Bucket List?

Saturday, May 21, 2011 was slated to be Judgment Day (aka the Rapture, End of Days, Apocalypse).

Since we’re all here, reading this blog and browsing the web, the world did NOT end.

Either May 21st was any old day or none of US were angelic enough to be called. I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Still, did you stop to think, “Am I prepared for ‘the call?’” A lot of people did.

I had friends who went to church on Saturday and prayed with all their might. Other  friends said “diet be damned!” and fired up the blender for “Rapturitas.” People react all kinds of ways when they believe the end is imminent.

For me it was a day of gardening, shopping and watching Baby Girl discover her nose. Seriously, just this weekend, the kid learned that she has a nose, eyes and mouth (and Mama and Dada do to). This is Earth-shattering stuff for a 12 month-old.

Sorry, I digress…to get back to the whole Judgment Day thing…

I actually had a near-death experience back in November of 2005, a rollercoaster ride that went something like this:

  • Tuesday evening my legs started hurting like I’d been to step class and needed to stretch.
  • By Friday it was a constant discomfort.
  • Saturday I slept all day, thinking I was just overtired.
  • Sunday morning, I informed my then-boyfriend, Steve, that we needed to eat breakfast “because they never feed you once you get to the hospital.” (And yes, knowing what I do now, I was a jackass for not running to the hospital on Wednesday for an ultrasound.)
  • At about noon on Sunday I was in the ER being told that I had bi-lateral DVT’s (that’s blood clots in both legs for the un-initiated). I was given compression stockings and orders to stay in bed for at least 6 weeks.
  • By Tuesday afternoon I was being admitted to the hospital for pulmonary embolisms (PEs are blood clots in the lungs).

For healthy-as-a horse me, this was a very startling turn of events. I was extremely cranky about it because I just didn’t have time for all this. (Sound familiar anyone?)

I’d never even met my primary care physician. I was literally never sick before all this (I always joke that I was “saving up.”) Not only did I get to meet the doc, he called me his “One Percenter” (referring to the lucky 1% of people who survive bilateral DVTs that end in PEs). He let me know I was damn lucky to be alive and hinted that I should stop whining about the inconvenience factor.

I wasn’t just learning a new set of very weird acronyms, I was having my own End of Days.

After my discharge from the hospital, the two things I wanted more than anything in the world were to finish my book and marry Steve. I vowed to do both if I survived the whole blood clot ordeal.

The awful truth is that everyone does not survive pulmonary embolisms. I spent many weeks going to bed wondering if I’d wake up, and trying really hard to be graceful about being deathly ill.

The top things I wanted to do (in no particular order):

  1. Finish the book of my heart
  2. Marry the love of my life (Steve, who’s now my husband)
  3. Drink all my best bottles of wine that I’d been saving for “special occasions”
  4. Get my financial affairs in order
  5. Make a will, or at least make my wishes known
  6. Find a church with a loving environment
  7. Tell all my loved ones how much they meant to me
  8. Not be a burden to these same loved ones

I was in bed for four months and had to take blood thinners for nine months, but obviously I survived the whole ordeal. I tested positive for a blood-clotting disorder and found out what sorts of things to change in my life to manage it.

  • I sit a lot less and put my feet up a lot more.
  • I take baby aspirin every day.
  • I drink a ton more fluids than I used to
  • I’m aware of foods that are high in Vitamin K (a vitamin that thickens your blood).
  • I know what thins the blood and which foods make your platelets more slippery
  • Flying SUCKS now because, rather than nap, I have to walk-walk-walk and drink 20 oz bottles of water before I get on the plane.

Though patience has never been my strong point, I’ve become more patient with my friends and family and less patient with bad behavior in general. I’ve worked hard to become less of a procrastinator.

For any of you that got twitchy over this Judgment Day business, and even for those of you who didn’t, I have one simple piece of advice:

DON’T WAIT.

  • Don’t wait until you have more time.
  • Don’t wait until you get the nerve.
  • Don’t wait to share your love.

Whatever “IT” is you’re waiting for, try to do it as soon as possible. We’re given two huge gifts in this life: the gift of love and the gift of time. Although love lasts forever, time slides by quickly and runs out when you least expect it to.

Bob Mayer tells his students to look closely at the things that make them angry or generate a strong emotional response…those are the things we’re most afraid of. Write the fears down, as many as you can, and see if they look as scary on the paper as they did in the dark closet of your soul. I’ll bet they don’t.

The ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife.

The first question was, “Did you bring joy?”
The second was, “Did you find joy?”

How would you answer these questions? What things would you do if you knew THE END was coming? Would you make a “Bucket List?” If you have one already, are you willing to share some of the most important items with the rest of us?

Happy Monday to all of you! The More Cowbell Mash-up combines with Techie Tuesday tomorrow for a fantastic list of links.

On the housekeeping front, I’ve only heard back from six of my webinar winners. Can the rest of you check your Junk Mail folder and email me back so we can get a date on the schedule? I’m so looking forward to our training session!

See you tomorrow…Jenny

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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32 Responses to Do You Need A Judgment Day Bucket List?

  1. amyshojai says:

    Awesome post. When I can see again (wiping eyes) gonna share this with as many people as I possibly can.

    Like

  2. Wow, Jen. I’m grateful that your spirit is so filled with light and love, and that you give yourself to others so generously. Telling us about your journey through that time might have saved a few lives; I can’t remember having heard your symptoms described, although warnings are given about the dangers of blood clots developing as a result of being stuck on an airplane for long periods of time. I began wearing those compression stockings “just in case” and made sure to get up and walk around fairly often. As a writer, I do stay seated at my computer for hours when I’m “in the zone.” Sitting at a computer is just as hard on our bodies as sitting in front of a television, (more scientific studies have shown). So as writers, we need to remind ourselves to take breaks, get up, walk around, even get a ten minute stretch workout into that break. THANKS and blessings to you, Steve and baby girl!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Marcia,

      Thanks for the comment! You should move around “just in case.” Writers and business travelers are at a higher risk. However, any medical supply store can sell you compression stockings – I wear the kind that go from the toes to the belly button whenever I drive or fly. Because I’ve had blood clots, it is agony if I don’t (feels like hot acid is pouring down my veins from the knee to the foot).

      I actually feel thankful to have gotten the blood clots and survived so I can beat the travel rules drum to others:

      – Try to sleep well the night before the flight – sleep affects circulation.
      – Drink an extra quart of water the day before the flight AND the day off if you can.
      – Drink 6-8 oz of water for every 30 minutes you are on the plane
      – Get up and walk the aisles at least every hour
      – Wear compression stockings when you fly

      They don’t call DVT the silent killer for nothing, many people don’t get the feet falling asleep, tight feeling in the legs that I had. Again, it was a blessing in disguise.

      Like

  3. Wow Jenny. Got me all teared up. Thanks for getting vulnerable and sharing this and letting me get vulnerable too. I heard Jami Curtis share that egyptian philosophy a couple years ago at the Women’s Conference – stopped me in my tracks then, and did again today.

    So glad you’re still here – and crossing things off your bucket list!!
    Jen

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Jen,

      I found that quote on the internet when I was preparing my mother-in-law’s eulogy. I was so touched by it…would have loved to hear that live. I’ll bet it electrified the crowd.

      Sorry to tear you up for your Monday morning, but I’m glad we’re all here, getting to hang out together. All this blog love is helping each of us down the writing path – at least it is for me.

      Thanks!

      Like

  4. Piper Bayard says:

    Great post, Jenny. I’ve lost two young friends to pulmonary embolisms. I love your story, and I’m so glad you survived.

    I actually don’t have a bucket list. I had cancer at 21. Since then, I can’t tolerate leaving important things unsaid or undone. It was a great blessing in my life.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Will share.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh, Piper…I’m so sorry to hear that. It never gets better, losing a dear friend, but it is almost offensive to lose one when they are young. My mom passed at sixty-five years old from complications of adult-onset asthma and I’ll always be mad about missing those extra 15-20 years.

      Cancer at 21?? I’m so glad YOU survived, and that explains why we are all so drawn to your spirit. You’ve got that thankful mojo going!🙂

      Like

  5. K.B. Owen says:

    So true, Jenny! You just don’t know what’s around the corner.

    These are goofy, I know, but I’ve recently become aware of two things I REALLY want to be able to do (beside publish my book, that is):

    1. discover a hummingbird nest (we have hummers but I’ve never found a nest)
    2. be part of a flash-mob performance

    Weird, huh?

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Kathy,

      What is a “flash-mob performance”…THAT sounds intriguing. And it is funny you should say that about a hummingbird nest! My boss has a telescope trained on the hummingbird family in her back yard every year. She watches throughout the Spring and is completely fascinated.

      I felt so bad for her this year because a bluejay came and ATE her baby hummingbird. She was upset for weeks because she really bonds with these birds. Everyone I know who watches them says the same thing, that it is very special to them.

      Thanks for sharing – I love your mind.🙂

      Like

  6. What a horrific experience! I’m terrified of blood clots…okay, I’m terrified of a lot of things. I am already scared enough of flying, but I literally dread blood clots every single time I board a plane? Why? I’ve never had them, but I saw a story on television (there you go, I couldn’t make it through one post without mentioning my love). I’d love to learn more about vitamin K rich foods so I can avoid them…

    My #1 item on my bucket list is to publish a book – and I’m working everyday towards that accomplishment. I don’t need a judgement day for this!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Tiffany,

      The four things that make you most likely to get a blood clot are cancer, obesity, a genetic disorder and a previous blood clot. Pregnancy is up there too since you gain four pounds of blood – this is why my pregnancy risk was off the charts.

      Your average everyday person is not just going to get a blood clot. That being said the following things are to be avoided:

      – smoking
      – becoming dehydrated
      – sitting for long periods of time without moving your legs

      Planes are a hotbed of blood clot risk but not so much if you do what I talk about in my comment to Marcia below.

      Everything green is high in Vitamin K, as is oatmeal and cheddar cheese. That doesn’t mean you avoid these things as a “normal” person. Just drink lots of water (or wine, which thins your blood :-)) and take a baby aspirin a day. Move around often. Try to watch your weight.

      I don’t think you have anything to worry about! But, if you are really worried, get a genetic screening. About 8% of Caucasians have Factor V Leiden, which is what I have. My high-risk OB told me it was 15% prevalent in Norwegians (hello?? Hansen…) and that’s where I fall. It was a blessing to know about it BEFORE I was pregnant so I could just take Lovenox shots and be safer.

      Like

  7. Glad the world didn’t end. 😉😉 Bucket list is a good idea. I was going to talk about death in my blog, too. Glad you’re still with us. Brushing with death gives a lot of people a wakeup call. So, how many things on your bucket list did you manage to do?

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Marilag,

      I’m gonna have to go check out your blog. Brushing with death does give new perspective (see Piper below). It really makes you grateful for every day.

      As far as my bucket list, it has really simplified (see my response above). It’s nice to see you over here, my #myWANA friend!

      Like

  8. catierhodes says:

    Amazing, scary story. Thank you for sharing something so personal.

    I’ve been near enough death to have to think it over. What disappointed me most was that I’d had potential, but I was too lazy and scared to try to make something of it. The one bucket list item I try to live on a day-to-day basis is to put my “all” into the things I want to accomplish. Never surrender; never retreat.

    My joking bucket list is:

    Come face to face with Ian Somerhalder so I can see if he really looks like *that*.
    Own a barbie pink 1969 GTO with black interior.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Catie,

      I think putting your “all” into everything is the very best thing you can do. I try to do that and be thankful every day. I got the husband and the baby I never expected. My writing is on the front burner of my life now and I’m getting better balance.

      I’m still working on the rest (getting to Ireland, finishing the high-risk pregnancy memoir, establish a freelance career). But hey, in the meantime, the baby is now aware that she has a nose and my garden is flourishing.

      I’ve got no complaints.🙂

      Like

  9. Pamela Mason says:

    Hi Jenny,
    I’m happy that this nonevent was so widely publicized, because it got many people thinking about ‘TheEnd of Time’. Not everyone has had the catastrophic illness you’ve had, so this may have gotten them thinking.
    I’d do the same as you did: make amends, leave my precious things directly in the hands of those who would appreciate them, and fulfill the fantasy stuff– tandem skydiving, hot air balloon ride(with wine), & scuba diving (not too deep). Maybe a lap or two on TopGear’s track in England, maybe not. I’d rather watch my husband do that while I have wine with Jeremy, James and Richard, and the Stig.
    I’ll leave my appointed time up to Him. But I was more concerned about those people who followed this man’s ‘cult’ and gave up their savings and pensions in the process. A newsanchor I am ‘friends’ with on Facebook highlighted this guy’s 80million dollar non profit foundation & my heart broke a little for them. It fascinates me how people get suckered in via leaders’ charisma. Even Hitler had a nation of followers, on nothing but his passion. For this dude with his end of the world Bible code to convince others that he’s figured it out…excuse me for cussing, but W.T.*?
    He owes them all a refund.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I think it’s dreadful too, Pamela. I was shocked by how many sold their homes and quit their jobs to get ready for the Rapture. I’m a big fan of making your life a heaven while you’re here but that’s just me.

      Love the “while I have wine with Jeremy, James and Richard, and the Stig” in your comment!

      Like

      • Pamela Mason says:

        Infuriated this a.m.– first thing I hear on the radio/alarm is this guy’s revised his math… for October!

        Would somebody please go take away his Mayan calendulator?

        Like

  10. Excellent post. So glad you came through that experience with such a positive outlook.

    I’m a little like Piper, in that I had a breast cancer scare when I was in my early twenties and with both sides of my family plagued by the decease it was a terrifying time, and I no longer take tomorrow for granted.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Holy cow, Raelyn, you’ve led a full life. Early breast cancer and then FOUR children. That’s some amazing energy (especially because they’re boys :-))

      I believe I have the most chock-full-of-life-experience amazing readers on this blog. Thanks for sharing your own experience.

      Like

      • It ended up not being cancer, thank goodness, but yeah, it was a life changing experience. Looking back probably not as scary as your experience. {{hugs}}

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  11. Hey, Jenny.

    It sounds like you might have the same or similar disorder my oldest does. She still has a blood clot in her thigh. It’s so big they weren’t able to get rid of it and put a metal tube in there to hold it in place. Her leg still hurts and swells after seven years.

    Holly is much like you; she just ignores the obstacles and crawls right over them. You all are a lot stronger than I am and an inspiration.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I have something called Factor V Leiden. It is about 5-8% prevalent in the Caucasian population, 3-5% in the Latino population and 1-3% in the Asian population. I personally think it’s much higher as they can only test you if you live.

      For the blood clot in the thigh…that is soooo painful! I’m bummed for her. Did they insert a filter to keep it from traveling up? She’s not going to be completely safe unless they put in the filter.

      Also, just to clarify, it’s unlikely that her original clot is still active – the body scars it over in 3-6 weeks and adheres it to the side of the vein. The problem is that now that scarred area makes you prone to get another clot in the same place, plus it decreases the area available for normal circulation – hence the swelling and the pain. Poor thing…that’s a pain.

      Like

      • What we were told is she has antithrombin III. As far as a screen with the tube they inserted? I honestly don’t know but as I understood it the tube was to hold the clot in place and to allow the blood to flow through as much as possible. I was in such shock from the whole thing I can’t remember if they mentioned a filter or not. I’ll have to ask her.

        You’re right as far as the clot goes but I’m a mom, I’m never not going to worry about this stuff. I just know she has to do the baby aspirin thing and it’s dangerous for her to get pregnant without strict supervision.

        Btw, Holly has been in the healthcare biz for awhile and will be working to get her master’s in nursing in a couple of months. She understands all this much better than I do.

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  13. Sharla Rae says:

    The end of days passed me by barely aware but then I’m a bit of a fatalist. I don’t know about a bucket list. I’m free with the “I love yous” to family and friends. Doing so is a comfort. I guess my one wish would be that everyone remembers me with smiles and kind words. So I guess if there’s a bucket list for me, it would be to try and never be deliberately unkind to anyone.
    Sharla Rae

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